Should be cautious before he cross it,
Glance this way and that:
Who knows beforehand what foes may sit
Awaiting him in the hall?
-Havamal, Auden & Taylor translation
So here I am, standing at the strange threshold of the Steampunk community. As so often happens with me, I've been trying to acquire as much advance knowledge as I can before jumping in with both feet - I hate getting tagged as a noob first time out, and as the Havamal has suggested, taking one's time to check out the lay of the land is always a good policy. With that in mind, I've been looking at the various sub-cultures within Steampunk to figure out both where I might fit in the best, and where I'm more likely to create friction. The Steampunk Scholar wrote an article on steampunk tribes last year, identifying (in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner) some of the fault lines and socio-political boundaries between various groups. In his terms, I would be a Boneshaker with aspirations to both Jeterism and Datamancy...
I've also found an essay by Bruce Sterling (thanks to a link at The Steampunk Workshop) that resonates with me. This paragraph, in particular, echoes a concern/frustration of mine that I've been dealing with for decades:
In real life, I've been seriously alienated from any hint of ethnic culture or heritage that I might have come by via "normal" channels - i.e., family heirlooms and traditions. I grew up in a suburb, and although our various ethnic heritages were mentioned, it was simply presented as a fact of where some of our great-grandparents hailed from - there were no family recipes handed down, or quaint family traditions that we engaged in either among ourselves or with others of those ethnicities - we'd completely assimilated to American pop culture. As an adult, I've examined aspects of some of these cultures, and it occurred to me a long time ago that many people at cultural festivals are doing the same thing I'm doing - trying to purchase what was denied to us via normal channels of inheritance...
Sterling also makes reference to the "troublesome 10 percent" who are not content to just engage in cosplay and LARPing, but instead want to participate in the actual creation of the "steampunk scene" (I make no guarantee that the percentages are accurate - see the definition of Boneshaker linked above...). Again, I'm a complete noob, having engaged in cosplay precisely once so far (dressing as Othar Tryggvason of Girl Genius fame for a Halloween party), though it did involve repainting a Nerf gun... But there's so much more to this that I'd like to do!
More on that later.