Many thanks to Jim for letting me participate in his “Representation in SF/F series”. All posts in this series will be collected as part of Invisible 2, and all proceeds from the sale of this collection will go toward Con or Bust and other diversity initiatives in fandom.
Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill, Andalite Prince from the Animorphs series, and one of my childhood book buddies. Taken from the ceiling of my childhood bedroom wall.
Junot Diaz—rightly so—gets quoted often in the representation convo. One of his truth bombs stuck with me:
“You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all.”
But here’s another truth valid in my life: when I didn’t see myself in a mirror, I smashed it and saw myself in the pieces.
Read the rest of the piece here.
Note: Thanks to Countessa Lenora for the opportunity to write this guest post for her blog!
The actual “Peacemaker,” my signature steampunk weapon
My Peacemaker was originally a chalking gun. I admit it. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who looks at it for more than ten seconds. Sometimes, people think it was a cookie gun, and I don’t mind that either. I like cookies.
There has been an unusual attitude, I’ve noticed, about the creation of steampunk props and the role of functional art. I’ve seen dismissive railing against “stick a gear on it” for physical artistic creations, the trumpeting of modded computers and iPods over spray-painted Nerf guns. I have no issue with beautiful functional art or people to have creative ambitions (and yes, that song based on the concept is pretty cute). But, as a performer with cosplayer roots, I never fully understood the ridicule. Because, a prop is a prop is a prop and as long as it helps you perform, whether the steampunk prop shoots real lightning or falls apart after being out in a rainstorm, as long as it enhances your artistic performance, it is a good steampunk prop.
What is, then, “steampunk performance?” A better way of phrasing would be that “steampunk performs.”
[Read the rest on Steampunk Canada]
Shanghai, China, Jewish refugees in one of the “homes” established in Shanghai to house those who succeeded in escaping from Europe via East Asia in the 1940s. Photo courtesy of the Yad Vashem photo archive. Click for source.
German Jews did not immediately begin to put their emigration papers in order after Hitler came into power, or after the passing of the Nuremberg Laws, because as far as they were concerned they were fully assimilated Goethe reading, WWI fighting German citizens. They could not believe, and would not believe, that the country they loved would turn against them.
Hitler introduced his anti-Jewish legislation slowly over the course of the 1930’s, giving German Jewry time to rationalize each new piece; this especially held true for Jewish men, as they tended to work in traditionally Jewish occupations. Jewish women, however, through the regular contact with gentiles allowed to them by their place in the home sphere, became aware of the “social death” being imposed on them by Nazi legislation long before their husbands took notice.
In the wake of the mass arrests of Jewish men during Kristallnacht, it fell to these women to free their husbands—typically from Dachau. Nazi officials would not release men until their families provided proof that they would depart from Germany immediately upon their release. Thus, not only did women have to rescue their husbands, but they also had to navigate the emigration process by themselves. Due to the complex legal frameworks enacted by possible destination countries to keep Jewish refugees out, it was immensely difficult for Jews to secure visas out of Germany, and it became even more difficult when they were confronted with the massive exit tax Jews were forced to pay before leaving.
There was, however, one destination which had not put up legal roadblocks to fleeing Jews: Shanghai—this had more to do with the decentralized and highly colonized nature of Shanghai than it had to do with any sort of altruistic sentiment. While the Chinese government had the right to demand to see emigration papers before new arrivals would be allowed to enter Shanghai, this was seldom enforced. Thus, to get to Shanghai, all fleeing families needed were boat tickets. For this reason—in accordance with the necessity to present proof of emigration to Nazi officials before male family members would be released—Shanghai became the only option available to some of the families of incarcerated men.
Filed under Essays, History
Note from Ay-leen: This guest post for STEAMED! was published yesturday and I thought I’d share it here.
