Tag Archives: “steampunk identity”

Beyond Victoriana Special Edition Odds & Ends #9

Haven’t done one of these in awhile, but here are some pertinent links for sci-fi & steampunk-related events and causes…

First of all, this month in the US is African/African-American History Month. Beyond Victoriana has done features relating to this event in the past (check out our stuff on Black Victoriana in 2010 and African/African-American Heritage series in 2011) and this year I want to spotlight a venture by Alicia McCalla: The State of Black Sci-Fi 2012 blog carnival. She along with several other writers talk about where they see black sci-fi right now and where it is going. There’s a lot of food for thought on all of the contributors sites; so please check them out at the link. Plus, a shout-out to Valjeanne Jeffers’ post on why she loves steampunk and Balogun, the author of the steampunk/alt- hist book Moses: the Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, wrote about why he hearts steam too.

The annual Con or Bust Fundraiser is now open! Started by fans from the feminist convention WisCon to help raise money for people to color to attend SFF conventions, Con or Bust has raised thousands of dollars in support of a more diverse fandom since it started in 2009. You can read more about their history and go ahead and bid on some awesome stuff!

Did you know that Steampunk Magazine #8 has just come out? Well, if you don’t have a copy in your hands right this second, you can buy one or download the issue from their website.

A bit old, but the book Postcolonialism and Science Fiction is coming out, and i09 posted an excerpt from the introduction. I’m intrigued.

Emilie P. Bush, friend of the blog, has a children’s book coming out on Feb 28th: Her Majesty’s Explorer. The illustrations are adorable, and you can see them in the book trailer below.

Did you know that my intellectual comrade-in-arms Jaymee Goh is hosting a monthly series of interviews with people of color in steampunk? Already, she’s interviewed Native steampunk Monique Poirier, Maisarah Abu Samah, editor of the Singaporean steampunk anthology Steampowered, and author Stephanie Lai.

Speaking of interviews, I recently did one with Decimononic about steampunk jewelry. At first, I was honestly puzzled why they’d request me, but Jose and Irene are both jewelers from Spain who are running a series of interviews that explores the various ideas associated with steampunk and art. So I end up talking a lot about the historical formation of subculture, cultural appropriation, and my love of Russian things. Check  it out here.

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#102 Staging a Steampunk Dystopia: An Interview with Kamala Sankaram and Rob Reese

Photo Credit: Christopher Lovenguth

Besides all of the steampunk’d renditions of Shakespeare plays and Gilbert & Sullivan musicals, how can steampunk work onstage? Recently, I stopped by the HERE theater to see one innovative example in the form of Miranda, a steampunk murder mystery opera. Tor.com will be posting my review of the show (EDIT: Here it is); sadly, the show is only running in NYC until Saturday the 21st, so I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to see this show to book their tickets ASAP. In the meantime, I took the wonderful opportunity of interviewing the creator, composer and co-librettist Kamala Sankaram and her fellow co-librettist and director Rob Reese about their inspiration behind this unique production.

After the jump, we’ll talk about steampunk dystopias, legal circuses, and the role of people of color in steampunk world-building.

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#98 Musing about Native Steampunk- Guest blog by Monique Poirier

Note: Cross-posted with permission from Moniquilliloquies.

Photo credit: Monique Poirier

One of the most disheartening aspects I’ve found in American Steampunk alternate histories is the assumption that despite alternate histories that allow for magitek and phlebotinum and aether-powered airships and steam-powered, clockwork everything from cell phones to teleporters to ray guns… there is still an assumption that NDN genocide took place. That European contact can only have occurred in the 15thcentury and that it can only have resulted in colonialism, slavery, resource theft, land theft, and genocide.Come on, people.

We can have clockwork robots but not POC civilizations?
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#96 The Native Steampunk Art of Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca

by Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca. Quote reads: "The strangeness of what we were about to do, the unearthliness of it, overwhelmed me. I was like a man awakened out of pleasant dreams to the most horrible surroundings. I lay, eyes wide open, and the sphere seemed to get more flimsy and feeble, and Cavor more unreal and fantastic, and the whole enterprise madder and madder at every moment.” ~H. G. Wells.

