The History of Brass Goggles, With Tinkergirl

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Front page of Brass Goggles in the halcyon days of 2007
Front page of Brass Goggles in the halcyon days of 2007

Back in the summer of 2009, I exchanged several messages with the creator of Brass Goggles in the hopes of completing a full interview for publication in the Gatehouse Gazette. Unfortunately, after emailing back and forth a couple of times, I didn’t hear back from her anymore but I would like to share with you this tidbit of Brass Goggles history.

You must recall that for several years, Brass Goggles was the most popular steampunk website until “Tinkergirl” gave up blogging and disappeared. The Steampunk Forum, the message board community that’s been hosted under Brass Goggles‘s domain since February 2007, continues to be the most active of its kind.

Brass Goggles started in 2006. The archives from those days are fortunately still available at the blog so you can read up on what was popular in steampunk fandom in those days. Tinkergirl even promoted The Gatehouse (or an early version of it) that year.

I asked her why she started Brass Goggles and Tinkergirl explained that, at the time, there really weren’t an awful lot of steampunk websites around. Besides the precursor to this website, Krzysztof Janicz’ Retrostacja was up and running as well Victorian Adventures in a Past That Wasn’t by Cory Gross who currently blogs at Voyages Extraordinaries. There were a few other, less popular websites, most of which have either disappeared or are no longer updated. But not many people knew about steampunk yet.

Tinkergirl told me that after she’d discovered steampunk, her appetite was “voracious.”

I was doing internet searches for all sorts of related keywords — steampunk, steam punk, victorian science fiction, vsf, goggles, Verne, Wells, etc., etc. I found several specialised sites — the ones I remember most are Steampunk Central and The Clockworkers Guild. Unfortunately, with an appetite as deep as I had, the sites I found were very quickly devoured. For a few weeks I tried all sorts of different searches and kept up with The Clockworkers Guild. Most of the specialized sites I found were either dormant, dead or geologically slow to update compared to what I was accustomed to in these days of daily blog posts.

I got annoyed that I couldn’t find a site that would update frequently, with high quality goodies to ogle and learn about, and useful links to allow me to learn more about the juiciest information. In fact, it annoyed me so much that I decided I’d better do something about it. I was going to make the site that I had desperately wanted to find.

Now, that was a horribly audacious thing to even consider — I boggle at my own cheek these days! But in my all encompassing obsession, I’d found so much good stuff that you’d not have found unless you’d really had a root around the corners of the internet — and in that way that a child wants to show everyone the amazing thing they’ve found, I wanted to show my treasures to others who might be interested.

Several days later, I’d investigated the different blogging software solutions and decided on WordPress. My gentleman friend of the time talked me through the install on my “free” webspace that I got with my internet connection, and I spent a day or so modifying an existing theme. One morning, in the shower, and without warning, the name “Brass Goggles” popped into my head and it just all came together.

It certainly did! Back in those days, a regularly updated steampunk blog that reported on art projects, books, costuming and websites was a novelty. Brass Goggles became an essential venue for steampunk enthusiasts and with its forums, managed to bring together a steampunk community, pretty much for the first time.

It’s a shame Tinkergirl isn’t around anymore although I do like to think she sometimes keeps a watchful eye on the website she started more than five years ago.

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