Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Crossing the Streams

The man who stands at a strange threshold,
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:
The heritage industry does not sell heritage, because heritage is inherently unsellable. Instead, it sells the tourist-friendly, simplified, Photoshopped, price-tagged, Disneyized version of heritage. Steampunk is great at mocking and parodizing this activity. That's what makes steampunk a thoroughly contemporary act.
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.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Reorg Boots Already

So after posting an introduction, I started 4 more blog posts on various topics, trying to figure out just what it was that I wanted to say in this space. For now (and for some time to come, I imagine), I'll be largely talking to myself, so making some attempt to craft deathless prose for the ages seems a little presumptuous. I'm drawing inspiration from a number of sources (starting with the other blogs listed off to the right), but I don't want to be simply a pallid imitator of other people's work. I've got notes on various topics stashed in the cloud, so I don't need to take notes for myself here. Basically, then, what I'm looking at this space for is a journal of my explorations, ideas, and so forth as I look into this thing called Steampunk. The ideas may not be original; the research may be based on other people's reading lists. The projects may be cribbed from Make and Instructables - but they'll be mine, and I'm curious to see what comes up as a result.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Obligatory Introductory Post

So who is this “MacAuslander” person, anyway?

That’s what I’m figuring out. As I write these words, I’m in the process of creating a new identity for myself as a Steampunk. Okay, so I’m late to the party… These things take time, and I’ve been busy.

My intent, as far as this blog is concerned, is to document my journey as I transition from curious outsider to active participant.  I tend to get a little obsessive about things when they capture my interest, and this time around I’d like to keep a record of stuff as it happens.  I’ll be recording the research that I do, the books I read, the ideas that I play with, the new skills I suspect that I’ll need to learn, and so forth. There are many things about the Steampunk Community (yes, generalized grand umbrella term – I know there are subsets and so forth, there always are) that absolutely fascinate me, and I’ll hash through my thoughts about those things as well as any worrisome concerns that may pop up along the way (I’ve already found other blogs that deal with some of those – more on that later).

Why bother? Curiosity, mostly – a friend of mine once described me as “the most aggressively self-aware person I know”, and this is just the most recent example. Since childhood, I’ve “reinvented myself” on numerous occasions (some more consciously than others), and this time around, I want to have fun with the process. This blog gives me an opportunity to jot stuff down when it occurs to me, a place to collect all of the scattered ideas that I find, and I get to do it semi-anonymously without having to link it to my other online and meatspace personae. At least until I’m good and ready…