When thinking about the retrofuturistic side of science fiction, people have categorized it in various ways. Just recently, Lorenzo Davia went all the way as to delineate the various uses of “-punk” in science fiction, sorted by time period. Although this is one helpful way of thinking about retrofuturism, it is also quite limiting in the sense that that time periods and examples he lists run in accordance to Western history.

Does that mean non-Western cultures don’t have a concept of retrofuturism? Of course not, but one of the challenges of conceptualizing retrofuturism in a non-Western context is the understanding that non-Western cultures may conceptualize time itself in a completely different way than how it is realized in the West. In this manner, the flow of time can be circular rather than linear; a person can look forward into the past instead of backwards; destines are repeated or mirrored or fractured in a dream space; the relationship between one’s perception of history can fully exist in the now as opposed to happening back then.

Thus, a non-Western retrofuturistic aesthetic take may not necessarily translate to anachronisms within known history, but change the flow of time, technology, and human advancement to truly create an alternate world divorced from our own.  Take, for example, the school of Afrofuturism; though stemming from Futurism, the concept behind this science fictional aesthetic combines ancient African myth, legends, and non-Western cosmologies with sci-fi tropes of space travel, alternate universes, and alien planets to carve out a space where the racial and cultural Other can exist in this extraordinary “future” outside of normative time.

I’ve seen Afrofuturism have a big impact on non-Western aesthetics in science fiction. There is also a distinctive musical element to this concept of retrofuturism too, especially with the involvement of jazz, techno, hip-hop, and dub (all genres that also have roots in the African diaspora).

The dynamic of this past-future-musical influence is seen in the latest work of visual artist and writer Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca, who identifies as Columbian-American with African, Native, and European ancestry.  He has been published in the United States and internationally, and his works have been on display in numerous mueums, including the Mori Museum/Mado Lounge in Tokyo, Japan; LACMA in L.A.; MOCA in L.A., the Institute of Contemporary Arts [ICA] in London; and Parco Museum in Tokyo, Japan. Much of his work also incorporates collaborations with a diverse group of artists, writers, and spoken-word poets known as Unification Theory. According to their website, the art collective is described as:

street futurism: visualizing the possibilities of the future through the prisms of Graffiti, Hip Hop, Spoken Word, Digital/Video Artwork, Techno, Funk and Jazz.  The unification of these diverse creative minds builds new visual and sonic structures.  This innovative collaboration of live music, DJ mixing, digital/video artwork projections and live painting is a new form of performance.

Now how much of Vaca’s work can be considered retrofuturistic, when it is also futurist? The key is the conceptualization of his art as working under the same guidelines that Afrofuturism had established: as an artistic method that recognizes the importance of the past when re-imagining the future. So it’s not too difficult to see how Vaca has become interested in the steampunk aesthetic. After the jump, I talk a bit more with Gustavo himself about his recent work.

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Steampunk: The Ethical Spectacle by Pablo Vazquez on Tor.com

Take a look around you. Despite our society’s leaps in technological development and civilized advancement, we lack an essential spirit. We can’t exactly pinpoint it, but we know it’s missing. It’s the same feeling an artist gets when they look upon an empty canvas and just don’t know what to paint, but they know that they’d like to at least paint something. I can tell you what we’re missing: A true renaissance.

[Read the Rest on Tor.com’s Steampunk Week]

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#82 The Birth of Miss Dorothy Winterman: A Personal Essay– Guest Blog by Luisa Ana Fuentes

Story Excerpt:

Dorothy Winterman's "African Amazon" outfit

It is day 15 of our arduous journey through the veldts of Nigeria (or are we in Cameroon yet?). Our tracker Adeola has discovered new tracks and scraps of fibers from obviously foreign cloths. She can find a single iguana track amongst a bevy of crocodiles, this one can. We listen intently that these “men” are probably several hours, if not a day away. We find evidence of them through their encampments, their excrement and their litter. Yes, litter. Can you imagine- these foreigners, these soldiers, these baby snatching, people annihilating, genocidal rapists also throw their unwanted refuse upon our beautiful, sacred ground. Well if you can march hordes of innocent groups of human beings to ships waiting to whisk them away to be enslaved, massacred and destroyed in a whole different place on this globe, throwing down unwanted garbage must not mean much. I guess it truly lies in one’s perspective, does it not?

