One of my favorite things about Steampunk is how it has persevered and evolved since I entered its realm five years ago, when The Steampunk Bible came out May 2011. Immediately after that book came out, there were fears that the movement was about to jump the shark as it swam towards mainstream acceptance, but here we are in 2016, in the third year of Steampunk Hands Around the World celebrating everything but that mythical shark. Sure, there was that show with Kato last year, a fall season or two of cinched vests, corset belts, military coats, cogs and fobs, and tiny top hat fascinators in stores like Forever 21, and a few experiments within Hollywood (Sherlock Holmes series and The Three Musketeers), but Steampunk has survived all of that. None of it has diminished what makes Steampunk tick—relationships, reinvention, and revelation.
For me, personally, I have seen these three “r’s” constantly reinforced over the years, even in my own projects. I always have a bit of poseur syndrome when it comes to the Steampunk community, because I approached the movement as a journalist—an outsider documenting this interesting phenomenon that evolved from computer mods and three California guys flirting with romantic science fiction. My interest and love for nineteenth century art and literature was what drew me to it, and like many journalists who get too close to their subject, I fell in love. But I didn’t know how to really be involved. I didn’t cosplay, or have a steamsona, can’t craft things for shit, and while I aspired to write historical, gothic fiction, I lacked a true sci-fi bent. What I was into was travel, being a lit/art-nerd, and the people and histories that fell through the cracks of the 19th century and early 20th century, especially as it pertained to Romanticism, Symbolism, and Modernism. Enter Arthur Morgan.
He contacted us in 2010 regarding French Steampunk for SB, and as I interviewed him and read the interviews he graciously translated for us, things finally started to click for me. Within the work of French Steampunk artists like Etienne Bariller, Futuravapeur, Annliz Bonin, and Sam van Olffen, I saw reinvented those movements I had studied and loved: Dada, Surrealism, Symbolism, and Romanticism.
So, yeah, Arthur and I became fast friends, and when I told him I would be abroad promoting The Steampunk Bible, he told me he had been working on a tour of Steampunk Paris he’d like to show me. Here was an angle to Steampunk that had never occurred to me. The year before, I indulged in some literary travel in Europe visiting a few sites found within Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but Steampunk as a mode of travel, galvanic machines aside, never occurred to me. I asked Morgan if he’d write about this with me, and he agreed. The rest is history—we wrote these essays in 2012 and had the amazingly talented fashion photographer Nicolas Meunier illustrate it for us, and now we are writing a travel book about Steampunk Paris, coming out this fall from Pelekenisis press.
Through this writing, through my love of France and its literature, art, and culture, through my love of travel, I finally feel like I am participating and contributing in a way that only I can—and this is what I love most about Steampunk. No matter your interests, your expertise, your background, your goals, there is something for you, and everyone, here, and that “something” is guaranteed to reveal things you’ve never seen, things lost through the cracks of history, and the past, present, and the future becomes far more connected and diverse than how you had previously known it, making the world a much more fun and interesting place to inhabit.