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Steampunk Reloaded
c is for cat
Yeah, so, not feeling quite as great about that steampunk post on the other side of a good night's sleep. Possibly was a little rough.I was just so tired of talking about practically nothing else, whether it was positive or negative. A little voice in the back of my head said do not post this, there is no way your friends will not think it's about them and their books even though it isn't, and well, angel on the right shoulder FAIL.

I think the most important thing for me to come out of that conversation for me was asking tithenai  why steampunk was so important that it, unlike any other subgenre, deserved all the specially-created space to work itself out. We aren't worried that if vampire fiction doesn't get lots of devoted time on every website, it won't mature as a genre and find its way--and dissing vampire fiction is like the internet's hobby. Ditto with almost anything I can think to slot in there. Some of it is that 24/7 internet news cycle, which is what I really meant to talk about and went off message a bit. But some of it is that steampunk IS being treated specially.

Her answer was that no other genre has so much potential yet is so very problematic. I can almost agree. I'm sure one more potetial-stuffed and problematic will come along. It is perhaps that the other ones that fulfill those needs, like cyberpunk (I think it has equal race, class, and gender issues) is not cool anymore, so people aren't engaging with it the same way they do with the Current Big Thing.

Because there is this underlying idea that steampunk is Important. I am hardly the first to spill ink on it, even this week. And I wonder why.

(It's been asked that we talk about something else now. Like space stations. Comments are, in addition to replying to this post, an open thread for spaceship/station/pony talk.)

But if you didn't lock the post and vape the comments, you are so far ahead of the game it ain't funny.

Me? I'm still chortling over the comment waaaay back in the day about how bad Star Trek fan fic was because some bright penny wrote horses onto the Enterprise! HORSES! OH DEAR GHAAADS.

And then Next Gen comes along and oh look - Captain Picard on a horse. Whoda thunk it.

I think the comment about it having a lot of potential but being highly problematic at the same time is very perceptive - I don't know if I'd go so far as to say "no other genre..." but I do think there's a valid point there.

As you've said, the Victorian era was far from ideal, and it's way too easy for people to romanticize it in a way that glosses over its ugly side. But at the same time, the whole point of an imagined alternate history is that you can recreate it the way you think it should have been.

Obviously, this can go in multiple directions. On the one hand, people can recreate it in a fairly shallow way, wherein all the unpleasantness is just sort of conveniently not there, and everything is fun and fabulous. This basically turns it into (relatively) harmless escapism, much as the SCA does with the mediaeval era, which also had a lot of distinctly un-fun elements to it in actual history. (The reason I added the "relatively" is because I think that if said escapism causes people to forget completely about the oppressive aspects of the period, some of whose effects are still with us, it ceases to be harmless.)

But on the other hand, it's possible to reimagine it in ways that are subversive and challenging, that empower some of the people who were disempowered in the actual historical period. One way in which that seems to be happening is in the prevalence of women in steampunk, taking a much more active role than most women would have been able to in the actual Victorian era. Another, not as widespread yet but starting to crop up here and there, is putting people of colour into more active roles. Not everyone who does either of these things is doing it in an explicitly political way, though some are. And I'd certainly like to see more of it, specifically more done in ways that are politically informed and not just an instance of "Well, I'm female and/or a PoC and I happen to like this steampunk thing, so I'm going to create a persona and people can just deal" - not that there's anything wrong with that, I'd just like to see it go a little further.

One story I read recently that I thought was a good example of using steampunk in a subversive and challenging was was N.K. Jemisin's "The Effluent Engine" - I'd love to see more like that.

Though I really do understand your regret at the direction in which your previous post ambled, I am also glad you posted it. Not because I wholly agree with the perspective you presented, but because of all the conversations that are happening as a result. I'm sure they've happened elsewhere, but since I'm not as heavily involved in some of the communities that might be discussing them I haven't seen them yet.

In addition, I'm just finding that people are writing the kind of steampunk that I'd like to read - it's being deconstructed and mucked about and reclaimed - and that makes me quite excited about the possibilities.

I don't blame you for the rant. There are times when yes, it does get annoying. But then, there are times when it's fun. Moderation is the key here. The problem is it is going mainstream too fast.

Now for a change of subject....

My Little Space Pony! With Additional space helmet and space suit!

Can I have space to work out ancient Athenian urban fantasy?

I strongly suspect that one of the reasons steampunk is getting a lot of attention on big, high-traffic blogs is that it's so easy to get ahold of interesting art. Whatever else the subgenre is, it's visually arresting, and I suspect it draws in readers.

Text is easy to come by, but the costumes, gadgets and so on readily catch peoples' attention.

The new kids channel on cable tv, HUB, is showing My Little Pony Friendship cartoons. Along with Fraggle Rock and Deltora. Lots of classic stuff.

Space stations made me a writer. I'd written stuff for decades -- never showed anyone. Then a friend of a friend had a small press and had a SF short story contest with a Space Station theme and I said, "I have a space station story!"

That was my first submission, in June 2002. First time I'd released a story into the wild. Then I started looking for other places to send stories.

Of course that contest folded because I was like one of the only entries. (grin) But that story did help get me into Clarion in 2004 and it finally sold in 2008.

As for Steampunk, I read my "Zeppelin Police Department" short story at WindyCon last year and the audience liked it, but it hasn't sold yet.

No pony stories -- sorry.

Dr. Phil

I also many times over second Space Ponies. I would read that in a heartbeat. *says the unrepetant lover of Marguerite Henry and Walter Farley*

I think steampunk is Important by default; the alternatives are either tired or haven't panned out.

Space travel? Our space shuttle fleet is being mothballed. The Constellation is dead in the water. It's clear that we don't have the will or money to send people to visit other worlds, and won't for a long while. Space is something we can't have, and that hurts.

Cyberpunk? We're living the online future right now on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and many other sites. We've learned enough about it that we can look at the early cyberpunk stories and point and laugh about how much they got wrong.

With steampunk, we get a simpler, lower-stress time to play in, and we get to keep our high-tech toys.

(Personally, I'm all for spaceship and space station stories; ponies would be a bonus.)

I was going to leave a comment about Why Steampunk Is Important, but I had to write this whole damn post instead.

No space stations or ponies, but apparently infrastructure is my favorite word this week!

Seems like someone took off their brass goggles, unstrapped their brass ray gun, hoisted up her nineteen petticoats that also happen to be farraday cages and showed a little ass on the internet as Scalzi would say.

S'okay. We all do it once in a while.