Motor City Steam Con schedule

Motor City Steam Logo

Motor City Steam Con  (July 22 – 24) is coming up in a couple of weeks — check out my schedule below:

Friday
Beyond Victoriana: Steampunk Around the World
2 PM – 3 PM
Ontario Room
Beyond Victoriana, what steampunk possibilities exist? Come join us as we take you on a trip around the world to see how steampunk manifests in the minds of those who don’t think within an Eurocentric context, whether they blend Western influences, or use recognizably steampunk elements within a distinct flavor outside of Europe. We will also approach the ethical challenges that come up when engaging in multicultural steampunk and discuss matters of race, privilege, and cultural appropriation.

Saturday
So You Want to Publish Your Steampunk Book
12 PM – 1 PM
St Clair Room
With steampunk taking off in the publishing industry, where can you start? Ay-leen the Peacemaker has several years’ experience in editorial, marketing, and sales, will be able to give you an overview on how the publishing industry works, what it thinks about the growing popularity of the steampunk subgenre, and what options can the novice or experienced author pursue when selling their work.

Sunday
Culture Shocks: Is Steampunk Really a Subculture?
1 PM – 1:45PM
St. Clair Room
We all debate the meaning of the word “steampunk” and the meaning of its subculture. But has anyone wondered whether steampunk itself qualifies under the definition of “subculture?” What’s the difference between calling it a counterculture, an aesthetic movement, or a fad? We’ll talk about the history of subculture and the roles that mass media, postmodernism, consumerism, and style play in defining the steampunk community today.

***
My travel has been light this year because of Fantastic Real Life Events (aka I got married, the first young adult book I edited came out, academic publications in the works, etc. Looking at the other attendees for this convention makes me really excited to re-connect with some great friends from the community.

And, as always, interested literary agents and authors can reach out for an appointment by contacting me.

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Boosting: The Islamicate Science Fiction Short Story Writing Contest

This is a boost for a new contest organized by friend of the blog Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad of Islam and Science Fiction


The Islam and Science Fiction project has been running since 2005, we just entered our second decade. While the depiction of Muslims in Science Fiction and Islamic cultures has improved we still have a lot way to go, as is the case with many other minority groups. To kickstart things in this genre we have decided to start a contest centered around Science Fiction with Muslim characters or Islamic cultures (Islam in the cultural sense and not necessarily in the religious sense). We are pleased to announce the Islamicate Science Fiction short story writing contest. The contest is open from today (April 8, 2016) to the beginning of Ramadan/Ramzan/Ramjan (June 8, 2016). The winner will be announced on the day of Eid – July 6, 2016. If you already have a story then be sure to submit it soon, if not then start typing.

Scope:

Islamicate refers to the cultural output of predominantly Islamic culture or polity. Thus while the culture has its foundation and inspiration from the religion of Islam, it need not be produced by someone who is Muslim. The term Islamicate is thus similar to the term West as it encompasses a whole range of cultures, ethnicities and schools of thought with shared historical experience. The contest is open to all people regardless of their religious affiliation or lack there of. Thus a person of any religion, nationality, ethnicity race, gender, sexual orientation can submit. A collection of the best stories from the submissions will be released as an epub and available to download for free.

Prizes:

The following prizes will be awarded:

First Prize: $100
Second Prize: $75
Third Prize: $50

Submission rules:

  • The stories must be either set in a predominantly Muslim culture AND/OR have Muslim protagonist(s).
  • Short stories in almost any variant of Science Fiction (space opera, time-travel, apocalyptic, reimaging classic themes, techno-thrillers, bio-punk, science mystery, alternate history, steampunk, utopian, dystopian etc) is encouraged.
  • No reprints: No simultaneous submissions: No multiple submissions.
  • Submission are limited to one per person.
  • Since we are talking about short stories, any story with less than 8,000 words will be accepted.

How to submit: Please submit your short story to islam.scifi@gmail.com with the subject line Short Story Contest

Judges (Alphabetical):

  • Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad: Founder and editor of Islam and Science Fiction, Senior Data Scientist at Groupon.
  • Ahmed Naumaan: Dean of College of Engineering, DeVry University.
  • Noura Al-Nouman: Science Fiction author from the Gulf.
  • Muhammad Handara Hankins: Science Fiction Critic.
  • Rebecca Hankins: Associate Professor, Archivist/Librarian, Texas A&M University.

