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Steampunk Reloaded
c is for cat
catvalente
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.)


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Who is saying that Steampunk is Important? Because I am missing this conversation.

I'm into Steampunk. I'm into Steampunk because it's fun and frivolous and I can put together awesome and creative costumes, and I like long full swishy skirts and have a great figure for Victorian corsets. I read some of the fiction, but generally only the stuff that looks interesting in addition to being Steampunk. I'm baffled by the idea that ANYONE thinks it's Important.

Well, some people do. But as I said, no other genre gets the special treatment right now, so it must be important somehow.

By "special treatment," I take it you mean things like Steampunk Issues of X or Steampunk Week at Y? I don't think that's about Important, I think that's about making money on what's hot.

But it wouldn't be hot without those things, see?

Also, please do have fun. I do think part of the issue here is that people can't separate the costuming/maker movement from the literary one. And people are being pushed to write steampunk quickly to capitalize on the hotness, which makes bad books, automatically.

I'm not at all sure that it wouldn't be hot without the special issues, because it isn't just the fiction. Steampunk fashion is as different and weird as Goth used to be, without being spooky or scary. It looks good on camera. Popular culture has picked up the images of Steampunk fashion without paying attention to the fiction, and I think that's where the hotness comes from, and that the special issues are a reaction to that popularity. People who have never read SF/F are getting into steamy fashion (really! I've met a number of them!), and I think the publishers are seeing an opportunity to expand their audiences, because steampunks talk to each other and tell each other about all these OMGSTEAMY books and magazines. I dunno how well it's working to expand the audience, but that does look like the rationale.

I think the more relevant -- and, to me, interesting -- question is why the look is so popular.

I agree that rushed novels makes for poor literature, but pulp fiction has its place, too. If I see any Potential in Steampunk fiction, it's the potential to reinvent the rollicking adventure story without all the bigotry. Still won't make for Literature (well, maybe some Great Author will turn up, they do in the unlikeliest places; look at Dickens), I'm sure, but I do like a good swashbuckling tale, when I can find one that doesn't have me shrieking and throwing the book in fury.

At any rate, I think the popularity of the fiction within general SF/F circles has a lot to do with the fact that so much of the Hot Stuff right now is so grim, while Steampunk gets to be frivolous.

steampunks talk to each other and tell each other about all these OMGSTEAMY books and magazines

As a romance reader... That gelled differently in my head than I think you were intending.

But have other genres got special treatment in the past? (That's a genuine question rather than a rhetorical one.) Without knowing long-range context, I'd think it's getting the focus simply because the kids are into goggles right now.

If, however, it's genuinely unusual for a sub-genre, historically speaking, to get this kind of attention, how much of that comes from the performance of internet geek culture in the era of instant-update social networking, a relatively new phenomenon?

Excellent questions for which I do not have definitive answers.

And, for the record, it isn't that I Never Ever Think About The Problems With Steampunk. I do. And I try to address them in my own way, which can be difficult since I'm mostly in it for the clothes and most of the things I can do with clothes as a very white woman can also be problematic. But I try.

But, for me, it's still all about the fun. If I do something seriously problematic, I will apologize and stop doing that, but I'm not going to let that stop me from enjoying what I can.

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