Register & Contribute to the SPM Website!

As we mentioned yesterday the Gaslamp Bazaar is closed for the foreseeable future. However, as promised, we’ve been looking into how to make the SteamPunk Magazine more community-orientated, and we are happy to announce that you can now register your very own SPM account.

Once registered, you will be able to manage your profile, comment on articles, talk to other users, and even submit articles and blog posts to us for publication here on the website.

To register, please go here, or use the ‘Login’ section at the top of this page.

We are very much looking forwards to hearing from you all, and hope to bring you more guest posts and articles from our readers, writers, artists and contributors in the coming weeks.

The Gaslamp Bazaar is No More!

After much deliberation, we have decided to close the SteamPunk Magazine forum down for the foreseeable future.

Between the spambots and the technical difficulties, it has gotten increasingly difficult to maintain the Gaslamp Bazaar over the last year or so. We tried to make forums somewhere different and interesting place to hang out, but the fact of the matter is that we just don’t have the time to make them something really special any more. As such, the time has come for us to move on, and focus on other things.

Many thanks to all the people who have frequented the Bazaar over the years and made it generally an awesome place to hang out. Thanks also to T-Kew, who has spent a lot of his time moderating and generally looking after it.

For now, we hope to be seeing more comments and discussion on the articles here in our blog. In the future, we may even be looking into a registration system that will allow people to sign up for accounts, and even submit articles directly to our website.

GUEST POST: Using the Transgender Umbrella to Describe the Steampunk Parasol

We decided, a week into October, that we should do something for LGBT History Month, and the marvelous Lucretia Dearfour of The Wandering Legion responded to my plea for a last-minute guest post. Thanks for the post, Lucretia!

As a transgender individual I’ve heard, been called, and sometimes even identified with a lot of different words, including but not limited to: transsexual, trannie, transvestite, genderqueer, trap, crossdresser, drag queen, feminine man, hermaphrodite, androgyne, and (in the most negative sense) fag. All of these terms have VERY different definitions to them but at the exact same time find themselves falling under the same umbrella term: Transgender*.

Hey, I know this isn’t a transgender magazine; it’s a steampunk magazine, but I want to talk about how these communities overlap for me. Within the steampunk community, I have found tremendous strength and openness. This is partly due to the “alternative history,” aspect of steampunk. Since one can cherry-pick what ideas, philosophies, and beliefs they wish to include and which they wish to neglect one can create a world where Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas can be free to kiss in public and maybe even get married! I also believe that this post-modern mash-up that is steampunk is also similar to the concept of transgenderism: like my own identity, steampunk cannot be reduced to one simple definition or label. That’s why no two steampunks ever steam the same way.

Steampunk, like one who questions gender in society, is finding it hard to live within the skin that it had been created in. Steampunk doesn’t just want to stay in Victorian England. It loves the idea of Dr. Steel and the Atomic Age. It pines to know its own future. Will it be like Waterworld, Tank Girl, or maybe populated by contraptions like the amazing train Doc Brown rode in on at the ending of Back to the Future III?

Whenever I bring up these examples at a convention, on a panel, or in conversation one person inevitably will ask “Where’s the Steam?! You can’t have Steampunk without STEAM!” In the introduction to the pulp short story collection Steampunk Prime: A Vintage Steampunk Reader, editor Mike Ashley explains how the concept of steam technology in the nineteenth century did not always represent the only form of energy during that era:

Mary Shelly really got things going by showing what wonders of electricity might bring with the possibility of recreating man in Frankenstein in 1818 and then things really began gathering pace. As new scientific and technological marvels came along, so writers pounced on them to see what else the future might bring.

It is perhaps a bit bizarre, then, that the genre should be called “Steampunk,” and not “Electricpunk,” but there is no doubt that it was the opening up of the world through steam trains and the opportunities that steampower introduced that ushered in the Industrial Revolution and began the true scientific revolution that allowed science fiction to prosper. It doesn’t matter that electricity superseded steam as a main power source, because by then the legacy of steampower was so great that it personified the marvels of technology.”
Ashley pg. 8-9

Steampunk is less about “steam” itself and more about potential technology, and what the future COULD bring. Thus, looking at how Atomic Punk handles technology in a retrofuturistic sense or how Post-Apocalyptic/Junk Punk handles rebuilding technology can still be valid to steampunk. But this is hard for a lot of people to wrap their minds around, especially since “steam is in the title of the movement!” Steampunk has, however, become a catch all term for anything anachronistic. For example, part of the marketing strategy behind George Mann’s novel Ghosts of Manhattan was to advertise it as the world’s first steampunk superhero novel, yet it is set in an alternate 1920’s.

