Awhile back, a couple of readers tipped me off to an interesting article they saw on Wired.com about Those Irrepressible Brazilian Steampunks. I read Bruno Accioly’s letter to Bruce Sterling and was immediately struck by his enthusiasm and ambition in establishing a steampunk social network in Brazil. So I contacted Bruno, one of the founders of Conselo SteamPunk, to talk about this exciting venture and what steampunk is like where he’s from.
Hi Bruno, and welcome to Beyond Victoriana! So, to start off, can you speak a little about the history of how interest in steampunk developed in Brazil?
I guess interest in SteamPunk came long before the term originated in the late 80s, when people read Jules Verne and HG Welles. The sense of wonder present on their books and on the movies and TV adaptations of their work imprinted many of us as it did people in other countries.
When on 21st century we found out people were mimicking Victorian sci-fi works, the interest was already embedded into us and it was easy to feel compelled to like it.
Particularly, Conselho SteamPunk was born on 2007 after a conversation between myself and Raul Cândido, both of us had blogs on SteamPunk. I was in Rio de Janeiro and he was in São Paulo and the organization was created over a series of telephone and G-talk conversations.
I see that you mentioned Jules Verne and H.G. Welles as steampunk literature inspiration. Are translations of other modern steampunk authors available in Portuguese? I’m thinking of authors such as Tim Powers, Michael Moorcock, K.W.Jeter, Paul di Filippo, China Meiville, Alan Moore, Ekaterina Sedia, and, of course, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine. How familiar are Brazilian steampunks with reading these books in English?
Well… Brazilian publishing companies tend to publish mostly pop and renowned authors. Our market is a little smaller then yours I guess. Most of the author mentioned are not well known in Brazil.
The good news is that a lot of people can and do read in English and that the offer of books in English is not bad at all in our country, even though it could get even better.
Most Brazilian steampunk/sci-fi enthusiasts are familiar with the existence of those books and those authors but just a few actually read those books, or so is my gut feeling.
Where do people draw their inspiration from: books, movies, fashion, the Internet?
I like to think SteamPunk came to Brazil as a multimedia experience. Conselho SteamPunk tries not to rely on any particular way of communication, and actually promote any kind of SteamPunk byproduct.
As you may know, Conselho SteamPunk is just a group of enthusiasts and not a company built on top of a genre. Because of that, all the things we do to promote or produce SteamPunk stuff is a result of the talent of the people associated with the group.
Anyone can take part and we would love to see other groups like ours flourishing in Brazil and anywhere else.
And I like how you describe steampunk as a “multimedia experience.” What’s so appealing to me about steampunk is how many forms of media can express this aesthetically — whether in books, in movies, in fashion, or anything else. And I love how other science-fiction elements can be “steampunk’d” too (like steampunk Star Wars!) Do you know of any similar steampunk sci-fi creations made by Brazilian steampunks which you’d like to share?
We came a long way since 2007, from re-blogging European and American steampunk content to producing it ourselves.
Now I can tell you about some Brazilian video game projects, illustration projects, and even RPG projects! People here are starting to get busy around these efforts as the genre and the movement grows.
One such project is here: SteamPunk ~ Sítio do Pica-Pau Amarelo and it is built on top ofMonteiro Lobato’s work of fantasy literature.
You also mention that both you and Raul are steampunks who live in major cities. Where do you see steampunk interest flourishing the most in Brazil? I notice, for instance, that here in the United States, steampunk interest is spread throughout the country, but in major cities like New York, Washington DC, and Seattle, the community is big enough for frequent get-togethers.
Since we first built the Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo Lodges of Conselho SteamPunk, a bunch of other people wanted to start their own Lodges in their regions. As they come along, we provide them with all the help we can and give them Internet hosting infrastructure without any cost whatsoever.
The third Lodge was created on Rio Grande do Sul by Joanna Oliveira, the third was brought about by Julio Cezar on Minas Gerais and 3 other Lodges are to be founded onParaná, Distrito Federal e Paraíba.
It is hard to make events only on private funding and without sponsors, but we do the best we can to help the promotion of the SteamPunk genre and movement in Brazil. We even have a Virtual SteamCon, from time to time, on the www.steamcon.com.br website.
