P. Djeli Clark suggested earlier this year at his blog (and sorry we didn’t pick up on it before) that steampunks should be glad to have a few activists among them who can constantly remind them of what they’re doing wrong.
Clark acknowledges that the culture “has sparked numerous discussions and debates on race, slavery, colonialism, gender, class and sexuality.” Unfortunately, the blogger only lists and links to those who have been critical of steampunk and steampunk aficionados for supposedly ignoring the past or refusing to see that reimagining it is a bad thing. But he (or she?) aptly describes them as an “active cadre that launches criticism upon anything that appears to fantasize, apologizes or fails to acknowledge the disparities and inequities of these by-gone eras.” Which is true and here at The Gatehouse, we’re quite familiar with that.
It makes steampunk a fractured genre, where the donning of a simple article of clothing or a decision to write about some obscure bit of the past, can spark debates or whole blogs on racism, cultural appropriation, gender inequality and [insert-your-privilege-here]-splaining.
Which is a bit tiring, no? No, writes Clark. “That’s a good thing.”
Is it? I won’t tell anyone to shut up but we should we really be thankful to have a small but “active cadre” making it very hard for the average steampunk to enjoy the culture without feeling embarrassed or ashamed for it?