Thus the term “Steampunk,” has become an umbrella term in popular culture for anything anachronistic. Despise it if you must, disagree with it if you want, but when popular culture accepts something it can take a very long time to enact a change. But that doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Leslie Feinberg, author of Transgender Warriors, experienced something similar in the 1960s during one of the first waves of the queer liberation movement when dealing with the term “Gay,” being accepted as the popular term for her sexual identity:

When we all first heard the word “gay,” some of my friends vehemently opposed the word on the grounds that it made us sound happy. “No one will ever use ‘gay’,” my friends assured me, each offering an alternate word, none of which took root. I learned that language can’t be ordered individually, as if from a Sears catalog. It is forged collectively, in the fiery heat of struggle.
Feinberg pg. IX

In She’s Not the Man I Married, Helen Boyd describes her life with Betty, her real-life male-to-female partner. While defending why she uses the term “transgender” to refer to her partner’s identity as well as those of transsexuals and crossdresser she mentions in her book she says:

…I still find it problematic the way crossdressers and transsexuals self segregate, playing games of “Better than,” or “Who suffers the most,” that aren’t productive for anyone. I don’t find the self-segregation difficult simply because of the border wars or hierarchies, but because the two big camps in the male to female (MTF) world leave those who might pursue a middle ground with nowhere to go.
Boyd pg. 18

And so, very much like within the transgender movement, the steampunk movement runs the risk of staying stagnant because it can’t get past semantics. All anachronistic punk has been accepted into steampunk’s giant parasol of possibilities. Yet, also like the Transgender movement, we should respect that each steampunk is different and chooses to express themselves in the way they find most apt to their personalities and preferences. That’s the way we can see the genre grow and become more interesting it will be.

I am a Steampunk which means I could be Post-Apocalyptic, Atomic Punk, Stitch Punk, Sandal Punk, Bamboo Punk, Gypsy Punk, Edwardian Punk, a dandy, a sky pirate, a mad scientist, a tinkerer in a t-shirt, a goggle-wearing Brechtian clockwork doll who also has an I-Pad with bronze and copper casing jammed into my chest which plays a non-stop mix of Rasputina, Abney Park, and HUMANWINE through the speakers mounted onto my shoulders. Because, as Scott Westerfield says in the afterword to Leviathan, “That’s the nature of Steampunk, blending future and past” Westerfield pg. 438.

* This term, in and of itself, is often debated as it CAN have a very specific definition: one who feels that they are born outside their gender (The social expectations of their sex) but the individual has no interest in making any physical change to their sex (their biology). Transgender, much like Steampunk, has been widely accepted to encompass all deviations from the norm within it’s context. As for Transgender this would be heterosexual Gender/Sex/Sexuality.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ashley, Mike, ed. Steampunk Prime; A Vintage Steampunk Reader.
New York: Non Stop Press, 2010.

Boyd, Helen. She’s Not the Man I Married.
Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007.

Feinberg, Leslie. Transgender Warriors.
Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Westerfield, Scott. Leviathan.
New York: Simon and Schuster 2009.

Quick Links: Steampunk Fortnight @ Tor.com

Sci-fi and fantasy blog Tor.com is taking another stab at Steampunk after their fantastic Steampunk Month series last year, which you might want to check out!

There’s not much up yet, but the fabulous Ay-Leen the Peacemaker has a beautiful essay on the Ao Dai, which made my inner costume nerd giddy with joy, and there’s an interview with the author of the Steampunk Bible which talks about some of the issues we like here – race, class, sustainability, consumerism, and the like.

They’re promising other exciting things like comics and giveaways to come, so keep an eye on it for the next couple of weeks!

Turn of the Century Slumber Parties

Thank you all of you for your marvelous suggestions of queer Victorians to profile this month! I have some serious Wikipedia-ing to do, but in the meantime, here are some of my favorite LGBT-etc pictures from the turn of the century, all courtesy of The Bilerico Project.



Slumber party!


Boys dancing cutely!


Drag Queens!


A Detroit baseball banner and two ladies kissing, with the caption “Sometimes the girls kiss each other, but it’s only between times.”


This one is my favorite. I don’t understand why Detroit was advertising baseball with ladies kissing, and if anyone could explain I would love you dearly, but even if not I still love it so.

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Statue of Oscar Wilde, lounging on a rock.

Oscar Wilde says Happy National Coming Out Day! This month is LGBT History month here in the US; would anyone be interested if I featured some queer Victorians here at Steampunk Magazine? Would anyone have any suggestions?

