#SteampunkHands Around the World 2017: Making Life Better -Perspective

*artwork by MrXpk*

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017- Making Life Better is a month long event in February 2017 showing and sharing the great steampunk people, events, and things around the world that other people should know about. Through these means, we come together as a community to forge new connections and friendships, inspire and be inspired by each other, and create realities from the stuff of dreams.

This year, we will share and explore the ways in which steampunk can and has made life better, for ourselves and for others. How does steampunk make life more fun and enjoyable, how does it expand our horizons and help us define who we are, or who we want to be? How does steampunk inform us about ourselves, others, and the world around us? How does it help us find solutions for real life problems, and find ways to make changes for the better?

Airship Ambassador

This week’s discussion will take a look at how steampunk allows us to analyze the past to prepare for the present and future.

Steampunk is sometimes criticized for romanticizing a period of history that was wrought with troubling and problematic issues (colonialism, orientalism, the suppression of minorities and women, rampant disease, etc.). I say this is a fair criticism. I also say it’s a wonderful opportunity that is unique to steampunk.

Steampunk is not the same as historical fiction. Steampunk allows us to change things, fudge facts, rewrite history. We can use this to challenge the past, and the legacy we still feel today. That’s what the “punk” in “steampunk” is all about. Challenge the system. Turn it on its head.

Steampunk can become a excellent tool for social commentary if used correctly. Sure, we can write a pleasant story that simply ignores the problems in Victorian society. There’s nothing wrong with pleasant stories – we all need those from time to time! But steampunk also has the potential to be much deeper, to examine human nature and to face cultural issues we still come across today.

So go forth, my fellow steampunks! Take aim at the establishment and dismantle it in that gentlemanly/lady-like way like only you can! And don’t forget to break for tea and biscuits.

#SteampunkHands Around the World: Making Life Better – Maker Culture

*artwork by MrXpk*

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017- Making Life Better is a month long event in February 2017 showing and sharing the great steampunk people, events, and things around the world that other people should know about. Through these means, we come together as a community to forge new connections and friendships, inspire and be inspired by each other, and create realities from the stuff of dreams.

This year, we will share and explore the ways in which steampunk can and has made life better, for ourselves and for others. How does steampunk make life more fun and enjoyable, how does it expand our horizons and help us define who we are, or who we want to be? How does steampunk inform us about ourselves, others, and the world around us? How does it help us find solutions for real life problems, and find ways to make changes for the better?

Airship Ambassador

Today’s contribution to Steampunk Hands Around the World focuses on the “maker culture” of steampunk. One of the primary draws of steampunk is the tangible nature of anachronistic technologies. You can see how the gears move, how pulling this lever activates motion here or there. It’s so entirely different from modern, “black box” technology.

“Maker culture” calls back to these tangible technologies. Makers create their inventions from scratch, with wood and brass and copper, or by re-purposing existing items. Makers work with their hands, get their hands dirty.

A lot of this is considered a “lost art” these days. Most people don’t build or fix things themselves anymore. You bring your car to the shop, you hire a plumber or an electrician. You bring your broken gizmo or gadget to a store where it’s simply replaced with a shiny new one. Maker culture is fighting this trend.

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Image from The Enchanted City

I attended a steampunk festival in Troy, New York this summer – The Enchanted City III: A Brave New World. This festival included events, such as the Inventor’s Challenge and the Mini Maker Fair, that encouraged participants to don their lab coats and goggles and get to work. The Mini Maker Fair, targeted toward kids, is especially important in my eyes. This is where steampunk goes beyond a whimsical genre of books or movies and becomes a force of real tangible good for young people. It encourages their creativity and challenges their problem solving skills. It builds a familiarity with mechanical and technical objects and ideas that will stay with them for years. Steampunk is helping to encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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Image from The Enchanted City

#SteampunkHands Around the World 2017: Making Life Better – Aesthetics

*artwork by MrXpk*

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017- Making Life Better is a month long event in February 2017 showing and sharing the great steampunk people, events, and things around the world that other people should know about. Through these means, we come together as a community to forge new connections and friendships, inspire and be inspired by each other, and create realities from the stuff of dreams.

This year, we will share and explore the ways in which steampunk can and has made life better, for ourselves and for others. How does steampunk make life more fun and enjoyable, how does it expand our horizons and help us define who we are, or who we want to be? How does steampunk inform us about ourselves, others, and the world around us? How does it help us find solutions for real life problems, and find ways to make changes for the better?

Airship Ambassador

To kick off my contribution to Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017, I’ll be discussing the aesthetic of Steampunk. Things like art, fashion, and architecture bring so much joy to people, it seemed like a good place to start!

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art by Vadim Voitekhovitch

Steampunk art and crafts often center around taking mundane, every-day items (a phone, a light switch, a table) and transforming them into steampunk gadgets. There are also brilliant examples of steampunk cityscapes. This often involves elements such as leather, brass, copper, gears, levers, and patina. The craft and maker aspect of steampunk has helped transform it from a genre to a subculture.

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Image from Artfire

Steampunk fashion is easily identifiable, as it combines Victorian fashion with gadgets and the “punk” aesthetic. Common elements of steampunk fashion include corsets, bustles, waistcoats, top hats, spats, goggles, parasols, mechanical limbs, and post-apocalyptic elements.

