Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Working Process of "Between Islands"

In the midst of reading postcolonial theory and books about gothic literature, I decided to write another steampunk story. Some of you may have read Between Islands, my steampunk short at Expanded Horizons. In the name of procrastination, I thought I would share with you the process and history behind writing it. (What? Everybody else likes to talk about their work. I'm just jumping on that bandwagon.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

MRP Adventures: Semantics

While considering how best to go about my MRP, I wondered what it meant, really, to write postcolonial steampunk. My reading of science fiction and postcolonial writings in general is woefully insubstantial, but nonetheless, I still wonder.

Larry Pinaire at mused, "What I fail to understand is the relationship between the Steampunk era and science fiction. When I think of science fiction, mankind's future, good or bad, usually comes to mind. I am troubled at the idea of looking back to see forward. Maybe I'm just old."

I responded, "Science fiction is the perfect vehicle for addressing topical issues, current issues, and how they could be addressed in another time/space. Steampunk merely uses the time/space of the past, and the issues of the past still have reverberations today, so why not go right to the root to address them?"

Parliament and Wake had another thought-provoking comment: "An alternate thought experiment (for such are the stuff of science and science fiction) might question whether it was rather the grisly abuses and dark excrescences of the 19th century that 'made the 'progress' of the 20th century possible'. A secondary hypothesis of such an experiment might be: whether clinging blithely to the clockwork optimism of the age of empires condemns the cannier, more cynical subjectivity of our own time to a stillbirth."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One Year!


Exchanging emails with Ay-Leen last night, I realized that today is the first anniversary of Silver Goggles! Isn't that fabulous? 

I know I don't update often, which is more for my health than lack of interest. But I just want to thank everyone who reads Silver Goggles.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld

Okay, so there is no way to go about reviewing Behemoth if nothing is said about Leviathan, even if both books stand on their own well enough. Except if you read Behemoth first, you’d want to go right back out and get Leviathan anyway, to make sure you got the full experience.
Leviathan is set at the beginning of World War I, with the death of Archduke Ferdinand by Serbs. As such, we can’t exactly pin it down to the era of steam technology, so it’s more fittingly dieselpunk. Nonetheless, the historicity and scale of tech retrofitted into the past fit nicely into steampunk conventions.
Within this history, it’s obvious that Westerfeld has done his homework, down to little details that add a delicious accuracy to enhance certain scenes, while being very clear where he has strayed. As such, there isn’t one break-off point between this story and recorded history, but a blend of both.
The two major factions within the new geopolitical landscape are very reasonably set: in the bits of Europe that is Catholic, the predominant tech is mechanical, with hulking machines that are deeply reminiscent of HG Wells’ land ironclads. The British, by contrast, are Darwinists, with the conceit that Darwin discovered DNA and developed the technology to harness it, to the point that the British fabricate their own biological ecosystems in a fashion that serves their purposes.
This is how we get Leviathan, which is, to put it bluntly, a flying whale.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Congratulations to Ay-Leen of Beyond Victoriana!

This post is a bit late, but this is a post specifically to congratulate Ay-Leen the Peacemaker for being nominated for the Last Drink Bird Head Award of 09/10! Pop on over to show love, because she totally deserves it! She has been working tirelessly since last October on Beyond Victoriana, updating once a week, to bring new horizons to the steampunk scene and highlight all sorts of people in the movement towards multiculturalism within the steampunk subculture. 

Yay, Ay-Leen! *waves a little flag*

Review: Clockwork Heart, by Dru Pagliassotti

I just loaned out my copy of Clockwork Heart to my younger cousin, who's herself a voracious reader, so I can't dive in-depth with page numbers and exacting names as I would ordinarily have liked to, but it's memorable enough for me to be able to comment on some larger issues.

But firstly, you should know that I liked it.

For Distant Observers

Get a little closer.

When you say that you don't understand how a person's motivations could be so misconstrued, that it's alarming how appreciation is taken as appropriation, you need to come closer to see for yourself how intentions don't matter, and no matter how nice the intent was, taking cultural items for your own amusement, even if it's for appreciation's sake, feeds into a centuries-long tradition of removing cultural artefacts and stripping them of their symbolism, from the the owners of the culture, to become trophies.

Back then, it was to show how pretty and sweet and quaint these people in the foreign lands are, or as trophies to show how the good people conquered over the barbarians and savages, or as sentimental items of a holiday well-misspent among the servile natives. Now it is to show how much you love this culture, that you would use their cultural artefacts even over the protestations of its living people.

Get a little closer.

Set aside your accusations of oversensitivity for a few moments, and listen to the complaint upon complaint upon complaint - of being ignored in daily life, or being treated just a little bit worse than other people, or being constantly asked, 'where are you from?' as if we could never be assumed to be from "here", because we must always qualify who we are, to prove we belong. Set aside your knee-jerk assumptions that everything is okay and read the reports of discrimination, at work or in the grocery store or at school or, you know, where normal people really should be able to go without feeling uncomfortable.

Get a little closer.

You might feel the stomachs turning when we see yellowface, brownface, blackface, performed by unwitting, well-meaning white people who think that it's a tribute to the cultures that Western-European civilizations have effaced and forced into hiding. You may see our grimaces at being reminded that we cannot wear these images for ourselves without being stereotyped, and our nostrils flaring in rage that once again, our Other-ness is flouted in our faces, as if we didn't live with it enough. You might feel the nervousness and anxiety over the fact that once again, we have to play the role of educator on what is respectful and what is not, while having to field demands to acquiesce to your right to play with our essences, and accusations that we are selfish.

Get a little closer.

You might feel the sadness that we can't perform our own cultures everyday without constantly being questioned whether we really belong, without constantly being stopped to be asked about our Other-ness, without being constantly told to assimilate. You might hear our rage at being told we're doing something wrong by people within and without our culture, at being told to be grateful for your forbearance of putting up with our strange-ness on a daily basis without us showing our Other selves into your face.

Get a little closer.

You might hear the passive-aggressive jabs at our inferiority that serve to keep us in our place, tell us that we must always bend over backwards to please people who wouldn't give us the same benefit of doubt, ensure that when we speak out we are shut down.

Stop playing distant observer. Stop worrying about intent. Stop sitting on the fence. 

Get a little closer. See the effects that these problems you think we're "making a big deal of" have an effect on us and ours. Sit down beside us and really get to know us.

You might be surprised, because these would be stories we don't trust to just anybody, because the reaction we get from telling them is so hurtful, it's best to tell them only where we can feel safe, and these spaces are rare. 

You might get angry because these would be stories which challenge your view of the world and paint you as a bad person, because you might have been that person causing the hurt, and you might be grouped with the people being racist, and you don't want to see yourself as that kind of person.

You might get scared, because these would be stories where you could be the villain, and your good reputation's too important to tarnish, and you don't want to lose your friends, or the permissions to keep doing these things that actually cause the hurt.

But you should be surprised and you should get angry and you should be scared, especially if it means you'll learn something about how to stop the hurting and the anger and the fear. 

Because if you don't, you're part of the problem, whether you meant to, or not.