Re-imagining a Better World

Historical re-enactment is often accused of avoiding the real world, ignoring history's atrocities or hiding in the past. Sometimes all three. In my experience this is not the case. Most re-enactors (and historians) will tell you it is important to look back and analyse history so we can learn from past mistakes, to improve our future.

One of the most important reasons to look back into and analyse the past is to learn from society's mistakes. Steampunk looks into the past, but with modern eyes; it is a re-imagination of the past, not a slavish re-creation. Colonial England was all about domination and power, a way to fuel the economy of mother England. Instead, we can embrace the diversity of cultures. The 'punk philosophy' inspires us to question authority, society's ethics, politics and gender roles and encourages us to look for solutions for society's short-falls. Doing so allows us to embrace cultures and celebrate diversity.

Suna Dasi of Steampunk India is one example: "Transferring this and many other aspects of Victorian society to an alternate, Post-Mutiny India, incorporating native characters unhampered by traditional gender roles, seems an opportunity for fiction that is too good to let lie."

Through steampunk, and Steampunk Hands, I discovered Josué Ramos  award winning writer of science fiction, terror and historic tales. Josué is part of the Spanish steampunk community, organising the EuroSteamCon Madrid and posts regularly on (huzzah, for google translation) his blog Mundosteampunk. You can find my 2015 Steampunk Hands guest blog on Mundosteampunk here.

El Investigator is part of the Mexican steampunk community and has been involved in varied steampunk anthologies.

Beyond Victoriana is another blog celebrating multicultural steampunk. Its founding editor, Diana M. Pho, wrote the introduction for Steampunk World, an anthology published in 2014, and funded via Kickstarter. It contained stories from around the world, showcasing the diversity to be found. I'm eagerly awaiting the follow-up anthology, Steampunk Universe - also funded via Kickstarter. Stories highlight disabled and aneurotypical characters. Both have cover art by steampunk artist, James Ng.

The way we express steampunk is wide-ranging. Events range from family picnics, fundraising events and conventions to music events. Music style varies; rap, punk, folk, jazz, swing and rock are all represented in bands such as Professor Elemental, The Cog is Dead and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing.

At a local level, we also have participants of varied educational and vocational backgrounds. Even the degree to which individuals experience steampunk is diverse. Some dip their toe in the genre by reading books, watching movies, listening to music or wearing costumes to the local convention. Others delve deeper - creating alternate personas and joining forums. Some immerse themselves, living the steampunk lifestyle to the full or embarking on steampunk-related careers.

For me, the diversity of those who enjoy steampunk is one of its attractions. Steampunk is inclusive. I can be myself, part of a welcoming and diverse community. And it has made my life richer as a result.

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)