Questions:

If you have questions about the contest then you can either leave your questions as comments to this thread or email me atmahmad@cs.umn.edu Be sure to spread and the word far and wide, we are looking forward to your submissions!

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Help Create a Musical Spectacle with “Dark Victorian Dystopian Cyber/Steampunk” Band Psyche Corporation


Psyche Corporation (who we interviewed a few years ago) is looking for support to create a music video for the latest song “Dance For Me.”

From their press release:

Psyche Corporation is a fairytale cyber/steampunk band fronted by a former Ladies of Steampunk model and programmer who combines dance with a powerhouse vocal range. The band is named after a dream manufacture group from a future where neural implants allow people to download dreams from the Internet. Songs deal in dystopian themes as well as more lighthearted filk works, such as “Perl-Operated Boy”. The musical style spans genres of trip-hop, electro-rock, and world music.

After releasing her 5th album last October, Psyche Corp. is hoping to make a music video for a special song from the new album, called Dance for Me. The music video will showcase a decadent gothic fairytale visual narrative about a ballet dancer, who finds herself becoming a marionette for a sinister cosmic power. The set is already partially built with archways shaped like stylized vertebral columns (“spinal arches”).

Support their Kickstarter here.

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Leap Day Sale – Anatomy of Steampunk

anatomy-steampunk-cover

A special sale is going on for Katherine Gleason’s wonderful book on the diverse avenues of steampunk fashion Anatomy of Steampunk (which you can catch a sneak preview excerpt of here).

Now on-sale for only $21 USD using the code LEAP16

Order info!

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#SteampunkHands – On Crafting a Subcultural Lifestyle: Objects and the Search for Home in Steampunk (Part 5)

The Airship Ashanti in the 2015 Internationa Steampunk Symposium. They were that year's winners of the Airship Games.

The Airship Ashanti in the 2015 International Steampunk Symposium. They were that year’s winners of the Airship Games.

A Genre for our Times: Living Steampunk in Pursuit of “the Good Life”, A Conclusion

During my extensive involvement in the steampunk community, I have contemplated the meaning of what constitutes a lifestyle and whether that coincides with the personal beliefs one holds. While I began this paper with the intention of exploring the separation of ideology with lifestyle, I also believe that people who are heavily involved in the steampunk community hold a specific worldview. In my interviews with members of the community, I came upon a dozen different responses to the question, “Do you think steampunks have a specific ‘mindset’?” Many vehemently rejected the idea that there was one common mindset (thus, hinting at the collective notion of respect for individual opinions and a general distaste toward imposing one’s opinion upon others.) Many other responses, however, incorporated the idea that steampunks are artists who prefer looking at the world more creatively than the average person. Artist Tamara Lavery mentions that, “I believe it is a very fertile mindset. Many of those involved are makers. Artists, crafts people, musicians,….while going to an event and purchasing something amazing made by another is mad fun, most of us are also happiest making or at least “modding” for ourselves.”1 Another steampunk, author Leanne Renee Hieber mentions the commodification of subculture in her response, but with an anti-commercial, pro-community spin: “I think there are common themes. Craft and maker culture as valued commodity (I consider myself a “maker” too, I make books). History is alive and re-imagined in us. Play, fancy, fantasy, adventure and whimsy are also a valued commodity.”2

In fact, what I found in common in many of these responses is how many steampunks link a “steampunk worldview” (if it does exist) to a set of materialist ethics with the world that emphasizes the imagination as a method to break away from normalized constraints of society. The nineteenth century, more than a common focal point of interest, is considered the nexus point of the standards of our modern world. Steampunks view the Victorian era as the beginning of the end with the tide of industrial, social, political and economic changes that directly changed our lives for the worst. By returning to the Victorian, the steampunk aesthetic movement both celebrates a historical era of change while also integrating anachronistic elements into history in the romantic hope of undoing the past to re-create a better present. The idea is speculative in design, but realist in execution. The steampunk aesthetic movement is one method in which people project their utopian ideals onto the everyday.

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#SteampunkHands – On Crafting a Subcultural Lifestyle: Objects and the Search for Home in Steampunk (Part 4)

ICON 2010

Photo from ICON 2010. Image Credit: J.M. Coen.

