Sunday, September 23, 2012

Spanish-language Links of Interest: Antologia Retrofuturisme and Aristofagia

So, two awesome things! Araceli Rodriguez of the Mexican steampunk magazine Mercenarios de DIOS pinged me to have me expect the upcoming anthology Planes B: Antologia Retrofuturisme! With an all-woman design crew, Mercenarios de DIOS has produced an anthology featuring Latin@ writers, with special guest Jeff Vandermeer (his story "Fixing Hanover" has been translated for this anthology).

Secondly, on Steampunk Chile's Twitter feed was this link to Artefactum Vapore's song Aristofagia on SoundCloud, complete with lyrics for you to sing along. Further clicking leads to their previous track Victoria

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Link of Interest: Cosplaying James Ng's Imperial Sheriff

Over at Beyond Victoriana, the Steampunk Panda decided to make his debut into cosplay with an ambitious project: James Ng's Imperial Sheriff

I don't know why anyone would want to start off in steampunk with this much work, but if you got the ovaries for it, go for it, you know? Did he succeed? Well, pop on over to read his essay and check out the pictures, and judge for yourself! It is good to see more Asian dudes in steampunk actually being Asian.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Steampunk Postcolonialist Goes Back To School

And it's for the long-haul, folks. If you haven't heard me bitching about moving on Twitter, whinging about the desert heat, and other assorted complaints, the news is this:

In about a week I'll begin my PhD at the University of California, Riverside, in the Comparative Literature department. As a bit of shameless self-promotion, ya'll should pick up Steampunk III: Revolution, edited by Ann Vandermeer, for my essay which will probably act as my prospectus for my dissertation. My name is already on the list of current graduate students, and I'm going to begin the courtship dance search for committee members soon enough,

I'm... not sure what this will mean for this blog. There's been a long silence (which admittedly is not exactly abnormal) because I've been so stressed about moving I've basically been taking Fukitol pills towards a lot of stuff. Which kinda sucks for this blog because there have been a ton of things I owe it: a con report on Steampunk World's Fair, a post on Hugo (which I watched while I sat in Emirates' Business Class, and the only real takeaway I have from the experience is how much I want to eat the rich), a rant on passive racism that's been percolating, interviews with some cool people I met while I was home in Malaysia, and more steampunk POC interviews (yes this is an admission that there may not be another steampunk POC interview next month, sorry). 

I hope to be able to share with you thoughts on things I study and learn and begin to articulate for the next two years as I muddle through coursework, the quarter system, and having to write papers every three months (WHAT THE HELL).

Unfortunately, this means I'm out of the con circuit for a while, especially for the East Coast cons. I'm shooting for SteamCon this year (more to hang out with my cousin, host parties, and watch Nate Johnstone than anything else) and next year, Salt City Steam Fest and PDX GearCon, but other than that, I don't foresee myself finding the time, especially for all the spring conventions (because the quarter system is ridiculous). 

Nonetheless, I encourage emails! Even if I don't respond to you immediately, I'd still like to hear from you and have conversations, especially on the art production and business side of our communities. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Steampunk POC: Jeannette Ng (Chinese)

Jeannette Ng and the Steampunk Coat
It's July! It's the first Friday of the month! You know what that means: another steampunk POC feature interview! This month, we hike across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom... or across the Pacific to Hong Kong, depending on where she is this time, to meet Jeannette Ng, the Costume Mercenary! Jeannette is the genius behind my steampunk magistrate costume, and many others, such as this fantastic steampunk coat. I love exchanging emails with Jeannette; she is always thoughtful, and thoughtfulness is sometimes accompanied by lengthy paragraphs. She is also the originator of the term "ricepunk" which I rather like

Jeannette is an active LARPer and works with Character I highly recommend commissioning something from her!

Without further ado, Jeannette Ng! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Link: Review of Jay Kristoff's Stormdancer

A year ago I started seeing a bit of hype for Jay Kristoff's Stormdancer, which purported to be a "Japanese steampunk novel". I even read a vomit-inducing post from the author himself babbling about how awesome multiculturalism is for steampunk and how he was inspired by James Ng's art to write his novel ('cept, um, hello? China is not Japan?).

After my experiences reading the Windup Girl and the Peshawar Lancers, I'm pretty fuckin' burnt out on white authors writing non-white stories unless they've been critically vetted by people I trust.

So, instead of slogging through what promises to be a steaming pile o' shit masquerading as actual hot steam that makes the world go 'round, I shall instead link to someone else who intrepidly read the book and said everything I pretty much would have said if I had been the one to read it:

I'll admit, I was a little leery of Stormdancer from the start - Japanese steampunk sounds cool, but coming from a white western author, the chances of problematic weeaboo fuckery are high. Exoticization. Romanticization. Plain old appropriation. Yet for some reason, I didn't really peg Stormdancer as a weeaboo outing. I don't know why. There was no good reason, and yet, I expected Kristoff to be a scholar of some sort, or at least, to do some very in-depth, scholarly research, borne of a deep interest in, and respect for, Japanese culture. And while even that could have also potentially yielded something problematic, at least it would have been sincere. What I thoroughly did NOT expect to get was a book informed by fucking Wikipedia and anime, set in Japan for the sake of novelty. That came as a genuine shock. And a dramatic rise in blood pressure. WHAT THE FUCKITY FUCK? 
The thing is, that Wikipedia part? You can kinda tell. I mean, the first hundred pages or so of Stormdancer, basically until the airship crashes, are a chore to wade through, mostly because of the Wikipedia-esque info dumps. It takes almost exactly half of those pages to make any progress on the plot. The first fifty are just about showing off the world and detailing every little aspect of it, which is why it takes like twelve paragraphs for Yukiko and her father to walk down a street: we have to hear about the architecture, detail the clothing being worn (because we're using Japanese terms here, and not many readers will know offhand what a fucking hakama looks like), and explain the exact geographical setting, right down to which rivers cross where, and the ~exotic smells~ in the air, even though none of it is actually relevant to anything that's going on at the moment. I understand wanting to set the scene and acquaint readers with the world, but Jesus Herbet Christ, get on with it already. Work this stuff in to the action. Make me not want to put the book down out of sheer boredom. I mean, I haven't even gotten the chance to get angry yet.
Aside from the obvious appropriativeness of the text, it also sounds like Eurocentrism got married to Straight Dude Sexism and had a baby in the form of incompetent writing.

I don't care if you're writing a secondary world or an alternate history. If you can't manage basics right, you probably shouldn't be writing this story at all. Maybe I shouldn't blame Jay Kristoff too much; maybe being a weaboo who cannot tell when he is being a racist is an easy trap to fall into. But I will come down hard on his agent and editors who thought this racist dreck was worth publishing, because these people are supposed to be a bit more discerning (but time and again, it's been proven that many privileged folks are not very discerning when it comes to issues of justice, so....).

As for bloggers who helped this guy promote, a couple of whom are people I like, I hope you will be more discriminating in the future.

h/t to Requires Hate for the link!