Reflecting on Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures

like-clockwork

Click to purchase from the publisher’s website

Rounding out this year, University of Minnesota Press came out with a new academic anthology that I’m proud to be a contributor for—Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures.  This anthology tackles the cultural influences that lead to the rise in popularity of steampunk from the early Naughts onward; as its website description states, “From disability and queerness to ethos and digital humanities, Like Clockwork offers wide-ranging perspectives on steampunk’s history and its place in contemporary culture, all while speaking to the ‛why’ and ‛why now’ of the genre.”

My contribution, “Punking the Other: On the Performance of Racial and National Identities in Steampunk” had a long journey from grad school paper to publication, and finally seeing this in print has made me reflect about how much has changed since the article was first written, and how much of its commentary has become hauntingly relevant today.

The premise of Like Clockwork posits that the traumas of a post-9/11 affected our social and cultural understanding of time, technology, and the individual’s role in the historical narrative. Steampunk is fun and imaginative, but it is also ironic and critical of the past it draws from (and the future it mashes up with). The genre is about humor and pulp storytelling, about fashion and maker culture, about cosplay, satire, and pastiche. “Steampunking” became a cute catchphrase meaning how can one retrofit an object, an idea, or a narrative: a verb to ignite creative re-imagination. But steampunk is also passionate, critical, and serious in its performance.

The Past —  What I was interested in back in 2012 was how people constructed their creative identities around imagined retrofuturist self, combined with current pop culture. These identities, made for play and entertainment, also speak about the political self.  In the essay, I state that “A postcolonial view of steampunk posits the reexamination of dominant historical narratives in Western canon to embrace cultural hybridity and challenge the traditional power dynamics of national identity. It asks, ‘What groups are seen as part of the ‘nation’?’ and ‘Who gains the rights and privileges of citizenship?’, questions that have been increasingly defined against racial and cultural difference.”

Back then, I was thinking about who was seen as the explorers and who the savages, who had the honor of serving the Queen versus who slaved under Her, who held the power and what did they do with it. It makes for great games of wish-fulfillment and subversion, or wistful explorations of nostalgic superiority. Or a lot of creative works that fall in the gray in-between (good art never asks simple, binary questions). Art can be empowering; it can unintentionally or actively endorse problematic messages; it can be catchy and have great hooks and beautiful aesthetics, and it is never, ever amoral. These were the questions I kept asking when I critiqued the artists and performers I wrote about.

The Present — The anthology, written to address a post-9/11 world, now is out in a post-Brexit, pre-Trump world. It is a darker world, one where a whimsical longing for a “historical past that never was” rubs up against slogans about building walls, registering religious minorities, and Making America Great Again. It is a more nationalistic world in a frightening way, where playacting as fascists comes too close to the swastikas and hate speech I see graffitied on the streets of the city I love.

Many people did not foresee the stuff of our worst imaginations and in our moral selves being brought to light. Society wanted to sanitize our histories for modern consumption, and in doing so, we forgot how easy it is to repeat history’s mistakes.

Are you seen as part of our future nation? Do you deserve the rights and privileges of citizenship? You might, but do they?

And what will you do about that?

The Future — Over the past few weeks, I’ve overheard and participated in conversations all asking the same question, “What is my duty as an artist now?” More questions: Does my art mean anything anymore? Should I be doing something different with my life? What can I do to protect the most vulnerable, the people I love?

I don’t have easy answers to these questions. No one does. But there are many, many acts happening right now that will show what the future holds.

Steampunk has typically been seen as a positivist, optimistic genre, under the premise that we still have the opportunity to make things better as long as there are ways we can put dreams into action. To make things into reality. To question our pasts in order to stop terrible futures looming in our present.

Because, we must remember that steampunk subculture is performative. It is an action and not a static identity. Steampunk is a verb.


Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures, edited by Rachel A Bowser and Brian Croxall

Featuring work by: Kathryn Crowther, Perimeter College at Georgia State University; Shaun Duke, University of Florida; Stefania Forlini, University of Calgary (Canada); Lisa Hager, University of Wisconsin–Waukesha; Mike Perschon, MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta; Diana M. Pho; David Pike, American University; Catherine Siemann, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Joseph Weakland, Georgia Institute of Technology; Roger Whitson, Washington State University.