On November 27th we are going to have the first SteamPunk-only event on São Paulo [called Fantástica Jornada Noite Adentro III – SteamPunk] and you can see some details about it here.
The English automatic translation can be found here.
Sítio do Pica-Pau Amarelo looks amazing! I’m not familiar with Monteiro Lobato’swork, but I understand that he is a well-known Brazilian children’s author. It’s very cool how Brazilians can put their own cultural spin on steampunk. I’d love to see other examples of steampunk works from your country. What, do you think in particular, is a certain “Brazilian” quality that you’ve noticed in your country’s steampunk style that distinguishes it from other countries’?
Oh… Well… I don’t really think it is noticeable, at first, on any SteamPunk work, where it comes from. Cultural identity, in terms of SteamPunk, in my opinion, is disguised under layers of stylish Victorian and Steamer apparatus. And you know what? I think it is a good thing! SteamPunk has this cosmopolitan quality that pull people together through fashion and style, without stripping its “practitioner” from their historical roots.
There is a great classical book called “Memórias Póstumas de Bras Cubas” (The Posthumous Memoir of Bras Cubas) written by Machado de Assis in 1881 and that was altered so Bras Cubas and his loyal friend Quincas Borba were involved in the chemical creation of a compound like penicillin–all of this in the Brazilian XIX century.
I guess Brazilian SteamPunk is blend into the SteamPunk setting, yes, but it is left the author’s responsibility to tell the story of his own country or the choice to tell any other story.
And I agree that it’s difficult to make arrangements for large steampunk events out of your own pocket. Your virtual support towards other Brazilian communities is very admirable, and I wish you all the success with FantásticaJornada Noite Adentro III.
As time passes we think more and more enthusiasts will join Conselho SteamPunk and their talent as Marketing Professionals, Events Coordinators and Cultural Producers will make a difference to the movement in Brazil.
Sponsorship, now, is not more important than creativity =) and we like to think that events like Fantástica Jornada Noite Adentro III would not be a Steamer event if Conselho SteamPunk wasn’t around to influence Brazilians.
This event is very important to Brazilian SteamPunk and was arranged by Silvio Alexandre,Confraria de Ideias and by the Viriato Correa Thematic Library after the last FantásticaJornada, where I was one of the guys talking about SteamPunk and answering Journalists and authors’ questions.
I’m especially curious about your country’s steampunk because Brazil has a rich and multi-layered cultural history. First, there are many different native tribes, and then there’s the complex history of European colonization and its consequences, and finally, there’s Brazil ‘s development into a democratic nation over time. Today your country is a diverse society with people from all sorts of racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. How do you think this contributes to the steampunk styles you see? Have you seen Brazilian steampunks experiment in ways that are outside of “European aesthetics”?
It has been said that Brazilian writers has this quality, an implicit irony, a stealthy sarcasm and even some cynicism in their style — not only writing, but expressing themselves in different media. Maybe this is because our Dictatorship era came to an end in 1985, and we are still very skeptic about politics and life in general. One way or the other I agree with that and maybe you could find out whether some work is Brazilian by analysing this kind of evidence.
I guess the richness of the characters would also amaze foreign readers, and not only because of our cultural heritage only, but because we, as a country, have a very warm way of approaching subjects… and people!
We didn’t have much of a Do-it-Yourself culture, in terms of SteamPunk cosplay in Brazil, yet — we call it “SteamPlay.” Since Conselho SteamPunk came about that changed a bit and it is not that uncommon to come across Steamers walking about on RPG or Cosplayevents.
I guess in fashion designers has a great opportunity to express nationality and some of them do, but there is a lack of photographic reference and a lot of the style references come from the movies.
[Note from Ay-leen: Bruno also included these links to Brazilian steampunk groups onFlickr:
Moreover, one of the issues that have been discussed in the steampunk communities I participate in is how steampunk should address the darker aspects of the Victorian era. Topics like slavery, colonialism, sexism, class divides, and the history of race have been brought up by steampunks as important issues to talk about. I have discussed with others how to appropriately express steampunk style without promoting oppressive ideas that people had during the Victorian era. Have these concerns been discussed in your communities as well?
