Interview with Mikel Sauve, Part 4

Welcome back to the conclusion of our interview with Mikel Sauve of the Vulcania Volunteers.

The first part can be read here.

The second part can be read here.

The third part can be read here.



AA: You and I are also part of another project together, although involved at different times. This would be the Vintage Tomorrows steampunk documentary. What was your experience when director Byrd MacDonald came calling?

MS: I wanted to go hear Byrd & James speak at Steamcon III, but I just couldn’t get away.  They hosted a screening of the film and I missed it, but the whole project has evolved since then.  It originally started out as an Intel short film documentary project, but now it’s going to be a full-blown, feature length documentary.

I was first approached at GEARcon by one of the cameramen, Alan Winston, who is also the editor on the project.  He asked if he could film some models & one of my presentaions. Then I met Alan again at one of Paul and Anina’s ‘Frank Reade’ book signings. A steampunk world getting smaller, …Allen said that he wanted to introduce me to Byrd and asked if would I be interested in doing an interview-segment involving the maker aspect of SteamPunk.


A lot of the earlier film was based on the curiosity aspect – what is steampunk and it’s role as a social phenomenon.  I was asked if I would be one of the featured makers, I said yes & invited them out to my shop a couple times, where we talked about all the aspects of the Vulcania Volunteers, the props I make and my take on Steampunk.


One of the three interview sessions was Paul and Anina visiting my shop & the BP build—which was a genuine honor for me, having the creators of BP coming to my shop.  I was just crazy nervous talking with Paul and Anina. I love it when that kind of energy is in the house, in the place where I work and create, when other creators come over and visit. It was really a wonderful experience.


It was a great working with Byrd and Allen because that’s one of the reasons I got started in all this—making films and props. With them making the documentary, I was in it but I also loved watching them filming me. It was just a great experience overall.


Byrd is not a steampunk. He’s just exploring this and shining a light on it.  I’m honored to be a part of this film and I had the chance to reflect on a lot of the things that I enjoy doing. I’m curious to see it and how it will be seen by the public and the world at large – the people outside the steampunk community and the people who are in it—are they going to dismiss it or are they going to embrace it.


AA: Hopefully we won’t have that long to wait—hopefully it’ll be out by the end of this year.

MS: That’s a long time for me, I’m really anxious and look forward to seeing it.


AA: And I think that movie’s going to be a lot of great fun; I can’t wait to see it myself.

MS: Abney Park was interviewed & mentioned throughout the film. The band just went through personnel changes & at the same time released two new albums that have been received really well.  I suggested to Byrd & Alan, “You should re-interview Abney Park. They just went through a dramatic, documentary-worthy episode in their career – making a substantial personnel change and hit the ground running without missing a beat.  I thought it’d be great to interview them again.


Significant changes in steampunk could to lead to a Vintage Tomorrow’s Two.


AA: I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

MS: Because steampunk is growing and evolving so quickly, I don’t think one film is going to cover it all.  And with its rapid evolution, it’s not going to be recognizable—pretty soon people are going to stop asking, “What is steampunk?”  That question is already old hat, in spite of people who have made a career out of answering it, which is great (I guess) but only because some questions seem to need answers.


Steampunk is one of the biggest, for lack of a better term – fashion movements – that I’ve ever seen.  Like historian reencactors, the SCA or Ren-Fairs, but this has the potential to be much more….


Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars fandom specifically follows a TV or Film series.  But I think steampunk is bigger and it doesn’t have a lead-in film or TV series.  It’s on its own.  It’s a bastard child, yet there are a lot of people claiming to be the father, mother originators of it. It merely a thing with a name and yet it’s caught on like fire. I think within a year or two, the definition of steampunk is going to evolve way beyond
anything that can be defined with one, movie, book, convention-presentation or on-line interview.

AA: There’s certainly been a lot of expressions, and even those expressions have changed over time.

MS:  Exactly—I no longer call it steampunk, because it makes my friends cautious, they look at it and say, “but there’s no punk.”  And I just reply that it’s more like steam wave, you know, like New Wave,


Jeter, when interviewed, said it was merely a random connection of words.  He pulled it out of his head because he was being confronted with a question & needed a quick answer, so he came up with that phrase.  He put those two words together randomly and it’s so much more than a mere definition.


Kind of my point again. It’s now an activity. Captain Robert said it brilliantly, that “steampunk is no longer just Victorian science fiction, now it’s whatever steampunks do”.


That is both profound & eloquent.  He took the many definitions and redefined it on the fly, and he is correct.


And I don’t think steampunk is Victorian…


I understand the bent-logic of calling it that, but the French at that time didn’t call it the Victorian Era; it was called the Belle Époque meaning the “Grand Era”.


Only in England did they call it the Victorian Era and I guess because they were insistent about it over the years, it held up as the definition of that time period.


I’m French and I’m a fan of Verne, and H. G. Wells in the same breath.  So, to me, it’s the Belle Époque, owing only 1/2 as much to the British & their Queen Victoria.


I love that about steampunk; that you can start in one place and then you have to split off into six other things because there’s no way to stay in just one place.  Every question & answer about steampunk has six equal parts and they’re all valid.  That’s why one definition doesn’t make sense to me—when someone says that this is or that isn’t steampunk, I’ve lost interest already because definition isn’t an activity—I’m a maker, I’m a do-er, …I’m active.


I admire the philosophies of definition; it’s nice to know where you’re coming from and it also dictates where you’re going, but like Capt. Robert said, steampunk now is what steampunks do.  So if you’re not doing it, you’re talking about it, and if you’re just talking about it, you’re static, you’re stationary and you can only talk about current things. But if you’re out there doing it, you’re making the next day.  I’m already making the next day and I’m thinking about tomorrow.


AA: You mentioned that you’re in Portland with Paul and Anina.  How is that location working out with the kind of work that you’re doing, building these props and models.  Does location really matter for resources and access and publicity?

MS: Basically, it doesn’t matter.  If you have the passion, you’ll find a way to get there. Location is not that important if you have the passion, the background, the skills, and the interest. It may contribute to fortunate circumstances, but it’s not a required ingredient.


It’s a plus to have access to Paul and Anina.  There’s no deadline, no money being paid.  It’s not a commissioned project, so it’s just lot of fun and an honor that they appreciate my work. Paul has taken the time to answer some of my questions about the details and origins of pieces that he used to create the original. But with the Internet, today anyone can connect with others who share their same model-interests.


AA: That should give a lot of people hope that no matter where they are, that with technology—the Internet, and all forms of access—that it doesn’t mater where they live.  That they can reach out to other people, and get information, work on things, learn things.  With whatever project they have in mind.

MS: True enough. I was simply musing with you about how interested I’d be in making a dog for Boilerplate, something like K9 and you said you knew someone who had access to copies of the original plans. So, just though a casual conversation with you, & because I knew of your interest in Doctor Who, and I wondered if there were any plans out there – I asked & because you’re a saint – the heavens opened up & provided me the means to build a dog-bot.



And with those kind words, we’ll wrap up our interview with Michael Sauve.

Keep up to date with his activities, check out the website for Vulcania Volunteers and their FaceBook page.

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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