“In the colonies the truth stood naked, but the citizens of the mother country preferred it with clothes on.”- Jean-Paul Sartre
When I first became interested in steampunk last year, I posed a question to one of my friends.
Me: “So… I was wondering about steampunk, where does colonialism fit in?”
Friend: “Colonialism? Like in the Colonies?”
Me: “Like being from the colonies.”
Friend: “Oh, you can do that. They’re different types of subgenres in steampunk, and it can take place in America.”
Pause right there. I wasn’t referring to America. Or was I? Yes, my friends and I are from the US and steampunks, and most identify our personas as being from the “Colonies.” Yet their idea of what the Colonies represented in steampunk—aka an alternative America that was still under control of the British Empire during the Victorian Era—and my interpretation of the colonies—aka the actual ones that had existed during the Victorian Era—were vastly different. Which leads to the questions I’d like to explore here. Why is the concept of the United States as a colonized America so appealing to steampunks? Is this notion damaging to steampunks of color (SoCs), whose histories are negatively intertwined with the realities of colonialism? Does the idea of a colonial America promote or denounce the imperialism that existed during the Age of Empire?