Steampunk architecture is often Victorian, or 1800s-style architecture from other parts of the world. What makes it steampunk is, like in steampunk art, the addition of elements such as leather, brass, copper, gears, levers, and patina. Take a grand, Victorian mansion and add some grime, some grit, and some whimsy.

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Image from Airship Flamel

(Note: the image above depicts a real Victorian house in Irvington, NY. On the one hand, that means it is not steampunk, but simply Victorian. However, because it is on the more whimsical end of the Victorian architecture spectrum, it is a great example of the type of historical architecture steampunk draws from.)

What’s your favorite part of the steampunk aesthetic?

Year in Review: 2016

The year 2016 has been a roller-coaster-ride of a year. Between wars, crazy politics, and the huge number of celebrity deaths (on that note, I’m not a religious person, but isn’t there something in the bible about good people being sent to heaven right before the apocalypse, leaving only the sinners left on earth to suffer? Anyway…) a lot of us are ready to kiss 2016 goodbye.

But it wasn’t all bad! This year, I’m proud to say I became a published author, one of my life-long dreams. So below is my Year in Review for 2016, highlighting the milestones (some writing-related, some not) that have defined my personal journey this year.

I really encourage you all to sit down and make a similar list. What were the moments in 2016 you were proud of? No matter how big or small, try to remember every moment that made you happy. Did you reconnect with an old friend? Get acknowledged for your hard work? Meet a fitness goal? Find a new favorite movie?

Make the list, and if you still feel rotten about 2016, do what my friends and I are doing on New Year’s Eve: build a bonfire and burn 2016 calendars. I think it will be pretty cathartic.

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2016 – My Favorite Things: Gail Carriger’s Novels

Welcome to my fourth and final contribution to Steampunk Hands Around the World 2016 – My Favorite Things! If you’re not familiar, Steampunk Hands is a month-long blogathon in February when steampunks from all over the world come together to talk about the genre. This year’s theme is My Favorite Things. CLICK HERE for the master list of all the blog posts!

For my fourth Favorite Thing, I’d like to talk about Gail Carriger’s novels. Gail Carriger currently has three steampunk series: The Finishing School Series, The Parasol Protectorate Series, and The Custard Protocol Series. All three series take place in the same universe, an alternate Victorian era (primarily in London, England) where humans, vampires, werewolves, and ghosts live together in (somewhat relative) harmony. She also has some short stories, which I believe also take place in the same universe.

So far, I’ve read all of the Parasol Protectorate books. I plowed through those novels! Every character is charming and funny in their own amazing way, and after reading A Song of Ice and Fire (the books that are currently published, anyway) by George R.R. Martin, it was a real relief to read this upbeat and witty series. The main plot of each book was a bit predictable in my opinion, but I didn’t mind at all. It felt more like the plot enabled the characters to interact in increasingly interesting ways, and that was the point. I also might be harping too much on a book with a more predictable plot since I had, as I mentioned above, just finished reading A Song of Ice and Fire.

The Finishing School Series (which takes place before The Parasol Protectorate) and The Custard Protocol Series (which takes place after The Parasol Protectorate) are both on my To-Read list now.

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2016 – My Favorite Things: Lindsey Stirling Music Videos

Welcome to my third contribution to Steampunk Hands Around the World 2016 – My Favorite Things! If you’re not familiar, Steampunk Hands is a month-long blogathon in February when steampunks from all over the world come together to talk about the genre. This year’s theme is My Favorite Things. CLICK HERE for the master list of all the blog posts!

For my third Favorite Thing, I’d like to talk about Lindsey Stirling, specifically her music videos. If you haven’t heard of her, you probably don’t spend a lot of time on YouTube. Lindsey Stirling became a sensation a few years ago, appearing on America’s Got Talent. She didn’t win, but her YouTube videos went viral. Why? Because she composes and plays original music on violin, as well as doing covers or medleys, and she dances (quite well!) while playing said violin. It’s very impressive, and if you ever get the chance to see her live, I highly recommend it!

Here are a couple of her videos that are particularly Steampunk-y. The first, “Shatter Me” is especially powerful, as it’s about Lindsey’s struggle with self-acceptance and self-love. The second, “Roundtable Rival”, is simply badass šŸ˜‰

“Shatter Me”

“Roundtable Rival”

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2016 – My Favorite Things: Howl’s Moving Castle

Welcome to my secondĀ contribution to Steampunk Hands Around the World 2016 – My Favorite Things! If you’re not familiar, Steampunk Hands is a month-long blogathon in February when steampunks from all over the world come together to talk about the genre. This year’s theme is My Favorite Things. CLICK HERE for the master list of all the blog posts!

For my second Favorite Thing, I’d like to talk about Howl’s Moving Castle. The movie, by Hayao Miyazaki, was one of my first experiences with the steampunk genre (also my first exposure to Miyazaki films). I remember going to see it at The Spectrum, an independent movie theater in Albany, NY, and absolutely loving it. It didn’t take long before I read the book, by Diana Wynne Jones, that the movie was based on. I highly recommend both!

Both the movie and book follow Sophie, a hat maker with little self-confidence who is cursed by the Witch of the Waste to appear as an old woman. She finds herself swept up into a walking castle owned by the wizard Howl, whom she discovers is suffering from his own curse. The story has a lot of fun allusions to other literature and stories, including the Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, Baba Yaga, and Lord of the Rings.

Hm…I think I’ll go watch it now…