Reaction, Rebellion, Resolution

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Steampunk rebel by Kachinadoll
Artwork by Kachinadoll

As we continue to be intrigued by the question, what defines steampunk? in anticipation of the Great Steampunk Debate to be launched next May, SteamPunk Magazine linked to an interesting contribution by one Kevin Steil at the blog Airship Ambassador entitled “Steampunk is … Reaction, Rebellion, Resolution.”

Steil proposes that the politics of steampunk are expresses on three different levels. First there is reaction; what we feel or think about the status quo. Steampunk, argues Steil, is made up of “those who embrace the initial emotional, even subconscious, appeal and enticement to explore their newfound interest.”

Rebellion comes next, the “refusal to accept some authority or code or convention.” Rebellion can take many forms and be inspired by different sentiments. It may happen, notes Steil, “against social injustices of the past and present, or current inconsiderate and uncompassionate behaviors, or the effects of monotonous, mass-produced, corporate design.” We are getting closer here to defining the “punk” in “steampunk,” obviously and resolution is the final step.

Steampunks may find resolution by reading the growing list of literature and sharing their interest with friends. They may want to learn more and add more to their lives by participating in online forums, initiating discussions with others and by attending local meet-ups and regional conventions. They may want to expand their skills by making and building something never seen before.

Steampunks may require more direct and tangible actions. Some will be moved to write their own stories and make their own movies. Others will design and sew their own clothing, and create their own accessories. Some will transform mass produced, commonplace, soul-breaking lackluster objects into unique, hand crafted works of functional art.

The different motivations of steampunk enthusiasts are not what matters in the first place, according to Steil. What unites the steampunk community is a sense of self expression, strengthened by individualism, creativity and acceptance. “We are inclusive, inquisitive, and always evolving.”

Steil gives meaning to the “punk” in “steampunk” in a way that we at The Gatehouse, admittedly sometimes anti-punk, can wholeheartedly embrace. What comes after the step of “resolution” is equally critical however. How we give meaning to our determination to reject convention and shape our own mindset and lifestyle is what ultimately decides what steampunk, as a movement or a subculture, comes to mean. In this regard, we have yet to find unity.

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