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Letters from Proxima Thule

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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.)

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Vampire fiction has baggage, sex and violence, but I think people realize it is possible to tell stories about vampires without glorifying death, rape, violence and torture.

Medieval reenactment comes with baggage, too, but very few people worry that medieval reenactors think that we ought to have another Inquisition, or that another Crusade would be a super-awesome idea. (and the medievalists have had some time to play at genre... a 100 or so years)

Victorian fail is recent, the wounds inflicted by Victorian people have barely been treated, let alone had time to heal. The worst ideas, about race, about gender about who should be considered "people" are still in current usage, so a genre that calls back to them is something a lot of people are wary of. There's a lot of concern about how do we do this right... how do we talk about the love and wonder of exploration, without acknowledging what happened to the people who lived in lands that were "discovered" and "explored". How do you talk about how wonderful machines are, when factories run on the work of children and made a few families rich while keeping thousands in desperate poverty (and still do). How do you play at being a naturalist or engineer, when you are working in a culture in which education is a sign of privledge. It would be so easy to do this badly.... and there is tension, because many people think the best way to deal with all of this is to pretend it isn't there.

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