I think to myself, “Did I travel back in time for this?”

And before I can answer, images of the next few centuries spring forth as vividly as the greens and browns presently ahead of me: slavery, men and boys hanging from trees, Emmett Til in his coffin, the Civil War, ghettos, heroin, crack, Rodney King, Ronald Regan, Flava Flav, the riots in Newark, Chicago and LA, apartheid and AIDS. Internally, the answer is clear. The rest of the women notice my hesitation and far-off look in my eyes and immediately they know where my mind has gone. They wait patiently as I gather my wits about me. It’s all so overwhelming at times. From one existence to another in mere minutes, then from that existence to here-it is all staggering to think I am recreating my past as my future remains uncertain now- the whole butterfly/chaos theory thing. Try to explain that to a group of Amazonian warriors attempting to rid their land of oppressors and see where it takes you.

It took weeks and weeks to convince my group of fighting women I was actually a woman from their future who has returned to the past to go back in an attempt to right the wrongs done to one group of my ancestors by another. Perhaps the laser light pen (bought at a flea market to amuse my cats) and Nintendo DS (note to self: energizers do NOT time travel well) helped to tip the scale of doubt to my side a bit. It took several days for me to even convince them that a person bearing my skin tone could have even come from their same mothers. My complexion, hair texture, shape of my lips and nose were all odd but strangely reminiscent of theirs–albeit, a highly watered down version; or as sister Iruwya said, a highly “whitened” down version of them all. She has a biting wit about her- she is not ever afraid to speak her mind, heart and especially her soul. Once she was convinced of the atrocities to come, she, the non-believer became my staunchest advocate and friend. At night, I think back to the times this whole adventure began. I bounded in the matter of what seemed to be minutes from 21st century woman, to 19th century “lady” and then to here and now, the Africa of my not-so ancient past.

But, now I stand, clothed in a strange compilation of Victorian European garb mixed with the bits and pieces of textiles I have found on the dead and dying of White men and African brothers alike-the strangest mosaic of African-American-European aesthetics this time period has probably ever seen; my hair in tight ringlets surround my face, mane-like; no matter what–I am home.

But now is not night and there is no time to reminisce. It is dusk and the heat, still shimmering in waves from the ground below, attacks us. The cross bow (yes, with laser light pen attachment-sold separately) strung across my back grows heavier with each step that I take. Not even the adrenaline brought about by the sight of the fires ahead, the smell of the cooking meat and the unquestionable shouts and laughter of the White men ahead can alleviate the ache in my mid-back. I look around me and see the familiar smiles of my new sisters: once warrior women of their king in Dahomey, they fight alongside of me now to try and thwart the death of our culture, our names, heritage, land and lives. “Come” says Tayari in Yoruba (a language I never knew while living in New York in 2011, but one I can easily understand and speak now). The rest of us nod. Our evening activities have just begun.

The above excerpt taken from “The Strange and Accurate Depiction of the Life and Times of Luisa Fuentes as Miss Dorothy Winterman, Lady of Leisure and Haberdasheress Extraordinaire In Her Journeys Through Time and Oppression: A Memoir”.

Okay, so the above memoir does not exist in either fiction or reality. It is a part of an explanation of the newest and most original Steampunk outfit that debuted at the Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey the weekend of May 20th, 2011. My name, however, really is Luisa Ana Fuentes and I really am of numerous mixed heritages. I’m a steampunk and my character’s name is (you guessed it) Dorothy Winterman, Lady of Leisure and Haberdasheress Extraordinaire.

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Important Changes for Beyond Victoriana & Call for New Contributors

Some major announcements are at hand.

First, thanks so much for the shout-out love! Because of the outpouring of signal-boosting & support the past few days, as of today, we’ve raised $1528 for the Rising Phoenix Fund. That’s halfway towards our new goal! :D

You can continue to show your support by donating directly to Shelterbox or buying a button from Button Me Up.

