Welcome once again to my sporadically reoccurring segment on Steampunk magazine Online “Madeline Foxtrot’s No Torque Zone.” As stated before I don’t deal with spin, only truth, and I refuse to let my interviewers have the force to move me on my convictions. Sitting with me today in my palatial two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn is none other than The Airship Ambassador Kevin Steil. For those that do not know Kevin was nominated for Steam Hunk in Steampunk Chronicle’s Reader Choice Awards for 2013, and he was considered the “Number Five Worst Steampunk Cosplayer,” by a more prestigious source… Myself. With that, Kevin, thank you for coming into the “No Torque Zone.” I really appreciate it.
Kevin Steil: Thanks for the invitation, Madeline! I have really enjoyed watching your weekly videos, Monthly Tea with Madeline Foxtrot. Especially since you’ve included me twice already! I’m quite flattered by your attentions. And your son’s. Each episode has been very educational and enlightening. Maybe I should be interviewing you about all of your creativity.
MF: Ah! Thank you for plugging my show! That saves me some breath-
KS: It is my honour.
MF: That it is… I haven’t heard a lot of “Steampunk News,” as of late so I assume your job as Ambassador is pretty boring right now?
KS: These days, there’s so much going on in the world of steampunk, it’s like a fire hose of information. I read a great deal from many sources, trying to keep up with everything, and honestly, it’s pretty difficult to know everything. Still, I try to keep in touch with the pulse of the global community.
There’s all kinds of artwork, web series, music, and fashion things going on that one could spend all day, even all week, and not scratch the surface of available content today.
For activities and events that I know about, those get added to the Events page on Airship Ambassador. There’s also a global map for conventions and groups. Conventions are big enough that they are easier to track and keep up with. There were 38 or so in 2012, with a large number being first time conventions. 2013 saw 30+. Sadly, several conventions didn’t survive their first year, and some just shut down completely.
The groups are more difficult to keep track of – they spring up and close fairly quickly, but the general trend is more groups and in more places all around the world, especially outside the United States.
Everyone is also welcome to send in their event and group information via the form on the Events page, and new items can be submitted, too, from the main page. It’s always great to hear about what’s going on, and getting the early info.
MF: So, Kevin, being the Airship Ambassador, you must act as a “Steampunk Gatekeeper.” So how do you decide who’s Steamy enough for Steampunk?
KS: So “gatekeeper”? No, I think Airship Ambassador is a ‘gate-opener’, more of a reporter and broadcaster, finding the most interesting gems to share with everyone. Some might even call the Airship Ambassador blog and website their gateway drug into steampunk.
MF: So you’ll just let anyone be Steampunk?
KS: yes, I do try to be as inclusive as possible.
MF: Sounds very… What’s the word? Inclusionary, as evidenced by your quote. If I know anything about the Victorians I know they were not the most inclusionary bunch.
KS: Ah, well, no, not always the best role models, those Victorians.
MF: Maybe not but they are OUR role models as Steampunks.
KS: The steampunk community is pretty wide ranging with plenty of opinions and perspectives.
MF: Most of them wrong.
KS: Each of us has our own definition and guiding ideals about what steampunk is or means, and even if I don’t personally agree with one statement or another, it is valid for someone else.
MF: I completely disagree, it is my way or the sky way!
KS: That is a valid point… in your definition of Steam-
MF: OK then if each of us has “Our own definition,” enlighten me. What is YOUR definition of Steampunk?
KS: My definition, and the guiding philosophy for my other project, The Steampunk Museum, is:
“a fictional story set in, or evocative of, the 19th century, and including real world devices created ahead of their time and/or imaginary devices based on prevailing theories of the era and/or prevalent ideas of the supernatural.”
I’ve also quite warmed up to the definition from the doctoral thesis by Dr. Mike Perschon, the Steampunk Scholar, that steampunk is an aesthetic which can be and has been applied to many genres and sub-genres, fashion, art, music, and even philosophy/politics.
With the amazing growth of steampunk in so many areas, this definition applies mostly to books and narratives, but could be used with the art, music, and fashions we see throughout the community. James Ng‘s Chinese steampunk artwork, The Watchmakers Apprentice by The Clockwork Quartet, and far too many amazing works of costuming also show similar traits and are great examples of steampunk expressions.
It’s all still evocative of the 1800’s around the world, but with some modern twist and viewed with modern sensibilities. As Mike would say, the filtering lenses of steampunk show how people of today imagine how people of the past imagine the future.
Steampunk is NOT Victorian science fiction, which is how people of the 1800s actually imagined their future. Books like 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and The Time Machine are the real Victorian age science fiction. They give us some idea of how those people thought and give us in the steampunk community a starting point for our (re)imaginings but truly, steampunk is a future that never was, based on that starting point.
Steampunk can be a bit alternate history, and a bit alternate world. Both work when we are being divergent.
MF: That’s an INTERESTING view of Steampunk but it’s 100% wrong.
KS: Oh, reeaally? Talk about divergent…
MF: I’d rather show some decorum and talk about the Steampunk Museum.
KS: Oh yes, both Airship Ambassador and The Steampunk Museum have offerings to the community. There’s the Airship Ambassador bookstore, and the Museum has a Gift Shop, because, well, what Museum doesn’t?
Our community is small enough that everyone’s support of each other is really important. We may not enjoy every book, and image, and song that’s out there, but it’s still important for everyone to participate and build the community to make it better. It might be leaving comments on blogs, watching the videos, or buying items from the small businesses in our community instead of the much larger commercial chains and stores.
MF: It’s true. We should support more Mom and Pop shops like Wal Mart and Subway!
KS: Well… At least your heart is in the right place.
MF: Hmm. It would seem my cup is empty. Would you mind pausing the interview while I brew some more?
KS: Madeline, for you? Anything.
MF: Wonderful, if you’re reading this and would like to check out The Arship Ambassador you can find him at AirshipAmbassador.com, or if you’d like to watch my latest videos checkout DogtoonMedia.com or Youtube.com/User/NerdCaliber and search for Madeline Foxtrot Digestibles.