Steampunks Around the World, Unite: Multiculturalism in Steampunk

by Ay-leen the Peacemaker


This article has been previously published on Free the Princess and in Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders, and is reproduced here with the author’s permission


Part 1 Multiculturalism: One compass, many directions

When one thinks of the words “steampunk” and “multicultural,” there’s a moment of head-scratching. Since steampunk has existed as an aesthetic style, first identified as a form of British Victorian aesthetic expression, the word conjures up images of stuffy, pale-skinned aristocrats donning goggles on their top hats while flying about in their dirigibles. “Multicultural” sounds too modern, too varied, too irrelevant to associate itself with the likes of what is steampunk, standards that are quickly-becoming formalized as the subculture becomes exposed to the mainstream and examples of the subgenre’s style become more pop-culture friendly (when Lady Gaga dons goggles and twisty pipes on her head, you know it’s a sign that people are Getting It). Multicultural steampunk, however, is not only another variant of steampunk, but, in my opinion, is intrinsic to the definition of steampunk as it exists as a form of creative expressive subversion. Thus, the average steampunk engages in more aspects of multicultural steampunk than one would assume; while likewise, multicultural steampunk is a prime example of how someone can grasp the “punk” banner by the handle and wave it for themselves.

(more…)

The Steampunk Challenge!

Want an excuse to read a year’s worth of Steampunk Novels?

Rikki at the Bookkeeper is sponsoring the Steampunk Challenge, a year from October 2010 to October 2011 of reading steampunk fiction! The website has some suggested book lists and reviews. I would add to that recommendation any of the fine stories published in Steampunk Magazine! If you participate, you get a shiny button to put on your website.

I’ll keep a special eye out for short story links, and possible book reviews for the occasion. If you read a particularly awesome book in the coming year (or any time, really!) and want to review it yourself, shoot me an e-mail or comment here and maybe we can even get some guest posts going!

Steampunk challenge

Artists Wanted!

I meant to put this up AGES ago and didn’t get to it, so please pardon the delay and I hope this isn’t going up too late, but there’s a steampunk graphic novel looking for artists! It’s called AIR, and if you want to contribute you should probably apply quickly!

If you’re less the artsy type and more the enjoying-comics type, Libby Bulloff tweeted about a steampunk-multicultural-feminist comic that is looking for support over at Kickstarter. It’s called Virtuoso, and it looks really cool, so I hope very much that it actually happens.

This has been your webcomics-plug of the day. We shall return to your regularly scheduled blogging soon. Happy Fall Equinox!

Quick disclaimer: None of these projects are being done by Steampunk Magazine, I’m just passing the word along in case any readers are interested. 😀

Women in Steampunk 2: Dreadnought

Recently, I was bitching about the lack of satisfying female characters in steampunk literature. Mere days later, through the magical powers of Twitter, I received an answer to my rant: an advance reading copy of Cherie Priest’s new novel Dreadnought, due out on September 28th. I’d been looking forward to reading it anyway, entirely on the grounds that it starts in a steampunk version of my own home state of Virginia, so I was thrilled to have a chance to dive into it early.

It did not disappoint:
The book has all the steampunk fun one expects after the dirigibles, mechanical arms, and underground tunnels of Boneshaker. Dreadnought gives a much wider picture of Cherie Priest’s alternate history: Mercy Lynch, the main character, starts off in the South, then travels up the Mississippi and out across the Rockies by dirigible, boat, and train, providing plenty of time to see the giant battle robots employed by the Union and Confederacy, the feared battle-ready steam engines, and the mysterious disease sweeping the country.

But where Dreadnought really shines is in its characters. Its pace is more leisurely than Boneshaker: traveling from Virginia to Washington, as Mercy Lynch does, takes a long time, even with dirigibles. Since there’s not as constant a need to fight off zombies, readers get the opportunity to really see the people who inhabit this world of an endless, steam-powered Civil War. Mercy shares her journey west with an astonishing assortment of people, mostly terribly ordinary, yet still endlessly entertaining. To my personal enjoyment, all of these interactions show the racial tensions and gender disparities of Mercy’s world quite well without dwelling too much on them; it’s part of the setting and worldbuilding in a realistic fashion I appreciated.

At the center of it is Mercy Lynch herself, who is currently my favorite Steampunk heroine (Alexia Tarabotti, from Soulless, is a close second, but I digress). She’s a good Southern girl, equal parts charm and irreverence, with a matter-of-fact approach to the variety of odd situations she encounters. And though the book occasionally feels slow (for example, during days of empty train travel across the Plains), Mercy sustains the story with her sharp observations and interesting conversations, all easily imagined in an adorable Southern accent. Priest’s alternate United States is hardly a land of gender equality (unlike some steampunk worlds, which toss Victorian gender roles out the window and just keep the corsets) – but her characters deal with it in interesting ways.

My complaint with Whitechapel Gods and books like it was that, when the ordinary citizens of a steampunk world were faced with adventure, the ladies were told to go hide somewhere. In Dreadnought, the ladies wield pistols, climb on top of trains, and tend injuries, all in long skirts and petticoats, before settling in for tea and a game of cards. And really, the men are pretty cool, too. The characters are awesome characters regardless of gender without ignoring it, and the result is a lot of adorable steampunky fun.