As another year wanes to a close, we often cannot help but to look back in review before stepping into the next adventure coming our way. With Teslacon and its review still fresh in mind, there are two ideas which stand out to describe what has been and what is coming up – the effect of steampunk, and supporting steampunk.
First, the effect of steampunk. Our community, our fandom, is all about people. We are a giant global family, complete with charismatic cousins and the crazy aunts and uncles. It’s a wild ride sometimes, there’s drama waiting around the corner, the occasional duels at dawn followed, usually, by drinks at the tavern, but in the end, we are all in this together to create an amazing, wonderful, fun experience where we smile and laugh and sing and dance.
For Teslacon, my friend and fellow Fan Guest of Honor, steampunk author Karina Cooper, and I were on the same flight, and it’s so rewarding when something like a convention, and the travel to get there, is a shared experience. Events in our lives are generally more fun when shared, and is a great way to learn more about others, and connect. Conventions can be like family reunions, too. It’s not just getting to see current friends in person again and catch up, it’s a way to meet new people and make strong connections with others.
In addition to events, we connect with each other online, in social media, forums, and blogs. Internet searches bring a world of creativity right to us, to inspire and motivate us. New friends are just an email, a tweet, or a comment, away.
In addition to our typical politeness and general willingness to share information and talk, and talk and talk, we are there to really help each other. Not just with a loose button or bit of emergency repair sewing, or even the how-to instructions about something, we are there for each other as people. Sometimes, our smallest actions make the biggest differences to others and we should never forget that. At a convention and just in the community, a simple hello, a compliment on someone’s outfit, can mean a great deal to someone.
During this last year, I heard several stories from fellow steampunks, and shared my own, about how being part of the community affected, and even changed, lives. One person commented on how getting involved helped he and his daughter reconnect through a common interest; people in their teens and twenties shared how steampunk helped them learn more about themselves and others, and find a happier place and path in the world. Steampunk brought some people together, and even kept relationships together.
My own story starts with the death of my partner by suicide. His alcoholism killed him in the end, and the overwhelming grief I felt at his loss remains the most traumatic event of my life. The future we had planned together was suddenly, instantly, gone. Everything changed in that moment, and the world I knew ended. Whatever one might think about losing a partner or spouse is only the palest shadow of what it really feels like.
While it seems like I was on autopilot most of the time that first year, going to work and taking care of my dogs, the rest of my life just stopped. Greif swamped every other aspect of my life and sucked the energy out of everything. Watching my life was like watching TV, caught up in the story at any given moment but still disconnected from it. Food had no taste, behavior was only routine, and the world seemed to have no substance. A year’s worth of memories are just static, like the old analog tv and radio stations with no signal.
After that first year, I slowly re-engaged with my various interests. There was a bit more reading, a few more movies, a bit more landscaping, and certainly more dinners out with friends. It was about that time when my periodic internet searches for steampunk started turning up more results. There were more crafts, more DIY. There were amazing creations by Jake Von Slatt and the late Richard Nagy. There were some stories, and then music. And finally, there was a local convention, Steamcon.
It was practically in my backyard and I couldn’t not go. It was a great experience on so many levels and was the next step of my involvement in the burgeoning community. Soon after that, I started this blog, interviewing people, going to more conventions, and generally getting back out in the world in a meaningful way.
So, thank you, all of you who make up our community – everyone I’ve met out and about, those who have emailed, and those I haven’t met yet. Each of you have an impact on someone every day, whether you ever know it or not, so please keep being the wonderful steampunk that you are. You matter, and you matter to me.
Which leads us to the second idea, supporting steampunk. As Eric Larson reminded the attendees of Teslacon this year, steampunk is our fandom, our community. We make it ourselves. It continues because we continue, because we support the idea of steampunk in some, many, most, or all of its expressions. Steampunk as a whole endures because of our interest and our actions. Without us, there would be no steampunk, no community.
If we want our community to not just continue as is, but to grow and thrive, then we need to continue our support in all the ways we can, according to our interest and abilities.
When we ‘like’, comment on and pass along a blog, we support that writer and let them know we want more. When we buy that book, cd or art print, we do the same for authors (and their publishers!), musicians and artists. When we buy anything, we support a vendor and their livelihood, and in so doing, make it possible for them to do more for us, too.
When we attend conventions and events, there we really shine in our support, especially for and to each other. People outside the community see that, too, and for some, it will draw them in to join us.
Our community is made better and stronger by each other, and for each other.
With each action, we support each other, we support the community, and we support the idea of steampunk, and even what it means to be a steampunk.
Eric encouraged and challenged us to bring two people, just two, to any steampunk event anywhere in the whole world in February and June. It’s a show of support, and quite a bit of enthusiastic sharing, for something we already enjoy so much.
I encourage you to support steampunk – the people, the community, and the idea – all year long. Make some noise, build some buzz! Try to do something each day; it doesn’t have to be big and extravagant, just something to show your interest and support. Let people know that you appreciate what they do, and also share what you are interested in. One small action each day by each of us will create a huge positive impact to our community and beyond.
Repeating myself, please continue to be the great and wonderful steampunk that you are. Your actions and support have an impact on someone else every day.