Announcing the SteamPunk Magazine Seaside Spectacular

The 'Daddy Long Legs' or Electric Sea Railway at Brighton in the late 1800's

After organising the Second Ever SteamPunk Magazine Steampunk Soiree in Oxford last year, we wanted to get our teeth into doing something else, and now we are!

Over the weekend of 19th and 20th June this year, SteamPunk Magazine will be taking over the Little Marlborough Theatre in Brighton for the SteamPunk Magazine Seaside Spectacular. The weekend promises to be a typical bawdy weekend by the seaside with a distinctly steampunk flavour, with competitions, music, variety performances, dance lessons, burlesque, stalls, juggling, comedy, and whatever else we can manage to cram into the place.

More information (and tickets) can be found on our Events page.

As we are limited by the size of the venue, we are only able to sell 150 tickets for this event so if you want to come along then you had better get in quick!

You Can’t (Always) Fight the Tide

For the last few years, SteamPunk Magazine has been resisting the ever-present siren’s song calling us towards an increasingly dizzying number of social networking sites. However, as the subject line would suggest, you can’t always fight the tide, and so it comes to pass that we have finally given in.

With this in mind, you can now find us on Twitter at steampunkmag, and also join us on Facebook. The links will now also appear in our sidebar, where they shall stay until we get sick of them.

Report from the Newcastle Maker Faire

Well, after a long and arduous journey through yesterday night, the SteamPunk Magazine crew have finally returned from the Maker Faire that took place at the Centre for Life in Newcastle last weekend as part of the Newcastle ScienceFest.

We took with us some special, pre-release copies of the new issue #7 (which is due out at the end of the month) as well as all of the back issues that we could cram into a vintage suitcase as we made our trip up to the Great North.

As could be expected, there were a whole host of made, built and hacked things on display, including numerous exhibits of electronics and digital crafts, but also including some far more steampunky affairs. There was a fire-breathing, remote-controlled horse that was seemingly cobbled together from scrap and found materials, the Newcastle Crafts Mafia decorating the whole of the city centre with guerilla knitting, a set of three very large (and very loud!) musical Tesla coils that were played the weekend through by members of the public, drunken robots, found, recycled and upcycled crafts and jewellery, and an interactive musical performance that was beautiful, breathtaking and utterly haunting.

Also in attendance were UK musical juggernauts Ghostfire, who played two sets to the enthusiastically confused people of Newcastle, and gave us the opportunity to waltz in the smallest space known to humanity.

In short: we met a whole host of wonderful people over the course of the weekend, had some wonderful discussions, and got to explain steampunk more times in the space of two days than we believed was possible.

We strongly encourage you to click through the photos in the gallery below for more information about what we got up to over this glorious weekend in a truly wonderful city.

If this weekend is anything to go by, then we will most assuredly be coming back again next year!

Some Quick Zeppelins

There was a post on Treehugger today asking: Are zeppelins the future of air travel? featuring both some lovely historic drawings and photos of zeppelins as well as sleeker modern models.

I would certainly rather take a zeppelin than a plane for adventures, even if it wasn’t a pretty brass-and-cogs covered one for airship pirates. If I’m remembering right, Steampunk Magazine ran an article several issues ago about the relative merits of zeppelins over planes, which this article covers. What do you guys think? If zeppelins take off (pun unintended) do we get to go “haha, told you so!”?

New and Future Publication Dates

From time to time we get emails asking us about the publication dates of various issues of the magazine, and also several queries regarding the dates of future releases. To solve the former question, here is a list of when each issue of SteamPunk Magazine came out:

Issue #1 – Putting the Punk Back into SteamPunk — March 2007
Issue #2 – A Journal of Misapplied Technology — June 2007
Issue #3 – The Sky is Falling! — September 2007
Issue #4 – Our Lives as Fantastic as Any Fiction! — March 2008
Issue #5 – Long Live Steampunk! — April 2009
Issue #6 – The Pre-Industrial Revolution — September 2009

The Steampunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse — October 2007

As to the latter, well, since we re-vamped and revived the magazine in April of last year, it has always been our intention to try and get it onto a regular release schedule. It’s taken us a little while to be in position to do that, but fortunately we are finally there!

And so it gives me great pleasure to announce the release dates for the next couple of issues of SteamPunk Magazine, as well:

Issue #7 – New and Future Worlds — March 2010
Issue #8 – The Myth of History — September 2010

From this point onwards, we are hoping to release two issues a year – one of which will come out in late March and one of which will be out in late September. We’re not going to go so far as to set actual dates – we’re still far too disorganised for that. However, by now, we guess that you’re probably used to that.

On the matter of the exactly publication date for #7, we expect to have the magazine ready for download and order on or around 26th March. However, if you happen to be at the Makers Faire in Newcastle this weekend, you will be able to get your hands on a copy a couple of weeks before everybody else. You lucky, lucky things.

Finally, on a similar note, the next submission window will be from 1st April to 31st May. No further details just yet, but there will be very, very shortly indeed, so keep your eyes peeled on that one.

Countering Victorientalism

As part of an upcoming project taking place across the steampunk community, we were recently asked by the Gatehouse Gazette if we would like to write something on the topic of Victorientalism for their latest issue. So we, in turn, asked the wonderful Jha (who has written an introduction to race and steampunk for issue #7 of SPM) if she would like to put her thoughts on the matter onto paper. Unfortunately, her piece wasn’t finished in time to make issue #11 of the Gazette, but the best things come to those who wait, and Jha has kindly given us permission to cross-post this from Silver Goggles.

Written for Steampunk Magazine’s blog, released here as in conjunction with Beyond Victoriana’s own addressing of Victorientalism (far more comprehensive this this post; treat this essay as a 101-level article as you will).

There is a fairly recent term that has sprung in the annals of steampunk: Victorientalism. It is used to refer to steampunk that is inspired by the Orient, the vague, large region that was strange and new to Western explorers back in the day when there was no Internet and travelling took many months of dangerous journeying.

It’s a pretty-sounding term, often used by well-meaning white people who don’t have any clue just how racist the term is.

I want to nip this in the bud before it takes any more traction and people start using it for Asian steampunk by Asians, because Victorientalism, created by Occidentals, does not truly describe Asian-inspired steampunk, much less steampunk participation by Asians.

Breaking Down Victorientalism

To understand why Victorientalism is inaccurate as a label for Asian steampunk, first we must investigate what the roots of the terms are. It is the mixture of two words: Victorian and Orientalism.

Victorian as an adjective, describes things related to the reign of Queen Victoria. It is often used to refer to the entire time period of her reign, too.

Orientalism was the study of “The Orient”. The term “Orient” referred initially to the Middle-East, and gradually spread out to encompass all of Asia. Orientalism was the study of the Orient, by Europeans. “The Orient”, Edward Said explains to us, “is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of Europe’s greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other.”

However, while the British Empire did extend very far, its reign was not absolute, nor did it encompass all of Asia. 19th century Asia had its own aesthetic, however pillaged and plundered by the Europeans it was. There were other European powers in play besides the British.

Orientalism as a study was deeply flawed, being based on ideas that Europeans had about the East. Orientalism as a fashion is not only flawed, but deeply racist, as it depended on Europe’s position of power to appropriate without complaint from the actual inhabitants of “the East”. Orientalism as an idea is really about what Europe thinks about the East, which really means, it’s all about Europe, not about Asia.

Orientalism, Racism, Story Cont’d

In the Gatehouse Gazette’s description of Victorientalism, there is an assertion that “we can safely recreate the Orient as it was described and depicted by nineteenth century authors and artists who might never have actually seen it.”

Anyone who has ever engaged in examining the hubris of their own privilege will be able to see, straight off, the trainwreck that this quote leads to.

To begin with, we must assert the reality of this statement: the Orient has already been re-shaped by the very real colonialist politics of history. The effects of colonization have been devastating: Western economies benefitted from the colonies, and continues to do so even after withdrawing from their shores; the imposition of European culture on the East has caused cultural evolutions and revolutions as some countries struggle to re-shape their identities, in ways that are fraught; the Asian identity has been devalued, relegated to being objects of curiousity and exoticism, instead of being respected for being what it is.

Due to the power invested in Westerners today, borne from the history of colonization, there is no way to safely recreate the Orient, without yet creating more assumptions of stereotypes, without imposition of these stereotypes on actual people. This practice has precedent in the term “The Orient” alone: once a simple term to describe “the East”, it has over time become loaded with immediate association to the exotic, the opposite, the Other.

Today, Westerners continue to consume cultural artifacts from other cultures, many of whom unaware, or unwilling to acknowledge, that cultures are not meant for decoration, nor do they exist for the entertainment of the current hegemony, much like Europeans from the 19th century buying porcelain and silk.

Limiting Steampunk

To many, steampunk is associated with Victorian Britain. There are some who assert that steampunk stems from Victorian Britain – and end the argument there, leaving behind the implication that steampunk is *only* based in Victorian Britain.

Exactly why would anybody want to limit steampunk, which is, after all, yet another avenue to exercise the imagination? If a person is referring to their own form of steampunk, of course, one would want to have limits for what one will do. However, it is not only obnoxious, but arrogant to assert that this must be the case for all participants.

After all, life did not end with Britain in the 19th century. Asian and African peoples lived their own lives in their own continents, minding their own business the best they would while dealing with the colonizers. Their lives are as valid as those of 19th century Europeans. They, too, deserve to be recognized; their descendants, too, deserve to the chance to assert this history of theirs which is so often ignored in history books.

Victorientalism, by its very name, centers around a very specific experience, a very specific history, a very specific idea. That idea is the imposition of a Victorian Orientalist’s vision of what Asia should look like. And we all know what a Victorian Orientalist would be in the first place.

Laying Victorientalism to Rest

The Orient was always meant to provide a foil to the Occident. These two terms, go together, like East and West.

However, few use the term Occident anymore (the few who do use the term unironically have questionable agendas). We use the term Orient because it has specific ideals attached to it that allows us to continue Other-ing the East. It may not be as loaded as the N-word, but for the Asian community, the stereotypes that the term reinforces are exoticising, and the results are the same: the exclusion of Asian people from being counted as default human beings.

In steampunk, many participants claim that they want to claim all that was good of the age, while leaving out the bad. This is rather disingenuous, since many exclusionary attitudes and behaviours today that people are not conscious of stem from that time period. However, we must give participants benefit of doubt, and I will do so through the following suggestion.

The term “Orient”, being exclusionary to actual people of colour, should be resigned. And with it, the term Orientalism, which leaves the term Victorientalism toothless. One might give a concession to the Victorientalists, and allow the term to mean “what Victorians think Asian materials look like”. But this is a dangerous game – the term Oriental was so pervasive, not only the colonizers used it, but over time, the colonized took on the term in the auto-exoticism process. The same can all too easily happen with “Victorientalist”, as privilege systems are still very much the same and favour the descendants of the colonizers.

There is nothing to redeem in these terms, when there are perfectly good terms available – why call someone an Oriental when they are Asian? Or one can be more specific and go right down to country of origin, or ethnicity. Why use a term so fraught with a history of Other-ing, or rendering real peoples invisible and not-quite-human?

To insist on using the term is to maintain the status quo that continues to marginalize some peoples to the benefit of others.


VictOrientalism continues the racist tradition of Orientalism that has historically marginalized those recognized as Easterners. It maintains the East-West dichotomous construct that Others cultures.

As steampunk grows, so will the variety of people who wish to participate. Steampunk would be all the poorer if it were limited to an Eurocentric focus (and poorer still if we must insist solely on Victorian England). With the benefit of hindsight, we have the opportunity to address the injustices of the past and promote a diverse environment wherein marginalized groups can express themselves.

The world is more than what a single group thinks it to be. In confrontation with injustice, honesty can be found. In honest communication between groups and individuals, differences are discovered. In the chaos filled with differences, understanding is achieved. With understanding, creativity is unfettered.

SteamPunk Magazine On the Road!

Yes, we’re winding up the clockwork horses and stoking up the steam-powered salesman, ready to get out into the real world this March.

On the 13th and 14th March, you can find us behind a table at the Maker Fair;

And on the 27th March we’ll be manning and womanning a stand at White Mischief.

We’ll have a full compliment of magazines for sale–including the brand new Issue #7. Come and find us, say hello and paw the merchandise. We’ll be expecting you!

Spring Eye Candy

Pretty things to get you through the rest of the week and inspire crazy weekend projects…

Flight history photographs from GD Falksen, featuring all manner of zeppelins, balloons, and dangerous-looking contraptions. (Also from Mr. Falksen, The Zouaves, who all wear the most excellent pants.)

Octopi as interior decor from The Steampunk Home.

Some lovely costumes at Dragon Con, also featuring octopi.

Victorian Photocollage at the Metropolitan Museum Art in NYC.

Trains, temples, and a super-cute monkey from Voyages Extraordinaries, this time in Kyoto.

Epic Victorian workshop photos from Brass Goggles.

Not eye candy, but also worth your while…

Natural fabric dye from Libby at Steampunk Workshop, explaining how to turn random things in your kitchen into beautiful fabric dye.

Black Hills by Dan Simmons reviewed by our friend Ay-leen at Beyond Victoriana.

Dru Pagliassotti, who’s been mentioned here before for her posts on Steampunk politics/ideology, has had several interesting posts up lately on minimalism – its nature and its purpose. It’s not specifically steampunk, but has me wondering how the two concepts might interact, and might be of interest to some.

Losing 'Lee' – A Fashion Legend Bows Out

Fashion commentator Fabiana Bronte has written this about the recent loss of fashion designer Alexander McQueen, a designer that had done much to develop a steampunky look on the catwalk. We thought you may all be interested in seeing what she has to say.

It was the collection entitled Highland Rape that made me first sit up and take notice.

In his Winter 1995 collection at London Fashion Week, his second show, British fashion designer Alexander (known as Lee) McQueen tapped into his Scottish roots to channel the Highland Clearances into a collection that grabbed world attention and headlines.

I was then a fashion editorial and photographic director for a major New Zealand daily newspaper. Having Scottish ancestry, and a fan of fashion’s enfant terribles such as John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier, I was naturally excited by the prospect of a new challenger to that crown.

The Highland Rape collection featured disheveled and battered-looking models in torn tartan clothing. McQueen said he was commenting on the “rape” of Scotland by the British, though critics of his work saw in it a perverse and misogynistic celebration of the sexual violation of women.

For the show McQueen transformed an industrial loft space into a chaotic battleground symbolizing 1746’s Battle of Culloden. The show also acted as a modern day conscientious objection against Cumberland’s 1746 Dress Act clause in the Act of Proscription, which made it illegal to wear Highland dress, in particular the kilt.

The show and that collection set the marker for the so-called “bad boy” of British fashion to experience a future of success.

At that time, I watched and wrote as some New Zealand designers, most notably in the “Dark Fashion Central” of New Zealand known as Dunedin, which has a very strong Scottish-settler base, picked up on this aesthetic.

I recall the season around that time that former Dunedin designer Nicholas Blanchet sent his controversial “rugby” menswear collection down the runway, complete with models with painted-on “bruises”. It had a very “McQueen” stamp about it.

Later I recall reading how McQueen met leading British stylist Katy England, who he poached from her media role as a stylist to become his creative director. He said he had encountered her outside a high profile fashion show, where she was trying to “blag her way in”.

“Lee liked the way I looked,” Ms England later told The Observer. “He said he’d noticed what I wore. I had on a fantastic nurse’s coat with an amazing shoulder detail.”

He had just completed his second collection. She began working with him on his third, The Birds, shown at Kings Cross, and has been a part of the team ever since.

This morning, after an evening spent working on the finishing of a pattern for a tailored jacket (which undoubtedly owes something to McQueen’s edgy fashion contribution over the years) I awoke in disbelief to a text from a friend and fellow Kiwi clothes maker: Alexander McQueen is dead.

I have always appreciated McQueen’s edgy aesthetic, and in recent years have found some of his more historical and gothic references inspiration for Steampunk-style design.

His influence upon the current wave of steampunk style has been huge; he is undoubtedly one of the major inspirations for the sudden rush of global steampunkness.

“Haute couture steampunk neo-industrial goth” was how blogger Octavine Illustration described McQueen’s Fall 09 Haute Couture collection in March 2009. “An apocalyptic post-millennial celebration of black and white. The fashions, while not wearable by the likes of most, spoke to the current sense of global economic meltdown. Spectacular.”

As stated in the New York Times in May 2008, and now posted on “Steampunk style is corseted, built on a scaffolding of bustles, crinolines and parasols and high-arced sleeves not unlike those favoured by the movement’s designer idols: Nicolas Ghesquiere of Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and, yes, even Ralph Lauren.”

Another blogger wrote that McQueen was “seriously putting the ‘punk’ in ‘steampunk’” and yet another, that “his dark and twisted sense of humour and Gothic references are mingled with subtle digs at his fellow designers and the current economic climate”, and that some of his shoe designs “might be taking the whole steampunk thing to the next level”.

On the question of the stunning and out-of-this-world skyscraper shoes McQueen has sent down the runway in recent times, the Teacups and Couture blog said quite accurately that they “belong on a steampunk robo-chick”. Undoubtedly, that was the culturally-astute McQueen’s intention, as it taps perfectly into the zeitgeist.