A Wandering Utopia: The Steampunk Convention

Note: A part of this essay section was previously published in my 2011 TempleCon convention report here.

Convention spaces provoke migration. They act as a Mecca for people of common means but uncommon interests, who engage in pilgrimages across the country to one destination in order to commune with each other. Convention spaces are also known in shorthand as the “con space,” a term that can allude to the Latin word contra (“to oppose, to argue against,” “pro or con”), to trick (“to con someone,” “the con game”), to illusion and mystification (“to confuse”). The term “con” when speaking of “convention” on the other hand, comes from the Middle English word connen, meaning “to study, know, or pursue.” Both divergent entomologies become relevant when describing a steampunk con.

Cons are understood as being a transitory form of escapism, where people enter from the mainstream world and are transferred into a heightened hyper-reality of Othered existence, before departing after a few hours or a few days to re-enter normalcy. At the same time, the convention space is nomadic, moving across city limits and state lines (and some, even, becoming virtual on the Internet)1. Sprouted by whims and fan passions, fan cons become hatched in backwater small towns and major metropolitan areas, each catering to the localized whims of the community’s populace. Cons, then, can be considered festive realms of liminality, a carnival space that Susan Stewart would identify as, “a reply to everyday life which is at the same time an inversion, an intensification, and a manipulation of that life, for it exposes and transforms both pattern and contradiction, presenting the argument and the antithesis of everyday life in an explosion that bears the capacity to destroy that life.”2

Of course, the concept of the fan conventions isn’t new and doesn’t pertain to steampunk subculture alone. My choice to include the con space as part of steampunk lifestyle, however, is connected to the increased attention by steampunk participants to the importance of holding a convention in their local community and the integration of convention-going with sociability for subculture participants. Moreover, unlike the assumption that these conventions are seen as breaks from the everyday, I argue that convention and event life in the steampunk community is seen not as an escape, but as a heightened utopian space that is reflective of community members’ everyday practices, interests and relationships.

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#SteampunkHands – On Crafting a Subcultural Lifestyle: Objects and the Search for Home in Steampunk (Part 3)

Lebanon County Historical Society's Stoy Museum replication of a Victorian Barber Shop. Click for source.

Lebanon County Historical Society’s Stoy Museum replication of a Victorian Barber Shop. Click for source.

Retro-Fitting the Technologies of the Self

I first heard of the Steampunk Salon through Meet-up.com, a social website. The NY Steampunk – Artists & Enthusiasts network was started in late 2008 and has over 600 members throughout the state, though a sizable number of them reside in New York City. Many of their events are based in the metropolitan area, from museum trips to picnics to community art projects, like arrangements for float in Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade. One of the consistent events is the literary salon that takes place in Midtown East, hosted at the business of Romain Pallardy, hair stylist. The pun on the dual meaning of “salon” sounds a bit cutesy to be coincidental, and steampunk in general has been known to create spaces with a cheeky wink and a nod.

***

Finding Romain’s Salon is a bit tricky; one cool fall evening, I arrived at a bustling city street in Midtown East and didn’t see a storefront, for the Salon lacked a street sign, in contrast to the flashy hotel logos and restaurants surrounding it. The plain-faced building squeezed in this ritzy area could have been another forgettable residential building; alongside the row of pearly doorbell buttons, though, it wasn’t difficult to spot the one marking Romain’s business. In neat ink penmanship beneath a strip of plastic was the word “Salon,” as intriguing in its simplicity as Alice’s bottles and cakes marked “Drink Me” or “Eat Me.” The doorbell’s built-in camera blinked upon pressing the buzzer; my face flashed back in miniature before I was buzzed in. I climbed a nondescript, narrow stairwell to the second floor and arrived at a simple office door labeled in black-lined gold lettering: “Romain Parllady: Salon.”

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#SteampunkHands My Favorite Things Giveaway: Clockwork Canada, edited by Dominik Parisien

Clockwork Canada book

 

Our third giveaway for Steampunk Hands Around the World, is an advanced reader’s copy of the upcoming anthology Clockwork Canada, edited by Dominik Parisien and featuring fresh new stories from fifteen Canuck authors. This anthology’s description is after the jump with details on how readers can enter.

