Welcome back for Part Six of Interview #100. Here is the second half of the answers to the second question.
Read Part One here. Current Involvement, Part one
Read Part Two here. Current Involvement, Part two
Read Part Three here. Opportunities, part one
Read Part Four here. Opportunities, part two
Read Part Five here. Changes, part one
What are some changes you’ve seen in the expressions and use of steampunk within the community and in mainstream culture?
Gail Carriger: It seems to be fading a bit. I think people still love the aesthetic a great deal, but publishing has kind of left it behind.
Richard Preston: I’m pretty much a newb in steampunk, having not been involved until I decided upon the genre for my book series, but I do think I’ve seen some changes in the last 3-4 years, much of it expressed by people I’ve met who have been part of the culture for much longer that I. For the most part, I think the core steampunk fans and their events are in a healthy place, but I also think that steampunk as a whole might have lost some steam (no pun intended) when we all expected it to sort of explode into mainstream culture in the last few years. Cherie Priest’s wonderful Boneshaker had a shot at life as a Hollywood film but the project never materialized. There were articles in many mainstream magazines announcing the arrival of steampunk as a driving force in modern art, clothing and culture, and I don’t think it hit that very high bar. Like I said, I think steampunk is in a good place, but it hasn’t managed to cross over into the mainstream and grown in the way we all sort of expected and hoped.
Diana Pho: “Is it mainstream yet?” , “Did steampunk sellout?” or “Are we still a subculture?” are questions that have been such an on-again off-again source of anxiety for the community that at this point, I have accepted the idea that the real answer (or at least as real as it is to my understanding of it) to these questions is that, “Steampunk will always reflect the greater ideas that its participants brought into steampunk and isn’t one centralized group of people or ideology.” Which pretty much means that steampunk serves as a microcosm that reflects the macro of greater society.
People find the messages they want to find in steampunk subculture that personally resonate with them and claims that these messages is what makes it apart from the mainstream. What makes steampunk apart of the mainstream, in a way, is the interests that all of these steampunks have in common: in the past, in technological evolution, in retofuturism. But interest in these things are not strictly separate from mainstream’s current conversation about these topics, either. Neither can one assume a group of steampunks have a self-contained radical ideology; many may be progressive, but many others may be opposite of that too.
Right now the legacy of history has been big in conversation. The role of representation. The fulfillment of lost histories and “what-if”s. The draw towards nostalgia. Confronting the ghosts of oppression. You see bits of these ideas come out in pop culture — from the fervor of the musical Hamilton to the subversion of a romanticised frontier in Westworld to the time travel adventures of Timeless — and in, of course, our current political climate. A bit of all of this has echoes in steampunk.
Mike Perschon: Thankfully, the dominant expression of second-wave-steampunk (distressed metal, leather, and wood + Victoriana) has been overcome, and we’re back to seeing the range of steampunk expression that existed before 2007, when steampunk went mainstream enough to have a somewhat unified aesthetic. The expressions since 2012 have been more of a “I don’t give a shit what you say it should look like, here’s my take on steampunk” vibe. There aren’t as many noisy gatekeepers messing up the fun. If you look at Japanese steampunk in the 1980s, you can really see that diversity. And if you look at Japanese steampunk in the ’00s, you can see why people thought steampunk was when goths discovered brown. But look at Japanese steampunk today and you’re going to see that, once again, there’s something new, and it ain’t brown. Lots of colour in anime like Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. And it’s not just Victoriana.
Join us tomorrow for answers to the next question in Part Seven of Interview #100!
Thanks to everyone who has participated:
Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine, read the first interview here.
Evan Butterfield, read the first interview here.
Gail Carriger, read the first interview here.
Jaymee Goh, read the first interview here.
James Ng, read the first interview here.
Mike Perschon, read the first interview here.
Diana Pho, read the first interview here.
Richard Preston, read the first interview here.
Lev AC Rosen, read the first interview here.
Arthur Slade, read the first interview here.
Nick Valentino, read the first interview here.
Jean-Christophe Valtat, read the first interview here.
Thanks for all of your support and encouragement!