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Boosting: Airship Ashanti Multicultural Steampunk Calendar

airship-ashanti-calendar-2
The Airship Ashanti sent over this missive about a great project they are doing to support representation in steampunk, and also goes to a good cause. I’m happy to support their efforts in our community. Ofeibea Loveless of the Airship Ashanti writes:

In an effort to showcase the diversity of its local steampunk scene, Airship Ashanti is selling copies of its new 2017 multicultural steampunk calendar this fall. The calendar features members of the Cincinnati/Dayton steampunk community as well as holidays from cultures and religions around the world.

HRA Ashanti Captain Mandisa Njeri says the group created the calendar to be more inclusive of the various beliefs, religions, and backgrounds that make up the world around us.

“For several years, the HRA Ashanti has stood behind its calling to support its local community through multiculturalism,” she adds. “This calendar is a step in the right direction of inclusive society that embraces the different cultures throughout the world.”

You can purchase a calendar for $15 from an Airship Ashanti member in person at the November 5 and December 3 steampunk salons at Molly Malone’s in Cincinnati, at Pandoracon in Blue Ash, Ohio (Nov. 11-13), or at the group’s table at Teslacon in Middleton, Wis. (Nov. 18-20). If you aren’t attending any of these events, you can contact the group via email at HRA.ASHANTI@gmail.com to inquire about purchasing a calendar.

Proceeds go to Airship Ashanti’s future programming and philanthropic initiatives. There are only 50 copies available so get ’em while they’re hot!


A couple more preview images can be seen after the jump.

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Announcing Steampunk Universe Kickstarter!

steampunk-universe_sketch

 Alliteration Ink, who I had the joy of working with on Steampunk World, returns with another crowdfunding project for their next anthology STEAMPUNK UNIVERSE. Moe info below, and please spread the word!


Steampunk Universe: A diverse steampunk anthology featuring aneurotypical and disabled characters.

We keep getting told that steampunk is not diverse.

We want to keep proving them wrong.

Two and a half years ago, we brought you the award-winning anthology Steampunk World, a diverse collection of steampunk fiction. Since then, there have been a number of other prominent anthologies and works of diverse steampunk fiction. That is exactly what we hoped would happen.

But it is not enough.

We want to see even more diversity. We want to see characters like all our friends and all the members of our families. We want fully developed characters in steampunk – and all fiction – who are disabled or aneurotypical. We want more than “token” characters, and clichéd plots.

We were told it was too hard – especially in a genre like steampunk.

We are going to prove them wrong again…and we want you to join us.

Join editor Sarah Hans, our cover artist James Ng, and contributors Ken Liu, Jody Lynn Nye, Maurice Broaddus, Malon Edwards, Emily Cataneo, Pip Ballantine, Victor Ocampo, Suna Dasi, Lyndsay E. Gilbert, Kate Coe, Liam Hogan, Zach Chapman, Andrew Knighton, Matthew Bright, Candida Spillard, and Diana Pho today.

Steampunk can be diverse. And if steampunk can be diverse, it can be done anywhere.

Support here on Kickstarter

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New York Comic Con schedule

goc-nycc-full-promo

This year, I’m excited to participate in two dramatically different (but equally fun) events for New York Comic Con! Details below.

For the fourth year, the GEEKS OF COLOR panel returns to New York Comic Con. Plus, fans can meet up afterwards for mingling, giveaways and more! Details & bios below.

#GeeksofColorNYCC #NYCCMeetups #NYCC

Geeks of Color
Saturday, October 8
1:30 – 2:30 PM
Room: 1A02
Description: Geeks of Color Episode 4: The Force Awakens continues to speak about the latest developments concerning representation across the creative industries and how PoC can succeed in comics, book publishing, online media, and more. Featuring Jennifer Baker (Forbes.com, Minorities in Publishing podcast), Bill Campbell (publisher, Rosarium Press), Andrea Lee (Got 2B Real webseries), Sarah Kuhn (author, Heroine Complex), Quressa Robinson (editor) . Moderated by Diana Pho (editor, Tor Books).

Geeks of Color Meetup
Saturday, October 8
2:45 PM – 3:45 PM
Room: 1C03
Description: Welcome to the Geeks of Color Meetup, a welcoming space for fans of color to chill and connect. Come with your friends, show off your cosplay, and network with professionals about working in the creative industries of comics, book publishing, and online media. Featuring Jenn Baker (Forbes.com, Minorities in Publishing podcast), Bill Campbell (publisher, Rosarium Press), Andrea Lee (Got 2B Real webseries), Quressa Robinson (editor), and Diana M. Pho (editor, Tor Books). Free book giveaways included!

