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.

Photo Friday: Life and Death(?), and a Flash Fiction Bonus

Rumours of my impending doom have been wildly exaggerated. This week I got the results from my twenty-four hour cardiac monitoring I've tried new strategies to curb the heart palpitations and flutterings. Nothing devastating but I do need to have further investigations. (If only I could control anxiety.) I'm working on new strategies - and I've managed five nights in a row without an episode.

  

Writing (and not discussing my previous career) has helped distract me from counterproductive thoughts. I've almost finished rewrites for the first (longer) short,  From the Depths, in Viola's third journal of adventures and am reworking the second story, Tomorrow, When I Die.

We've had record summer rains and everything is so green and full of life (usually everything is dry and brown this time of year).  We've had a few chill nights (huzzah!); I've even finished another octoscarf to sell at the Salisbury Secret Garden markets tomorrow afternoon.

 

And now for a bonus flash fiction.

The girls at the pbafm Words Out Loud radio show have a tradition. They randomly choose five words from a book of their guest for the day. The challenge is to write something, using all five words, in just ten minutes. Contributions get read out on air in the following session. On my visit on the show, the words were from John Malone's latest book of poetry, Seeing Things. The words were: red, yield, snail, piranha and Gazebo. They challenged me on the day; this was my contribution.

Enjoying the View

©2017 Karen J Carlisle

Humphrey was a fashionable snail. At least he thought he was. He'd recently taken up residence by the river. He lounged under his brand new red gazebo and surveyed the spectacular view. A wooden sign by the water shaded the yard from the midday sun. A fine crop of broccoli provided an abundant yield for his supper. Ripples glistened on the water. Perfect. He just couldn't understand why his friends hadn't joined him. Water splashed. He crawled out of the shade and edged toward the water. So cool. So inviting. Why had his friends been so concerned? Humphrey, don't go near the water, they cried. Humphrey leaned closer and touched the water. It shuddered. A large eye blinked under the surface. The piranha licked his lips, flicked his tail and swam away from the bank.
THE END
Why don't you have a go at the five word challenge? You have ten minutes to write something containing all the words: red, yield, snail, piranha and Gazebo.
This fortnight's words from my book, Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales, were: grinding, tranquil, warden, sputtered and jaundiced.
Post your stories or poems in the comments below. I'd love to see what you come up with.
Photos ©2017 Karen J Carlisle

A Sense of Wonder: Steampunk Hands Around the World #2

Bear with me, Dear Reader.

I'm about to tell you a tale - one that will offer you a glimpse into the circuitous route to my present mindset and how steampunk has made my life better by restoring a sense of wonder (1) to my life.

I'm a research addict. I crave it. I accumulate it. I hoard it. You can often find me spiraling down endless rabbit holes, in search of that one elusive fact, that last piece of a puzzle I've been chasing. The one thing that makes everything fall into place. It's the curse of a writer (or scientist, or quiz night-o'holic, or... ).

But there's more to it than that.

Imagine you're an explorer of uncharted lands:

Dust whips your face, lodging in your nostrils, scratching your eyes. You dig your fingers into the rock, ignoring the stinging pain as blood beads on your palm. You drag yourself up the precipice, thrust your arm over the crest of the mountain and spy the wonders of an undiscovered landscape.

Imagine the pure delight of such endless new discoveries. Researching my books is not unlike being an explorer. It starts me on my journey, inspires the landscape (setting) and encourages me to explore for new worlds, complete with wondrous gadgets for my characters to discover.

But there's still more.

It seems Sir Francis Bacon predicted our future: Knowledge is power (Meditationes Sacrae and Human Philosophy,1597) . Everyone wants a bit of the action. No one is willing to share.

Let's face it. Life can be a grind: Wake up. Go to work. Come home. Sleep. Repeat. (Though waking up can be optional). Endless days of monotony, in a seemingly uncaring world where we are either invisible and insignificant or vying for control.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

The Empire may have wanted to plunder the spoils of exploration but we - the explorers - can revel in the pursuit of knowledge. We can search for understanding and inspire wonder for others. We can trek into the unknown, searching for the wonder and mystery of life, of people, of experiences. And we can share them.

So how has steampunk made my life better?

It has inspired my research beyond the confines of my writer's chair, beyond the internet, beyond the library. It has encouraged me to discover the wonders of a community of supportive people. It has inspired me to explore the wonders of my world - past and present. It has given me the courage to wrench myself (sometimes literally), from the safety of my comfort zone onto that mountain side, defying my anxiety - to try new things, a new career and to experience life as I search for the hidden wonders in our broken but beautiful world.

 

Photos copyright Karen J Carlisle and MJC


(1) Definitions of Wonder (Oxford Dictionary):
  • A feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.
  • A thing or a quality of something that causes wonder.
  • A surprising event or situation
  • Having remarkable properties or abilities.