Given current events I feel, rightly or wrongly, the need to have a conversation I have meant to have for a while. A conversation about Steampunk, a genre, subculture and in some cases lifestyle choice with which I have a different degrees of connection. I don’t actually describe myself as a steampunk as such, for all I love the aesthetic. I am more an ageing goth who occasionally wears things other than black… I do love a top hat however, and there is something about a nice pair of goggles…
Equally I would also not describe myself as a steampunk writer. I write in many genre’s. I do however have two current ongoing steampunk series, the Hannibal Smyth and Maybe novels, so I would be lying were I to say that steampunk is not the current mainstay of my writing. Again this is partly because I love the aesthetic but also because I love the imaginative freedom it gives me to do weird and wonderful things with my charterers and stories, as well as use the framework of a good ripping yarn to frame deeper observations and ideas.
Also, and this is I think rather important, the vast majority of people in the steampunk subculture are frankly lovely. It attracts eccentrics, and lovers of the eccentric. It’s also a little on the subversive side at times. While all been jolly good fun to boot… It does however have one drawback, it also occasionally attracts wrong headed idiots… Though they are few and far between.
Here in a nutshell is the problem with steampunk, it is rooted for the most part in something akin to an alternative 19th century. Though if you want to nail down the time period good luck. It is also therefore rooted, certainly in the UK, in the ‘good old days’ of the British Empire. Now, while there are those who might disagree, there are a few good things you can say about the British Empire. It exported Habeas Corpus, Parliamentary Democracy, Cricket… etc to a world that previously was unaware of ‘playing a straight bat’, and ‘silly mid-off’. But there are a whole lot of bad things about it as well. Far more bad, in the cold light of the 21st century, than good. As such steampunk gets a fair dose of guilt by association with colonialism, which is while not entirely fair, not entirely to be dismissed either. However, for all the occasion union jack waved with irony, in a pith helmet, while drinking tea from a china cup, steampunk’s are not rampant imperialists. They are generally just out having fun and are extremely welcoming and inclusive of everyone. Much like the goth subculture which shares some common ground they are people who like people, no matter who those people are or where they come from. So yes there is a degree of imperialist iconography on display at times, but not down to some yearning for a return to the ‘glorious empire’. They may spout the occasion ‘long live the queen’ and ‘tally ho’ but in fun and jest and with delicious ironic self awareness. In short they are good people, enjoying themselves and doing so in a way that they want everyone to enjoy themselves too.
But there is, as I mentioned before, occasionally like any other subculture, the odd wrong headed idiot who doesn’t understand that. The odd person who gets into steampunk because they are the kind of people who want to wave flags for reason other than fun… And that right there is the issue within the heart of steampunk. Though as I say the vast majority of steampunk’s I know and love abhor such wrong headed idiots. Yet they are there, and crop up now and again.
Hence the conversation I feel obliged to have, in particular at this moment in time. Which despite my well known abhorrence of poetry can be summed up in this little poem I wrote, which is dedicated not to the vast majority of steampunk’s out there who I both love and cherish in your eccentric delightful madness… But to those few, those nauseating wrong headed few, who misinterpret the fun joyously silly subculture to be a celebration of Britain’s ‘glorious Imperial past’ and yearn for a return to those bygone days when the map of the world was pink, and Englishmen stood head and shoulders above all, on the necks of the ‘natives’ more often than not….
It is a simple poem and a request of sorts
“Dear moronic racist fucks.
Don’t read my books!”
I hope that makes my feelings on the matter clear.
Everyone else of course, the right thinking people who may or may not agree with me on many many other things, please do. I have no problem with people who disagree with me on most subjects. Hell I will disagree with anyone on a multitude of subjects and still buy them a drink. But not racists, because I can’t even bring myself to stomach that ignorant bullshit any more.
peace and love to all (except racists morons)