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#SteampunkHands – On Crafting a Subcultural Lifestyle: Objects and the Search for Home in Steampunk (Part 2)

Victorian Carpenter's Kit

Victorian Carpenter’s Kit

“Home is a Woodshop”

Among my books on my self stands a French vodka bottle, sliced clean across the middle; this bottle I had cut myself using a diamond-edged rotary water blade. The process was not perfect, and chipped edges serve a cautionary purpose when I pick up the glass. A candle sits inside it, unlit, on my shelf, yet it nevertheless reminds me of the place where it was made.

***

In the shadow of the George Washington Bridge, I stood by the iron-barred gateway situated between two gray-faced, indiscriminate pre-war apartment buildings, dialing a number off my smart phone. An icy blast of wind coming in from the water cuts through my layers and my fingers tremble over the key pad. A warm, older voice answered, “I’ll be right up,” and in a minute, Stephen Ebinger, a broad-shouldered man with a peppery beard and Santa-Claus eyes, opened the gate. The stairs descended to the subbasement level and I teetered downwards precariously, clinging to the rust-stained railing. I followed my friend through the building’s back door into the basement apartment that serves both as his home, as a fully-equipped woodshop, and as the Steampunk Co-op in northern Manhattan.

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Link Round-up: Beyoncé’s “Formation” Of Cultural Perseverance and Historical Trauma

Still from "Formation", a reference to Storyville, the red light district in New Orleans.

Still from “Formation”, a reference to Storyville, the red light district in New Orleans.

One week after Beyoncé ‘s newest single and music video “Formation” was dropped, voices from across the aethernets are still buzzing. The video collapses historical linear time,  unapologetic and demanding in its visual college of the complicated history of southern US black culture. It is not steampunk, but engages in the historical narrative in the tradition of other African diasporic art movements I admire, such as afrofuturism and steamfunk, and deserves to be highlighted.

“Formation”‘s launch is deliberately-timed for powerful political, commercial, and mainstream impact: released on Trayvon Martin’s birthday and two days before Sandra Bland’s, and also before Beyoncé’s planned performance at the SuperBowl. Many commentators, black and non-black alike, have taken to the task of analyzing and critiquing the levels of meaning behind it. Below are some of the many insightful, dynamic viewpoints from the black community written over the past week.

But first, check this video out:

If You Ain’t Got In-“Formation” by Tiffany Lee from Black Girl Dangerous

If these aren’t your experiences, references or reactions, that’s okay. And if this video didn’t give you life, that’s okay too. But if these aren’t your experiences and you’re out here saying any variation of “this video makes no sense/is dumb/kinda scary,” “she’s not even singing,” “Beyoncé fans are stupid,” “what’s she even saying?” or anything that has anything to do with a politics of respectability, then you need to stop.

We know that Beyoncé isn’t necessarily our Black Feminist Hero – there are way too many activists and folk who are out there fighting, supporting, and holding together Black communities for us to be under the simplistic illusion that Beyoncé does all of that for us. And I look forward to all the juicy Black folk critiques  – because nothing is Blacker than reading and being read.

Getting in Line: Working Through Beyonce’s “Formation” from Red Clay Scholar

Beyoncé said “I’ma make me a world.” She conjured New Orleans’ past, present, and future, calling upon the memories and sounds of New Orleans pre- and post Hurricane Katrina. Because rule number 1 in the south is that the past is always present and the past and present is always future. Still shots of preaching reverends, half-drowned buildings, the weave shop, and plantation houses against a sparse synthesizer that sounds like a tweaked electronic banjo from the Bayou sonically position Beyoncé squarely in the middle of a messy Black South. Katrina is not just a historical event. It is a springboard for re-rendering southern trauma and its association with blackness. Trauma is the spring board of southern blackness. But its foundation is resilience and creativity. Beyoncé’s New Orleans – because there are multiple New Orleans and this one is undeniably hers and her sister Solange’s rendering/conjuring – doubly signifies resurrection and the city of the dead.

Dear Beyoncé, Katrina is Not Your Story by Maris Jones from Black Girl Dangerous

This could have all been different, Beyoncé. The disconnect between what is being said in “Formation” and what is being shown cannot be ignored. You inspire while you slay, but know that all of the glorious Blackness in this video is really just a film reel for a sound bite espousing Western capitalist ideology with lines like, and “Earned all this money but they never take the country out me.” Even in showing me how down with the struggle you might be, you are still dredging up images of Black suffering without forewarning an audience that continues to be marginalized in both their city and country or following through by critically engaging with those images. Your anthem doesn’t match your outfit. You might get me to turn up at a party, but you’ll only find me in formation when your words and actions line up.

Hot Sauce in Her Bag: Southern Black identity, Beyoncé, Jim Crow, and the pleasure of well-seasoned food by Mikki Kendall from Eater

During Jim Crow, Black people could pick up food at establishments that served white people, but they often could not eat in them. When custom demanded that Black people be served separately from whites, they were often required to have their own utensils, serving dishes, and condiments. So it was customary for Black families who were traveling to carry everything they might possibly need so that (with the help of the Green Book, the guide that helped Black travelers eat, sleep, and move as safely as possible) they could navigate America in relative comfort.

On ‘Jackson Five Nostrils,’ Creole vs. ‘Negro’ and Beefing Over Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ by Yaba Blay from Colorlines

I cheer Bey on as she sings, “I like my Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.” But I cringe when I hear her chant, “You mix that Negro with that Creole make a Texas bamma” about her Alabama-born dad and her mom from Louisiana. This is the same reason I cringed at the L’Oreal ad that identified Beyonce as African-American, Native American and French and why I don’t appreciate her largely unknown song “Creole.”

Having grown up black-Black (read: dark-skinned) in colorstruck New Awlins, hearing someone, particularly a woman, make a distinction between Creole and “Negro” is deeply triggering. This isn’t just for me but for many New Orleanians.

For generations, Creoles—people descended from a cultural/racial mixture of African, French, Spanish and/or Native American people—have distinguished themselves racially from “regular Negroes.” In New Orleans, phenotype—namely “pretty color and good hair”—translates to (relative) power.

Slay Trick: Queer Solidarity (?) in Formation from Queer Black Feminist

But, this movement is all about self-identified Black queer women, transwomen and genderqueer folks leading this movement. So, in some ways this call ignores that, a movement already established. I know folks say it calls attention to it, but it feels just the opposite to me when we have a full fledged movement happening that is full of leaders, actually, predominately led by Black queer women, transfolk and our allies. Just look at the leadership in almost every BLM chapter: Chicago (BYP), Minneapolis, Oakland, Los Angeles. The “ladies” are already in formation, leading the work. So, though this may be a “nod,” a recognition as many are suggesting, the explicit acknowledgement of the queer work in this movement–the queerness of strategy, tactic, and focus–is muddied by the safe position that Beyonce continues to occupy. And while she is being targeted in some ways (I’ll say more when endorsements/collaborations start to fall), can we put that into context of the everyday targeting that Black Lives Matter activists face on the front lines? That Black queer (cis and trans) women and transmen face everyday?

We Slay, Part 1 by zandria from New South Negress

“Formation” is an homage to and recognition of the werk of the “punks, bulldaggers, and welfare queens” in these southern streets and parking lots, in these second lines, in these chocolate cities and neighborhoods, in front of these bands and drumlines. Movements for black liberation are led by black folks at the margins who know we must all get free to sink that car. Folks who know that we must be coordinated, and we must slay. And because I recognize black southern country fence-jumping feminism as a birthright and imperative, I have no tolerance for the uncoordinated–those who cannot dance and move for black queer liberation, black trans liberation, black women’s liberation, at all intersections.

Black Lives Matter Co-Founder to Beyonce: ‘Welcome to the Movement by Alicia Garza on Rolling Stone

Black Lives Matter is rooted in some of these fundamental principles. We have come together to fight back against anti-black racism and state-sanctioned violence, in all forms. We are complex, multi-faceted, and led by what are still unfortunately considered to be non-traditional leaders: folks who are women, queer, trans, disabled, immigrant, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, poor and working class, Southern and rural, urban and coastal. We are comprised of the complexity of who black people are, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

Response to Formation in List Form by rad fag on Radical Faggot
(The whole list is worth reading for some pithy points of critique)

21. Beyoncé is a logo. Beyoncé is a commodity. Beyoncé is a production. Beyoncé is a distraction. Beyoncé is a ruse. Beyoncé does not actually exist.

22. You–not her–are the Black visionary, the budding potential for revolution.

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