Category Archives: Interviews

Interviews with noteworthy steampunks and steampunk enthusiasts.

#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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Interview with Steampunk Chile–By M Gabriel Colbaugh

Steampunk is a global phenomenon.  One place where it has taken root is South America where the movement is growing quickly.  I reached out to some groups to see if they’d be willing to talk about themselves, and thankfully the fine folks at Steampunk Chile agreed.  Below are their answers to my questions as well as several amazing photographs by Cesar Ravello from their Steampunk Chile Encounter IV.

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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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Looking at Steampunk from the Outside: A Roundtable Interview with Don Spiro and Martha Swetzoff on Tor.com

For Steampunk Week, we’ve featured a variety of perspectives on what steampunk is and what the community is becoming. One thing that fascinates me most is what the frak makes us so appealing to people outsideof the steampunk community.

Obviously, steampunk’s become a buzzword and has been getting media coverage up to wazoo; acting as a news sniffer for all things steam for Tor.com has kept me aware of the best and the worst of what people think. Sure, we’ve got the shiny, but what else makes the community so attractive? Is the general trend of geek chic just expanding to include everything brassy and classy? Are we just a quirky niche that fits neatly into a  five minute evening news segment? Most interestingly, though, is why steampunk now? And what does that say about greater shifts in geek & pop cultures? (Yes, I’m in academia, these questions intrigue me.)

Everyone’s looking for an answer. Besides the plenty of news sources in ourown community, I’ve run into mainstream reporters and indie filmmakers recording their own stories about steam for the non-initiated. To wrap-up this theme week, then, I had a roundtable discussion with two documentary-makers, Don Spiro and Martha Swetzoff, who took some time off from interviewing others to let me ask them about some bigger questions about what they’ve experienced in steampunk.

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

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More Lesbian Steampunk Stories: A Roundtable with Steam-Powered II Authors by Jaymee Goh on Tor.com

If this week proves anything, it’s two things: steampunk is still going strong as a trend, and it’s growing. And if this anthology proves anything, it’s that we really like lesbians. After Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories came out last year, Torquere Books realized it was pretty popular! And thus JoSelle Vanderhooft signed on again to bring us Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories (with an implicit promise that she’ll bring us another, and another, and another…). Steam-Powered II: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories comes out October 26 from Torquere Books, and you can place pre-orders by emailing JoSelle directly. If you like lesbian fantasy anthologies in general, JoSelle has edited a whole lot of them.

So, what can we expect from this new anthology?

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

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Bruno Accioly: Creator of the Brazilian Conselho Steampunk–Interview by Fabio Fernandes on Tor.com

If there is an established fact on the Brazilian fandom, is this: there was never a force so strong, all-encompassing as steampunk in our shores. The flamboyant army of corsets-and-goggles with their mindboggling variety of steam-powered infernal devices has definitely conquered the hearts and minds of the Brazilian fans and writers. After almost four years of activity, Brazilian steampunk can’t be considered just a fad anymore. We’re not in Kansas, Dorothy: we are in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and several other big tropical cities which probably you’ve never heard of — but you will.

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

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#84 Walkers & Whales & WWI, Oh My! An Interview with Keith Thompson, Illustrator For the Leviathan Trilogy

To tie-in with our July GOLIATH giveaway, I’ve had the pleasure recently to connect with Keith Thompson, the illustrator for Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy. He’s a freelance artist based in Canada and has designed for a range of projects in publishing, video games and film; his past projects include Nissan, Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and the sadly-cancelled At the Mountains of Madness project. His art has been described as being like a “Victorian anime” by Scott and also as pretty “fantastic and surreal.

Click after the jump for our interview.

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Interviews, ahoy! Scott Westerfeld & Average Intelligence Podcast

For those of you who know me well (or even not so well), my current Day Job is in sci-fi publishing. And with that comes some great opportunities. Last year, I interviewed Cherie Priest at Dragon*Con. More recently, I sat down with Scott Westerfeld at the gorgeous King’s Carriage House in New York City for a one-on-one chat about his Leviathan trilogy:

In addition, tonight I participated with several other notable steampunks in Average Intelligence’s podcast. For those who had missed out, you can still listen to the whole thing here.

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#61 Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories — A Roundtable Interview, Part 2

Note: This is part 2 of our roundtable interview with several contributors to Steam-Powered. Read part 1 here.


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TempleCon News, Shorty Awards, February Special Features

Only one more week until TempleCon! I’m scrambling to get my panels ready and will be there with The Wandering Legion of the Thomas Tew. TempleCon has a special place in my heart, particularly because it was there that the co-chair Madame Ximon suggested that I turn Beyond Victoriana into a presentation panel. It was talking with her that planted the idea in my head to start speaking specifically about steampunk & social issues at conventions. And so, after a year touring the country speaking about these topics, it’s really great to come back to the place that inspired it all.

See below for panels & events I will be hosting/attending:

Steam Around the World: Steampunk Beyond Victoriana
Saturday, February 5th, 3-4:30pm Convention Suite 2 – Rm. #632

Retro-Futurists’ Fashion Show
Saturday, February 5th, noon-1pm The Rotunda
Modeling for Festooned Butterfly

“What’s So Feminist About Steampunk?” hosted by Jocelyn Stengel Ahern
Saturday, February 5th, 1pm-2pm Convention Suite 2 – Room #632

Steampunk Photo Shoot with The Wandering Legion of the Thomas Tew
Saturday, February 5th, 2pm-3pm The Rotunda

Envisioning a Better Steam Society: Social Issues & Steampunk
Sunday, February 6th, 1-2:30pm Convention Suite 1 – Rm. #637
Featuring guest panelists Leanna Renee Hieber, Lucretia Dearfour, Monqiue Poirier, and Samara Martin.

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