After four years of college, with plenty of knowledge in what a well-known musical has termed a “useless” degree (though, technically, more than in English – I double-majored with Russian), I arrived at the classic Quarter-Life Crisis. I’d been in the Real World, yet was second-guessing myself. Was my career path where I wanted it to be? Was this where I envisioned myself when I left my alma mater? Compared to my peers, after the economy died, I was lucky: working in publishing at a secure job with solid prospects. But something since undergrad came into my life that had reminded me how much I missed academia. Steampunk.
[Read “What Do You Do with an MA in Steampunk?” on STEAMED!]
Steampunk Panda as the Imperial Sheriff
I have been aware of Steampunk for some time but it was not until the tail end of the summer of 2011 that I decided to take a closer look and learn more about Steampunk. As I delved into the culture I noticed how it was very Victorian, based in the 19th century British culture. That was understandable seeing how it was based off of many early literatures that were set in those areas. However, the world does not revolve around one geographical location or ethnic background for that matter, and while life progresses in one location it invariably continues on elsewhere.
So for Steampunk to be only Victorian or only British I found that rather stifling and ethnocentric, which from what I had started to learn of the subculture was not what it wanted to do, but rather be an inviting and accepting one. Perhaps it was the fact that people were uncertain of how to approach other ethnicities with the Steampunk culture without being offensive. Especially in a time period where racism was not only prevalent but well practiced.
Being new to Steampunk and wanting to take my own twist to it I looked at my own heritage of Chinese culture and doing some cursory research as to what was going on in China during the 19th century. It was the time of the Opium Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, and in America the railroads were being laid down by my ancestors. It was a time period I was somewhat familiar with albeit slightly romanticized and dramatized from all the Hong Kong and Chinese cinemas I watched growing up as a child. Still the clothes and some of the basics of the culture at the time were there.
James Ng’s Imperial Sheriff
As I researched further into Steampunk to find connections to Asian culture I looked to see if others had gone down this path before me. It would seem that for the most part when looking for Asian and Steampunk on the internet more often than not it was found that Asians were in a European/British style outfit or even perhaps a person wearing a kimono with a corset over it. This does not detract from the fact that even during that time period there were indeed many Asians who wore European/British stylings back then as Western culture was placing its influence over the native Asian culture. What it did was inspire me to find a way to express what it would have been like in Asia without the western influence.
It would be during my research that I would happen upon an artist who would be my catalyst and inspiration towards my goal of expressing a truly Asian themed Steampunk outfit. James Ng and his Imperial Steamworks series is truly awe inspiring and a solid foundation for which Asian Steampunk can develop from. It was the discovery of his work that allowed me to feel not alone in the ideas and concept of Asian Steampunk and legitimized for me this evolutionary path for it, and that I hope to see this path flourish by spreading it any way I could.
With his permission I took it upon myself to bring one of his creations to life, his Imperial Sheriff.
[Note from Ay-leen: In recognition of International Talk Like a Pirate Day that happened yesterday, I’m cross-posting Djeli’s wonderful piece about pirates from his blog The Disgruntled Haradrim]
Map Insert of the Caribbean from “Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts” by Frank Richard Stockton. Click for source
In the late 17th thru mid 18th centuries, piracy was the method of last resort for the downtrodden and dispossessed: men desperate for work; deserters from throughout the war-wracked Atlantic; runaway slaves seeking refuge from bondage; criminals (from debtors to cutthroats) escaping the long arm of the law. Today, pirates are most remembered through popular culture–as dashing rouges, foppish cross-dressers, menacing brigands and motley crews of mad men and degenerates. But the pirates and piracy of history were much more complex, individuals who chose the margins of society as preferable to the authoritarian rule of empires, creating a separate space where they sought to govern themselves through methods that were radical not only for their day, but our own.
I first saw the work of artist Kehinde Wiley at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s still there. You walk in, and on the left wall is an immense mural of a figure that looks somewhat like Tony Starks (Ghostface, not Downey Jr.), on horseback crossing the alps–a reworking of Jacques-Louis David’s 1800 oil-painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps orBonaparte at the St Bernard Pass.