This is a very important issue to me and to Brazilian authors and journalists. Certainly more important to us than to the general public who expect to be entertained instead of taught by the SteamPunk works.
On a long (and extensively edited) workshop, myself, the sci-fi author Fabio Fernandes and Gianpaolo Celli, who is responsible for the book “SteamPunk – Histórias de umPassado Extraordinário”, discussed this with other authors and the press. It was a major concern not to depict the Victorian Era in England and the XIX century in Brazil as an Utopian period. [Note from Ay-leen: Bruno linked the video of this workshop here].
There is a tendency to believe that time was actually the greatest time of all. In Brazil, “Belle Époque” (just like the French, but we call it “Belle Époque in Brazil”), so it is very clear where the “cameras” were pointed at. Sure, technology made great steps and science consolidated its credibility and influence upon our minds, but the social and cultural mindset then was borderline Dystopian in nature.
I think it would be a waste not to use it and depict it in a way that it would make a difference to the “reader” of a piece. I like to write not to criticise the period, but to use the Zeitgeist of that Era as an argument about the crudeness of the intolerant totalitarian essence and as a sarcastic way of criticizing today’s thoughts, philosophy and modusvivendi.
It is important to say that the author is not obligated to criticize, embed subtext propaganda or try and denounce anything, although it is a very engaged and difficult thing to do it properly. The thing is SteamPunk is a very rich genre that way and it offers a very prolific setting in terms of similarities to today’s thinking.
The amazement with new machines, crazy products that do not work properly, practices that could lead to the extinction of our race, moral relativism, and lack of ethics toward other human beings based on a set of dissimilar characteristics… SteamPunk is a blessing to the artist ready to kick some totalitarian butt!
Even though the Victorian Era and the XIX century wasn’t even nearly perfect, it is very important to Conselho SteamPunk to maintain a structure based on a set of principles some would describe as Utopian, without any leaders but filled with mutual admiration, without the need for bureaucracy but filled with selflessness generosity, without any excess of cautiousness towards others but filled with “Pronoia” — the opposite of paranoia, the healthy delusion that other people are conspiring to help you succeed.
I agree with supporting progressive subversion to address a problematic era — that, to me is the heart of the steampunk community! Thanks for taking the time to go into depth about steam down south; I think our readers will get a lot out of our conversation. To wrap up, let me ask: where do you foresee the future of steampunk going in Brazil, and what hopes do you have for your online communities?
Now SteamPunk is still a genre in Brazil. We want more. We want it to become a real movement.
To achieve that we have a couple of strategies and the most important of all is to apply some drama to what we have online, and the way to do that is to use actors, a screenplay, and to take a lucid approach instead of leaving SteamPunk as a cardboard movement.
We want more. We desire for the SteamPunk in Brazil to be a form of adult make-believe and a constant source of that sense of wonder only fantasy can provide.
The online framework we built will be the backbone for that movement and the way Brazilian SteamPunk enthusiasts will communicate and share their work.
It is kind of an ambitious plan… yes… But SteamPunk itself is about a past that never was, a dream…
We have a dream and we won’t think twice before going down the yellow brick road, going through the looking glass, or jumping down the rabbit hole and taking everyone else with us.
Wow, if that isn’t a rallying cry for creativity, then I’m playing in the wrong community! ^_~ Make sure there’s enough room down that rabbit hole for the lot of us.
So, people, check out Conselho SteamPunk’s website and Bruno’s personal website too! And below is the linkspam for the Coselho SteamPunk network and regional lodges for anyone interested in learning more:
Conselho SteamPunk initiatives:
http://www.steambook.com.br/ – Social Network
http://www.steampedia.com.br/ – SteamPunk Wiki Encyclopedia
http://www.steamgirls.com.br/ – Victorian/SteamPunk cosplay (SteamPlay)
http://www.steamcon.com.br/ – Events Calendar
http://www.steamcast.com.br/ – Soon to launched VidCast
Conselho SteamPunk websites: