Wow! What a year for steampunk in all its forms! On every front, interest and expression grew, more people heard about it, and more people participated.
Looking back through the news archives on Airship Ambassador, there were a lot of reasons to celebrate our community. Lots of new local groups got started around the world. Not all groups kept going after an initial burst of enthusiasm, but others flourished, and all of them gave people a chance to come together for fun, frivolity and friendship.
Similarly, there were a number of first year conventions, with attendance from several dozen to several hundred, and a number of other established conventions opted for a steampunk theme or at least a dedicated programming track. Some conventions became one time events, others are taking a break in 2012, and still others regrouped, reformed and renamed themselves to be a new event for next year. Steamcon celebrated it’s third consecutive year while Steampunk World’s Fair, World Steam Expo, and Teslacon, among others, celebrated their second year in the US, while Asylum, in Lincoln, England, UK, and Victoria Steam Expo in Canada also celebrated two years.
2012 is already promising to be even bigger on the convention circuit. Most conventions are back for another production, and several new ones are on the calendar. If one had the time and budget, there’s at least one convention every month, and some months have a convention every weekend. Who says steampunk is dead?
Speaking of that, some of the same sources tried to rally the troops to shout out loud and clear that steampunk had jumped the shark and was well and truly dead. Of course, they were proved wrong even as they tried to implore people to believe it. Recently, some people even sought to blame Justin Bieber for utterly destroying steampunk with his Santa Claus is Coming to Town video. Plenty of rebuttals to that claim, which indicates people are still passionate about their fandom and community.
Alternately, of course, there are those wanting to cash in on steampunk because it’s popular and they want to make a quick buck. Regretsy showcases things which are clearly not steampunk, Polyvore just listed some clothes as steampunk which might barely be said to have an influence but nothing more. I’ve gotten more than a few emails promoting everything under the sun with the ‘steampunk’ label attached to it. Blurbs talking about steampunk exercise, steampunk travel and even steampunk foods, none of which bore any resemblance to presentations we see at conventions and read in blogs like bartitsu, local locations, or Steampunk chef, Aaron Egan (who, by the way, made some incredibly tasty dishes during Teslacon II).
Back to the celebration, however, and we saw that steampunk found its way even further into mass media. There was the episode of Castle, an episode of CBS’ Sunday Morning, Sunday newspaper cartoons, and Halloween costumes.
The aesthetic found its way to several stage productions, and art exhibits like those at Penn State, Steampunk: Form and Design Exhibit, and Muzeo’s Steampunk: History Beyond Imagination. Shakespeare was particularly popular with productions of Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Tempest. Even Gilbert and Sullivan got the steampunk treatment with Ruddigore.
While Girl Genius moved into its tenth volume and won a third Hugo award, other comics joined the fray such as Lady Mechanika, Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, and Shadowbinders. Joe Benitez won Steamcon III’s Airship Award in the Visual category for Lady Mechanika.
In serialized stories, we read the regular updates to Railroad, The Rather Prolific Adventures of Captain Henley and Mr. Prower, Scottie McKeel, and SteampunX.
It was an overflowing cornucopia of novels this year; certainly too many to list them all here. I really wish I could list them all because there were so many I enjoyed, and so many authors I enjoyed meeting. Among the releases from established steampunk authors were Gail Carriger’s Heartless, Cherie Priest’s Ganymede, and Scott Westerfeld’s Goliath.
Anthologies were also popular this year, and provided a great way for people to get a taste for a wide range of stories and authors. The list includes Ghosts by Gaslight, edited by Nick Gevers and Jack Dann, Dreams of Steam II Brass and Bolts, edited by Allan Gilbreath and Kimberly Richardson, and SteamPowered II, edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft.
There is some traction happening on the movie front. While last year saw the short film, Nickel Children, this year brought us Aurora, from Australia, and the recent Hugo directed by Martin Scorsese. Also this year, came news of big screen adaptations for Boilerplate by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, and Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.
Steampunk in all its forms also grew around the world. There are new groups and conventions in South America, Europe, and Australia. There are amazing artists from Russia to Spain to Mexico. Airship Ambassador has received visitors from Djibouti, Malawi, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan, as well as over a hundred other countries.
At every turn, in every facet, the steampunk community is still growing and every day more people learn about it and join in the merriment. 2011 was a great year for us to celebrate, and here’s looking forward to 2012!