Firing the Imagination: Steampunk Hands Around the World #3

Certain groups seem to have a higher percentage of creative types. And steampunk is no exception. It's a creative culture. It nurtures the imagination - through a good book, a stunning costume or breathtaking images. But this is no cookie-cutter culture. Steampunk fosters individuality. Give a group of steampunks a box of similar items, and they will create their own, unique masterpiece; no two things alike. Writers, artists, costumers. We have the lot. And you don't have to spend a fortune. I found a second hand 'Nickelodeon Slime Blaster' (water gun). It resembled the old Mortein fly spray pump-action squirter. My imagination took over and, voila! A Pump-Action Fairy Eliminator. And hence was born my Steampunk Fairy Catcher outfit. It's so much fun wearing this outfit to conventions! Just let loose your imagination; what would you have made?

  

I started doing photography in high school. (What better way to get out of PE than joining the photography club and taking photos for the school magazine? Back then we did it all in a dark room, with enlargers and smelly chemicals). Steampunk has re-kindled my passion for the art form. It's not just portraits. There are some gorgeously intricate gadgets -themselves inspiring - with intriguing shapes. Or the way the light catches on the brass...

   

Then there's my greatest passion: writing. Where would I be without steampunk?

Over the years, I've started writing. Stopped. And started again. I just couldn't find my niche. I'd been a member of the steampunk community for about six years before I tried again. But what to write? They say: write what you know. So, I started writing a fantasy novel; a story that had been mulling around in my brain for over fifteen years. I got sidetracked by Viola. She wanted to tell her story. And her story was steampunk. I've now expanded my steampunk world, with two more planned series. Each is different. The Adventures of Viola Stewart were darker, Victorian mysteries (closer to gaslamp). The Department of Curiosities is a rollicking adventure. Then there's The Wizard of St Giles, set in the shadowy world we rarely see.

I can ferret around in familiar settings (like Victorian England or Colonial Australia), meet interesting historical characters (Tesla, Queen Victoria, Jack the Ripper), throw in a few of my own and see how they interact. Like costuming, I can immerse myself in history and indulge my passion for science and fantasy. I get to play the ultimate 'what if?' I get to cross-pollinate genres, postulate on alternative theories leading, or resulting, from historical events. I get to twist history. Or, if I prefer, I can create my own world, complete with steam-powered engines and cog-driven sentient beings.

Want some first-hand inspiration? Check out these drawings of how 19th century envisioned the year 2000 (in full steam) and what they imagined future space ships would look like: Science meets art in Le Sortie de l'opéra en l'an 2000 and Maison Tournante Aérienne (both from 1800s) can be found on the Library of Congress webpage.

So how has steampunk fired my imagination? Ideas come more readily and I speculate in many directions - adventure, paranormal, fantasy and science fiction - all enhanced through steampunk goggles.

Photos ©2013-2017 Karen J Carlisle All rights reserved.

A Whimsical Notion: Steampunk Hands Around the World #1

Greetings from Australia, and welcome to Steampunk Hands Around the World. (This week's Photo Friday will be posted on Sunday 5th Feb) Over the next month I'll be sharing my thoughts on how steampunk makes my life better. You can also read the thoughts of other steampunks from around the world - from the UK, Germany, Mexico, US, Sweden, Spain... and more. You can find a list of all participants at the Airship Ambassador's pages. Today I start with an important lesson I re-discovered, thanks to steampunk:

to look at the world with the wonder of a child and embrace whimsy (1)

When I look at the state of the world today, it makes me shiver. Literally. I shiver, my heart palpates. The constant bombardment of negative news, posts, tweets feed discontent, feed anxiety, feed the fear - with tumultuous results. Our world  is in crisis. Our Earth is dying. Our people, crying.

The world needs something to smile about; I need something to smile about - something, however small, to look forward to. Embracing whimsy is not frivolous. It is a form of protection. Ever wondered why we rally to fantasy movies and books in times of recession? When reality is unbearable we search for escape.

That is one way steampunk has made my life better. Look at some aspects of steampunk:

  • looking back to an era of etiquette and manners.
  • recreating history (well the good bits - like quest for knowledge and wonder of discovery), with a fantastical or fictional twist.
  • turning even the mundane items into individual works of art by
  • encouraging imagination, individuality,
  • and recycling and/or up-cycling unwanted items into artistic items of wonder.
  • whimsical cross-overs - steampunk pirates, steampunk fairies, steampunk Star Wars, steampunk Doctor Who - you get the gist.
  • Tea. There's lots of tea.  (All those antioxidants are good for you.)

So, how has steampunk made my life better? It's taught me to focus on the little things, the beautiful things and beautiful people. It's given me another strategy to cope with anxiety. I write, I create art and costumes. I socialise with supportive, like-minded people.

We need to discover the wonder and inspiration of the glinting treasures below the steaming pile of coal. We can strive to find ways to access that treasure and show the world it's beauty.

So here are Karen's Rules of life:

  1. 'Be excellent to each other'.
  2. Look for the hidden treasures and beauty in life.
  3. Encourage imagination.
  4. Rediscover how to have fun.
  5. Don't let the tyrants win.
  6. Drink tea.

  1. Definition: Whimsical: "Playfully quaint or fanciful, especially in an appealing and amusing way." - Oxford Dictionary. Synonyms: fanciful, playful, mischievous, waggish, quaint, fantastic, unusual, curious)

Photo Friday: Hidden Local History

I'm on a local history research kick at the moment. It started with my tour along Pine Park and Linear Park for A Trail of Tales - which inspired my short story, Hunted.  A few weeks back another opportunity popped up - the Tea Tree Gully Historical Society and Tea Tree Gully Library organised a tour of historical buildings in the area - some now privately owned and rarely seen.

Here is just a taste of the historic architecture and beautiful scenery that accompanied the wealth of local knowledge discovered about the area.

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It is amazing so many South Australian (and Australian) firsts happened within my local area. It's prompted me to dig out a box of notes I have for Australian steampunk stories. Now I've experienced the sights and sounds of local settlers to follow up indigenous history of the area, there are several ideas churning in my brain.

I'm inspired.