More recently Alexander McQueen has become known for dressing Lady Gaga, most spectacularly in the recent “Bad Romance” video. He used this song as the finale of his Plato Atlantis Spring/Summer 2010 live internet fashion show for the collection for Spring 2010. This was a groundbreaking moment, when anyone with an internet connection had a front row seat to one of the season’s hottest shows.

This, his last collection, was a sinewy, sensual parade of sublimeness, with exquisite rippley, silky fabrics printed with designs of reptilian beauty. They were paraded on models slinking down the runway and trying to negotiate walking in McQueen’s unusual-shaped futuristic skyscraper shoes.

Over the years, Alexander McQueen has combined that very British aesthetic already plundered by designers and older peers such as Vivienne Westwood – tailoring, tartan and tweed – with a very modern, sensual and edgy sensibility. A product of the famous fashion talent incubator, the illustrious Central St Martins College of Art and Design in London, he was controversial, outspoken on some things, while at the same time gracious, skilled, and with his eye firmly on the main game.

While he could send extraordinary other-worldly creations down the runway, his commercial garments were at the same time very wearable, and even at times quite classical. He happily blended the best of both worlds – wild creativity, with down-to-earth practical wearability. He was also never one to shy away from the bold statement or avoid the difficult issues that face us.

In October 2008 veteran British fashion journalist Sarah Mower wrote on that his Spring 09 collection featured a video projection of a revolving Earth, and flanked by a zoo of stuffed animals, portraying endangered species. McQueen explained, through program notes, that he had “been pondering Charles Darwin, the survival of the fittest, and the deleterious results of industrialization.”

“McQueen’s couture sensibilities are breathtaking in close-up, where the detail of flowers and birds becomes visible in lace underlayers and then echoed in lace ankle-wrappings incorporated in shoes,” Ms Mower wrote.

The designer was said to be despondent over the death of his mother last week.

“I’m letting my followers know my mother passed away yesterday if it she had not me nor would you RIP mumxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx…” he wrote on Twitter following her death.

He added shortly afterwards: “But life must go on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

McQueen’s friend, the influential British fashion insider Isabella Blow who helped his career take flight, took her own life in 2007 at the age of 48.

It is my personal view that grief is something not well understood in our fast-paced industrialized world. Clearly, Lee was devastated by the loss of his mother.

We cannot know what the designer would have come up with next. He had become so “hot”, the fashion world waited with bated breath to see what he would dream up next. Sadly, now, we will never know.

I hope the world, and history, will be able to finally forgive him this premature finale, and to remember and salute Alexander McQueen for the brilliant bright light that he was.

And as a fitting tribute, may I leave the last word to Canadian television host Jeanne Beker of CTV, a front row regular at his shows: “He reminded us all why we love fashion, and fashion became more relevant in his glow.”

Fabiana Bronte is an experienced fashion writer, stylist, photographer, designer and chronicler, now living in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Bright Colors, Baked Goods, and All Manner of Fun Things

It’s sunny out! (Here, anyway.) Spring is on the way! Love, flowers, and of course steampunk are all in the air! Or something. At any rate, here are the exciting things from around the steampunk blogosphere (steamosphere? We need a word for it, I’m taking suggestions!) this week.

Lots going on at Steampunk Fashion! First, a photoshoot of some steampunk X-Men costumes, which I quite enjoyed. Second, The Gatehouse Gazette is looking for “Victoriental” fashion photos for an upcoming fashion column, so click through if you have any to contribute. And lastly, the ever charming G. D. Falksen has a post full of costume-inspiring fashion pictures about bright colors in steampunk/Victorian outfits.

Steampunk Scholar has a lovely post on steampunking tabletop RPGs.

The Flight of the Icarus has posted the first of several promo videos for their upcoming Steampunk World’s Faire, featuring Brian Viglione of the Dresden Dolls.

(Speaking of the Dresden Dolls: Have you all heard of the Evelyn Evelyn controversy? Any thoughts?)

Have I missed anything? Feel free to post links in the comments!

Last time you all seemed to agree that a roundup was a good plan, so here’s question number two: Were I to include in each week’s post a brief calendar of upcoming steampunk events, would that be useful? They’d probably be mostly North American, as I trust Allegra and the others in the UK to keep you all up to date on events on that side of the ocean.

Also, I’ve decided to bake “steampunk” cupcakes this weekend, and haven’t figured out quite what that entails other than, of course, gear decorations on top. Ideas, anyone? Maybe I’ll write epic tales on the liners…