Why be part of the Steampunk Community?
It is a question that journalists in particular will ask you when they corner you on a event. What is it? What do you do?
I managed to create a series that is pushing over an hour now trying to explain just that. And I am not done.
But central question for today is, why relate your past-time activities with a style that isn’t even properly defined?
Why associate yourself with a label when you have so many other activities and topics that you enjoy or are passionate about?
After the whole debacle surrounding the Steampunk World Fair this year, and the attempt to revive it under a different name failed, because of something I will summarize as Internet Drama, people may start to ask themselves; is it worth the hassle?
Like or not, when you get involved in costumed subculture like Cosplay, Goth or Fantasy it is like becoming part of a adoptive family. You have close cousins, estranged aunts and creepy uncles.
Alot of good comes from it, but also bad. People protect one another for better or for worse and as a result, when the straw breaks the camels back, emotions run high and the blame gets past around.
Such events create a lot of gossip, that gets spread around social media, only to be forgotten. And in the end, nobody learned anything.
It a reason people become sick and tired of being part of a community in general. We adopted the label to become part of something bigger than ourselves. A construct were we found a home. A place were our skills and passions would be admired instead being observed as some abnormality.
The community might be a Cabinet of Curiosities by outsiders looking in. But you know you are not the only person inside that cabinet.
You are with others just like you. It is a home away from home. A dreamhouse made manifest that you can visit from time to time.
But reality demands we only join the others inside the Cabinet at certain times. Sometimes we don’t find the time at all. During that time you feel like an outsider looking in and when you hear all the awful noises coming from the other side of the closet-door You think, “why would I possibly go back in? There is a whole world out there filled with possibilities. Why do I want to return to this closet of all places?”
So you turn your back at the cabinet. You still hear people talk about it, or are asking you rather you intend to return or not. But you have other priorities, so whatever.
But priorities change. The college at work, you discussed the last episode of Game of Thrones, with has moved on. The gamestore on the corner has closed down. A Magic the Gathering forum you frequented gone on a banning spree for some reason and conversations ran stale.
You are in need of a new environment once again. So you look for a place that you are familiar with, retrace your steps and find the cabinet is still there. It maybe be worn and dusty. It ain’t as you remember it. But it didn’t go anywhere.
You open the cabinet once again and you find all this splendor. Everything you are passionate about is there, just as you expected it would be. And the people are there as well, some familiar, some are not. But despite this, you know these people care about the same things you do. Yet they are also very different.
But it’s is what makes you different what unitise these people. It is what you are passionate about. So much in fact, it supersedes all other issues, like politics, that have a tendency to divide and unite people in all the wrong ways. At the office you feel like you are walking on broken glass because the slightest remark could spark a firestorm.
But once in the closet you can separate yourself from a reality that wants to remind you there are things you can’t change. Obligations, bills. A world in conflict. Not to say these things a not important, but so is being yourself. That is a luxury to some people... Maybe even most.
Sure, one can say that labels such a Metal, Goth and Punk are words made up by Normies to segregate anything that doesn’t conform as, different. Something not worth Mainstream, Corporate or Political attention.
But what people do once pushed into a corner is form a community, unattended by mainstream forces and free to develop in any way or shape is participants please until it becomes a well established subculture with it own traditions, style and sense of identity.
Adopting a label such as Steampunk is a matter of personal choice. It is the difference between a chosen identity and one that if forced upon you by society and ideologues. It is why members of such communities feel such kinship. But also the reason why they can become so hostile toward people they feel endanger the cohesiveness of said community… Justified or otherwise.
But enough about that... Of all subculture, why did I get involved Steampunk?
What one has to realize, there is no such thing as, The Steampunk. But there are Steampunks and these happen to be the group of people I feel most comfortable with at this.
As a community they succeeded in ways I have not seen anywhere else yet. For one they have created a set of traditions and activities by themselves. Teadueling and teapot racing for example are played world wide.
Not saying that other groups don’t have activities like these, but in most cases these were not created by the community itself. During cosplay conventions you can be sure to encounter Dance Dance Revolution, or DDR, and karaoke because it is important in that culture. But it was initially created by mayor compagnies.
It is an example how many, if not most, of these fandoms are focused on consuming and imitating existing media. Trends within the communities are determined by these respective industries, not by the fandom itself…
Every Time I visit cons in the Netherlands people aks us on what franchise our costumes are based, as if original costuming is an alien concept to them.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a criticism, but a reason that I am not into Cosplay. I am not fond of places that are all about merchandise, but if that is your thing all the more power to you.
It is also very clear that, especially in the States, Steampunks love to express they fandom in costuming as well. But it often has that unique twist that is less about punking popculture icons and more about re interpreting these characters and tropes in different historical settings.
There are four things I am very fond of. History, science fiction, making my own stories and finally, immersion.
Steampunk is unique in how it combines these four elements. The Steammakers - who create the props that the genre is well known for - often make up stories surrounding their creation as if these machines are part of a alternate timeline.
It is all about that immersion. To lose oneself in the environment and story. So it is no coincidence this is something Steampunks spend a lot of time and energy on.
But why do Steampunk, other than that it is a passion of mine?
It inspires me… It inspired me write my stories. It inspired me to start my first blog Tupperware Steampunk and create. Create attributes to wear but also an environment for me to live.
Yeah, thinking about I created a cabinet of curiosities for me to live. But people like to come there as well. My cabinet attracts people, who in turn, became inspired and are working with me on my projects, like my Fallout inspired audio drama and my theme group RAG-TAG. And then there is this channel.
Steampunk helped me grow. As a maker, writer, blogger, vlogger, graphic designer, Youtubers, actor. All these are skill I barely possesed. Skill I probably would be motivated to teach myself under other circumstances.
What I learned working on my projects is not to look at a challenge and say, ‘Might fail if I try.’ Or ‘It will never look as good as what that person made.’
It is about accepting a challenge, and fail.
If you succeed in everything you do, you are probably afraid of challenging yourself.
What I see around me are a great many people with wonderful idea’s . But many refuse commit out of fear of failure.
I understand that very well. However I learned to deal with failure by doing something fun. It sucks it didn’t work out, you still had fun doing it. This is the reason gamers play games on the toughest difficulty. Because all their past failures make all the more rewarding when you do succeed.
One might say that what we do is all about make believe and escapism but all the thing I created the past five years are real. They had an impact on my live and who I became as a person.
Even if my adventures in Steampunk end up in a disaster, nothing can take away what I learned these past years. And maybe, one day, all this determination might payoff in ways I cannot have foreseen.
And I think Steampunk can help many people this way. But they have to - do it.
As a small addition to this long ramble. As a world wide community Steampunk has had some setbacks. Just like some of my projects. But what any of us need to do is let the past be the past, just learn from it and move on. To often I hear people talk about in a past sense. Wasn’t it great when this or that… But when I ask where you want steampunk to go in the future. Then they are silent.
This needs to change. We need to talk more what a community with so many creative people can achieve in the future. Stop talking about the has beens and work on to a future-that-could-never exist. Isn’t that what Steampunk was supposed to be about to begin with.
So this may not have become the motivational speech I wanted to make, but he. Maybe this will inspire a shorter more to they point video with actual work put in it.
I thank you for listening to the end, and please let us know how your passion inspired you to develop yourself.
And with that I bid you adieu and as always, make it your way.