Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Steampunk Postcolonialist at SteamCon

Gentlefolk, it is my pleasure to announce that I will be attending SteamCon IV this October 26 - 28, with a full list of panels on which I appear to be the only one, so let's just say I will be hosting a wide array of discussions, and YOU, dear audience, are cordially invited to be my panelists. You are all welcome to come sit in and listen, but I will not be doing the bulk of the talking. These aren't really subjects I want to claim any expertise in; these are questions that have been troubling me, so I'm reaching out to ya'll to share your thoughts.

I am also hosting parties on the official party floor! There will be limited alcohol, as most people I know don't do that kind of thing, but I will prepare a punch bowl and tea. (My idea of "punch bowl" happens to be "throw whatever juice or soft drink seems appropriate for the moment into a bowl" so, uh, yeah.) Feel free to bring in any such beverages as you please, or even donate juice or soda to the punch bowl, although if you're bringing in alcohol, please let me know so I can make sure we're not feeding the kids the wrong thing.

FRIDAY I will kick off with Steampunk Represent! in Regency B from 5pm - 6pm:
There are many assumptions about steampunk made by people who aren't part of the scene and barely even pay attention to us: steampunk glorifies empire; steampunk is just a new fashion; steampunk books don't exist; steampunk cons are just Ren Fairs. What assumptions do you come across the most? How are they true or wrong? What do you think gives outsiders this impression, and how can we represent steampunk in all its diversity?

I will be joined by James Carrott, cultural historian, and Thomas Willeford of Brute Force Leather for this panel. You may know James Carrott for his work on Vintage Tomorrows documentary and accompanying book. These dudes tend to have a lot to say so I will be keeping time and making sure to call on audience members, so please do not hesitate to put your hand up if you have something to say.

In the evening, I will also host Steampunks Of Colour Unite! Yes, an official Silver Goggles party! Come join  me in creating a truly multiracial space in the convention. Nivi Hicks will have her photo booth set up so we can document as many POC attendees as possible and prove to the world that steampunk is more diverse than it looks from the outside. This is also a Carl Brandon Society benefit: if you don't know who the Carl Brandon Society are, do come and I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have about them! I will also have membership forms for people interested in joining or donating to the Carl Brandon Society.

Steampunks of Colour, Unite! will be a Safe Space. It is meant to be a POC-centric space. Non-POC allies are welcome, but shouldn't expect to be catered to: if I hear your ass is being argumentative and problematic and you make any of the POC attendees uncomfortable, I will personally throw you out.

SATURDAY! Although I don't have the wonderful JoSelle Vanderhooft and O.M.Grey with me this time, I am bringing It's Mad Science!: Mental Illness in Steampunk to the SteamCon audience in the same room, Regency B, from 9am - 10am:
Mad scientists are a staple in the pulp fiction that eventually led to steampunk, but perceptions of the mad scientist have changed over the years. Formerly tragic figures or evil blasphemers, they are now celebrated as brilliant eccentrics. How does the figure of the mad scientist reflect or gloss over attitudes towards mental illness and neuro-diversity? We'll talk about who gets called a mad scientist, who doesn't, what constitutes madness and genius, and how that's changed over the years.

 God knows why they've given me such an unholy time of day for it, but I'm not complaining, because I'm one of those mad ones who actually like the mornings. I will be joined by Julie Hoehn, who will be presenting on mental illness and asylums in the Victorian era. I have no idea who she is but I look forward to meeting her! 

Envisioning A Better Steam Society: Social Issues in Steampunk makes a comeback! In the Auditorium, from 2pm - 4pm:
Come discuss thoughts about finding aesthetic inspiration in a historical era rife with sexism, racism and classist thinking in this roundtable! Can the steampunk subculture come to terms with its problematic past, or are we just repeating history, except with ray guns? Together with the audience, we hope to engage in an open dialogue about whether steampunk confronts or condones the historical ideas behind its inspiration, how nineteenth century thinking is re-interpreted in the present day, and what makes steampunk actually “punk.”

Yes, we do get a full two hours in the afternoon to natter all we want on this issue! Now, the only problem is that the auditorium isn't conducive to creating a roundtable, so it'll be difficult for the usual circle sit-down, but we'll manage. I will facilitate discussion, and everybody else gets to talk. We've done it before; we can do it again. 

After that, go have a nap, rest up, and then join us later in the evening for FIREBRANDS! The Radical Steampunk Party in the party room! If there are conversational threads you'd like to pick up on from Envisioning, come continue them with us. If not, feel free to just come and shoot the shit with steampunk's finest hearts and minds. I'll be in and out because of the concert, but overall, it'll be a very chill party.

On SUNDAY, I end SteamCon with Art, Profit & Capitalism In Steampunk in Regency B, at 11am -12pm.
The Industrial Revolution was the time period where capitalism first began to take hold. Now, the steampunk aesthetic is a new market commodity, and steampunks are a fresh market to tap into. How does this affect the tensions between artists who have to make a living and folks who do it for fun? What is the place of profit in a community that supposedly values re-engineering old things? How can we support our favorite artists, makers and musicians without putting ourselves and themselves out of pocket?

I'm trying very hard to present panel suggestions that ask some difficult questions that I can engage conversation with, rather than stuff that have clear-cut answers and are about info-dumping. There are no absolute answers, and hopefully you'll find the discussions useful to you in the future.

So, come hang out! 


  1. So excited to see/meet you at Steamcon- definitely going to try to make as many of your panels as I possibly can.

  2. Oh, excellent! Now I definitely need to finish Said's "Orientalism" before I go... :)

  3. I'll see you there! Looking forward to the Fri. night party, it's already stirred up some interesting discussion in our local group!