Recently a group within the steampunk movement has stood up and loudly claimed we are a left wing, politically active and even radical activist movement. These people spread the word with vim and vigor and thus it may very well seem to many, especially those new(ish) to the scene, that this is what steampunk is about.
Let me start by saying that there are few rules to steampunk but that the core of the movement is simple: Steampunk is to you what steampunk is to you.
You don’t have to be left wing, you don’t have to be politically active, you don’t have to be a feminist, pro-recycling, etc., to be a steampunk.
You can be in it for the fun, for the aesthetic, because you want to build epic machinery or simply make brilliant accessories and outfit/costume pieces. You can be in it because you love the Victorian history behind it, the retro futurism and anachrotechnofetishism or simply because you love books by Jules Verne and/or H.G. Wells.
It’s fine to be a steampunk and not be an activist, to not be politically active.
Of course it’s equally fine to be a steampunk and be a politically active person as well. Like I said: it is to you what it is to you. Heck, I’m a Steampunk and I’m interested in politics, I am left wing and I am a feminist and active in environmental conservation. But I don’t think everyone should be, it’s up to them. If they want to be: sure awesome. Will I tell people why I am doing these things and why I think more people should do them? If people are open to listen then sure. But I will never tell them that this is what steampunk is about and what steampunks should do, because it isn’t.
Let’s remember one of the core values of steampunk: help people when they need it, give out constructive criticism where asked or needed but let’s allow others to do their thing within the movement. That, after all, is what created the great fabulous diversity within its ranks we have these days.
Yes, there are a few basic rules about (the) steampunk (aesthetic), every scene has those, it’s logical because the basis must be there to set us all apart from the other scenes and make us recognisable for each other. But that’s it, as long as you follow those, it’s fine!
Also, it’s ok to delve in to the dark depths of (Victorian) history for your steampunk. Yes, some historical facts are dire, gruesome and a blemish on humanity, but they are still part of history. We don’t have to distance ourselves from them, they’re there, they sadly happened. Shutting up about history is a sure way of allowing it to repeat itself, by educating people about the (t)errors of the past we may open a few eyes.
So if you don’t want to follow the “rules” this loud crowd is trying to set, don’t be afraid to speak up. Sure, these people may be popular in your local scene, they may restrict your posting rights to the larger (or largest) online communities, but let me tell you something: if they have to go that far to enforce their vision, then they’ve obviously lost sight on things long ago. The spirit of steampunk has never been about making others follow your rules or walk in line, and I’m confident a lot of people will make sure it never will be either, whatever consequences the so called “leaders of the scene” try to throw at them.
You don’t have to be part of the in-crowd to have a good time, this is steampunk, there will always be likeminded individuals somewhere, and they’re easier to find, especially on the web, than you think.
Be yourself, it’s allowed. And don’t be afraid to do your own kind of steam beyond the basic rules, even if other people tell you you’re doing it wrong.