Also, you can still enter the Artsy-Fartsy Blog’s giveaway of the The Steampunk Bible! Be sure to enter the contest (rules here) and good luck!

And also, on the blog The Underlined Word, I talk about steampunk, urban design, and more.

But the BIG news is that I’ll be going back to graduate school and that will mean some posting changes for the blog.

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#79 A Word About Eyepatches: A Personal Essay — Guest Blog by Elsa Sjunneson

Elsa's steampunk'd folding walking cane, made in accordance with walking canes for the visually-impaired. Designed and crafted by Michael Salerno.

Before I can begin telling you about eyepatches in the steampunk community, I should probably explain why I’m qualified to discuss the issue. I was born with cataracts. I was fortunate enough to maintain the sight in my left eye, but I can’t see anything out of my right. I would wear an eyepatch, but unfortunately since I’m not allowed to wear contact lenses the ability to accessorize with a patch is completely out of reach. Not only that, but I carry a white cane because I have no depth perception. Those of you who have worn an eyepatch probably have experienced this issue. This is what I have to talk to you about today – why on earth would someone choose to impair themselves for fashion purposes, especially given that the disability which you are using is often one that comes with serious emotional attachments. To be clear, I wear corsets, and so do a lot of other people, but rarely is the dialogue associated with a corset one in which the individual wearing it says that they wear the corset because of an injury.

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Convention Extravaganza: Steampunk World’s Fair II

Jake von Slatt's Roadster, featured at the Fair. Image courtesy of Michael Salerno.

Steampunk World’s Fair– the self-proclaimed “largest steampunk festival in the US” had a huge turnout last year and raised expectations for many steampunks for repeat success. Over the course of the year, shifts in management and staff structure sprouted rumors of uncertainty about the success of the con, but this year’s Fair still held a strong and diverse showing of panels, workshops, and entertainments. Previous year’s favorites, including musicians Professor Elemental, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, Psyche Corporation, Eli August, This Way to Egress, and Frenchy and the Punk returned, with the addition of several other newcomers such as Murder by Death, Copal, Ego Likeness, and Left Outlet.  Events expanded to include book launch parties for Tee Morris and Pip Ballentine’s The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Leanna Renee Hieber’s The Perilous Prophecy of the Goddess and the Guard, and Emilie P. Bush’s The Gospel According to Verdu at the Library of Lost Literature, an academic track, a Tweed Ride, a Dandy Stroll, a charity fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Queen Victoria’s Birthday Party. Other notable programming ranged from workshops on bartitsu and kimono-wearing to pro-union rallies and surviving the apocalypse.

Along with my own con report, which is featured on Tor.com, below is just a sampling of experiences offered by our guest reporters, including Daniel Holzman-Tweed, Austin Sirkin, Lucretia Dearfour, Sean Proper, Matt Deblass and Ekaterina Sedia. Fashion designer Kathryn Paterwic of Redfield Designs also presents her runway collection from the “Across the Universe” fashion show told in her narrated photo essay. Photography from Jessica Lilley, Babette Daniels, Michael Salerno, Monique Poirier, Philip Ng, and myself are also included.

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Convention Extravaganza: Aetherfest

Aetherfest took place between April 29th – May 1st, 2011 in San Antonio, making it the first steampunk convention in Texas. I’ve been in touch with Pablo Vazquez for about a year now, and when he hinted last fall about an upcoming convention, I was more than thrilled to make my first Texan debut at his con.  I was looking forward to meeting a new community, but was a bit nervous going myself. Luckily, Lucretia Dearfour accompanied me on this adventure, and we discovered that The Emperor of the Red Fork Empire was also a featured guest here. While at Aetherfest, the three of us interviewed several of the other guests and attendees at the con. That footage is still in post, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the following reports & pictures from this event. Mr. Saturday (aka Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez III) is the co-chair for the event, and talks about what went on in prep for this con and how he thought it turned out. Author O. M. Grey writes about her experience as a special guest, and Lucretia Dearfour relates her con experience as well. All pictures are provided by me, unless otherwise noted.

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