Steampunk to Me: Be Splendid

These past few weeks, I have presented some principles I find indispensable for the steampunk genre: Be Mindful, Be Courteous, and Be Creative. This week, I offer you the last, perhaps the most important one.

 

If there were a battle cry for steampunks, the words “Be Splendid!” would ring out the globe over.

Splendidness

You see, “splendid” is more than a word to express interest when someone asks if you’d care for tea and a biscuit. It is a call to rigorous and deliberate excellence in all that you do. This characteristic has the potential to hold all the others inside of it, but there is a very important aspect to this principle that I wish to talk about.

Splendidness is an active, on-going process, and, above all, a mindset.

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Steampunk to Me: Be Creative

Imagine moving your kitchen table, carrying off the chairs, and clearing the floor to lay out history like a scrapbook, centuries of design like sketchbooks, biographies like storyboards. Standing in the midst of it all, you can make anything. It’s a mosaic of potential.

Fusing these various parts into a coherent whole takes a massive amount of creativity. If this character, this world, this outfit, or this gadget you’re making is going to work, you’ll have to get your mind in gear.

And it’s here I see the third tenet of steampunk: Be Creative.Creativity
This directive comes naturally to the genre. The DIY community thrives in steampunk and values unique, handcrafted things. There are so many neat applications of this, ranging from hand-tailored clothes to overhauls of modern computers into technology that would be at home on the Nautilus. Old-fashioned methods and skills from past eras are learned and preserved here.

However, tinkering is only a symptom of a truly creative person. Continue reading

Steampunk to Me: Be Courteous

Any genre whose aesthetic ties together Victorian costume, history, and a copious amount of top hats (or hats of any kind) must surely point to a concern with manners. As with the first tenet Be Mindful, I believe that steampunk’s exteriors, while important, ultimately gesture towards an interior resolution.

The second tenet I see in steampunk is Be Courteous.Courteousness
Throughout the steampunk community, you will find an emphasis on courtesy. It almost comes as a mandate, emerging in a concern to preserve etiquette, to promote gracious conversation and debate, and to encourage others to extend the same level of regard to every aspect of their lives. Continue reading

Steampunk to Me: Be Mindful

Steampunk wraps itself in pinstripes, brass, airships, goggles, and patched brocade as much as it wears the marks of history. But while this subgenre utilizes appearances, it is steadfastly passionate about interiority, the inner cogs and workings of not only devices but of people also. It’s for this reason that I believe steampunk is more than an aesthetic or window dressing for art, music, or literature. It is a worldview and a lifestyle.Mindfulness

Evidence of this can be found everywhere. You’ll find steampunks crafting beautiful and useful things, asking all the important questions, and creating thoughtful works. The hands-on, DIY attitude of steampunk, if you let it, permeates every area of life, and because of this, it’s no wonder people have tried to draw up lists of what it means to be a part of this culture, this self-inventing civilization of worlds that never were. However, like a definition for this subgenre, it’s difficult to pin down exactly what makes a steampunk. Continue reading

Night of the Shadow Puppets: A Father Garrett Tale

Father Garrett

China had been a mistake.

Father Garrett knew that now.

The endless green valleys of Chalan—and the bandits who called it home—were unforgiving towards travelers. From their perches in the gingko trees, they swooped down on unsuspecting itinerants to promptly relieve them of currency, tea, and the burden of anything else valuable. Father Garrett had been warned about them, but it was another matter entirely to meet them face-to-face. The reverend presented only a small obstacle, and after it was over, he sat in the dusty road for some time, rubbing a sore jaw.

It was indecent of the fellows to rob him, and they needn’t have been so rough. He looked about at the scattered remnants of his bag—mostly collars, clothes, the few ragged books they had left him, and a small cylindrical device that had gotten tossed across the road.

“I should be grateful the ruffians did not take everything,” he said to comfort himself, trying not to think about how the encounter might have ended. He also did not want to think about how the loss of his money might alter the rest of his journey. The sun poured over his black hat and clothing, and the garments stifled him like tar.

From his coat, he took a few thin, stamped wafers of a tea brick and slipped them into his wallet as they were the only currency he now possessed. If all else failed, he had heard it was possible to eat these powdered, hammered rectangles of tea. Continue reading

Steampunk (A Mini Manifesto)

: space and time travel, steam, Victorian sensibilities, and various other diverse rudiments melded into anachronistic combinations

: a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy literature emphasizing steam-powered and clockwork technology

: a past built from known history and what might have been to create a world that never was


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Steampunk—as a genre, aesthetic, fashion, lifestyle— is difficult to define. Perhaps this is because unlike other terms, it can be any and all of those listed items at once. It’s recognized by the popular image of top hats and goggles, Victorian dress accessorized with practicality (or impracticality just as often). But it is much more than this. Steampunk is a realm of explorers, artists, airship pilots, scientists (mad and sane), tinkers, librarians, dreamers…anything you can imagine. Continue reading