Filed under Essays, Review
Note from Ay-leen: In recognition of Pride Month in the United States, I’d like to thank Lucretia Dearfour for writing about her experiences in the steampunk community.
The first person that we know of to ever go through sexual reassignment surgery was Lili Elbe in 1930, unfortunately her body rejected much of the surgery and she died three month afterward. The first most prominant recipient however was Christine Jørgensen, who received the surgery in 1952 and was then immediately outed to the public as Trans… as “Different.” What is truly amazing to me about Jørgensen’s story is that the first paper to get the scoop and run with it was the New York Daily News on December 1st 1952, and the headline read “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty.” The headline could have called her a freak of nature, could have foscued on how a man decided one day to be a woman, could have called her a freak or warped the public’s mind in any way shape or form as the first paper to break such a story. What I respect about the article is that it chose to focus on the fact that Jørgensen became a “Blonde Beauty.” It’s vein, it’s vapid, and it still says “He was this, now he’s not a he anymore,” but it does so in such a way that conveys a positive message.
Transgender and gender nonconformist individuals exist to this day. We have existed throughout history and we have only gained strength and prominence as time has gone on with many thanks to trailblazers like Jørgensen. We’ve still got a long, LONG way to go but the future is definitely moving in a very accepting direction for me and mine.
That being said, in Steampunk as well as in a lot of other geek-oriented subcultures I feel (subjectively) that Trans folks are on the whole accepted, though not understood and, at times, not encouraged. This is something that can change, and is en route to change yet at the moment we still deal with a lot of double standard BS that cis-gendered (labeled one gender at birth and has no intention of questioning said gender) folks never need to think about.
Note: This is second in a two-part series, cross-posted with permission from The Disgruntled Haradrim. Check on Part 1 about Anti-Fascism and the Spanish Civil War here.
After my last posting on Anti-Fascist dieselpunk and the Spanish Civil War, which owed much to Steampunk Emma Goldman’s original blog, I began thinking about the other great anti-fascist struggle also lost in the shadow of WWII. In 1935, before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Mussolini’s Fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia–one of the few African territories at the time not under European colonial control. The brutal attack on Ethiopia (then also called Abyssinia), which employed poison gas and flame throwers on civilian populations, was partly strategic, and also revenge–for an Italy still smarting from their humiliating defeat by Ethiopian forces at the Battle of Adwa in 1896. While the near impotent League of Nations remained shamefully complicit in their refusal to denounce Mussolini or allow arms to a beleaguered Ethiopia, outrage was heard from throughout the black diaspora. Ethiopia had long functioned as a symbolic political and cultural historical site in black popular culture, politics and thought; and the invasion by Italy was seen by many as an attack on the entire ”black world.”
Filed under Essays, History
Note: This is first in a two-part series, cross-posted with permission from The Disgruntled Haradrim. Check on Part 2 about Anti-Fascism and Ethiopia on Wednesday!
I was watching Guillermo del Toro’s excellent dark fantasy realism flick, El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) the other day, and it reminded of an excellent blog article I read on Emma Goldman and dieselpunk late last year. Huh, you ask? Yes, like a Third Stage Guild Navigator, my mind “moves in strange directions.” Stay with me, and I’ll connect the dots….
Guillermo del Toro’s tragic tale, told through the eyes of an imaginative little girl named Ofelia, is set during the brutal Franco regime in the wake of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), a conflict that is almost lost in the long shadow cast by WW2. Yet like Mussolini’s brutal campaign against Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War was one of the first battlegrounds against fascism. While Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supported the right-wing General Francisco Franco, with weapons and bombing campaigns, the leftist Republican government was supported in part by France, Mexico and the Soviet Union.
Beyond nation-states, brigades of international volunteers also flocked to fight what they saw as a war against fascism. Some forty thousand men and women from fifty-two countries, many of them socialists, communists and radicals, traveled to Spain to join the International Brigades in support of the anti-fascist Republican government. Some 2,800 of them were from the United States, and served in what was called the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
Filed under Essays, History