***
PANELIST BIOS

JENNIFER BAKER is a publishing professional of 14 years, creator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, panels organizer for the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, and social media director and writing instructor for Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop. Her writing has appeared in various print outlets and she has contributed to Forbes.com and Bustle among other online publications.
Twitter & Instagram: @jbakernyc

BILL CAMPBELL is the author of Sunshine Patriots, My Booty Novel, and Pop Culture: Politics, Puns, “Poohbutt” from a Liberal Stay-at-Home Dad and Koontown Killing Kaper. Along with Edward Austin Hall, he co-edited the groundbreaking anthology, Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond. Last year, he also co-edited (along with Nisi Shawl) Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany. Campbell recently received the Glyph Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on the charity comics anthology, APB: Artists against Police Brutality (co-edited with Jason Rodriguez and John Jennings). Campbell lives in Washington, DC, where he spends his time with his family, helps produce audio books for the blind, and helms Rosarium Publishing.
Twitter: @RosariumBill
rosariumpublishing.com

ANDREA LEE is an actress, writer, singer, artist, and content creator. In 2011, Lee took her love of writing and acting to YouTube and birthed the web series Got 2B Real under the alias “Patti LaHelle.” The show parodied the likes of a long list of divas in the music business, all dialogue tied together with eye rolling and rapid-fire witticisms. Since its release the show has garnered over 48,000 subscribers on YouTube, 8.7 million views, and features by Vibe Magazine, Buzz Feed, TribecaFilm, Marie Claire, and many more.
Twitter: @_maleficentt

SARAH KUHN is the author of Heroine Complex—the first in a series starring Asian American superheroines—for DAW Books. She also wrote “The Ruby Equation” (with artist Sally Jane Thompson) for the Eisner-nominated comics anthology Fresh Romance and the romantic comedy novella One Con Glory, which earned praise from io9 and USA Today and is in development as a feature film. Her articles and essays on such topics as geek girl culture, Asian American representation, and Sailor Moon cosplay have appeared in The Toast, The Mary Sue, Uncanny Magazine, AngryAsianMan.com, IGN.com, Back Stage, The Hollywood Reporter, StarTrek.com, and the Hugo-nominated anthology Chicks Dig Comics. In 2011, she was selected as a finalist for the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award.
Twitter: @sarahkuhn
heroinecomplex.com

QURESSA ROBINSON works as an editor and her titles include SPELLS OF BLOOD AND KIN, CERTAIN DARK THINGS, THE SPICE BOX LETTERS, THE BEAUTIFUL ONES, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, THE ATLAS OF FORGOTTEN PLACES, the DESERT WOLF series, and many more to come. She is an alumnus of the University of California Santa Cruz, Columbia University’s MFA program, and House Slytherin. There is power in the dark side.
Twitter: @qnrisawesome
Instagram: quressa/
http://www.quressa.com
facebook.com/quressa

shipwreck-nycc

The San Francisco-based team behind the literary erotic fanfiction competition SHIPWRECK returns for one unforgettable night in October to take on William Goldman’s The Princess Bride at New York Comic Con in celebration of the launch of Shipwreck’s first anthology, Loose Lips, forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing on 9/27.

SHIPWRECK invites six Great Writers to write fanfic about characters from one Great Book, and you get to decide the winner before we reveal who wrote what. How? All fics are read by our Thespian-In-Residence, Mara Wilson.

See! Six respected writers debase themselves for applause and dick jokes. Marvel! As beloved characters are plucked from their worlds and made to do stuff they were never meant to do in places they were never meant to see. Pray! That you never have to sit on stage and face a crowd while someone else reads your fanfic. Enjoy! The nerdy a cappella of Choirfly. Drink! A lot, probably.

Featuring: Michelle Hodkin, Daniel Jose Older, Arianna Rebolini & Katie Heaney, Seanan McGuire, Diana Pho, & Dana Schwartz.

PLEASE NOTE: No children are ever harmed at Shipwreck, and consent and inclusion are paramount. We’re not dicks, we just like dick jokes. Shipwreck is brought to you by Booksmith, Amy Stephenson, and Casey Childers.

**Tickets can be purchased online via credit card up to 30 minutes before the listed start time. Tickets bought on-site at the door must be purchased via cash-only**

Buy tickets for Shipwreck online here

 

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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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