Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Silver Goggles Salute: Datamancer

Datamancer was one of the first steampunk Makers I'd ever heard of, and I was one of many who marveled at his creations. He was definitely one of the formative Makers of the aesthetic that we all know so well. While I never met him personally, I deeply respected his work and expertise, and all that he brought to the movement.

There are no words to express just how much there is to mourn.

R.I.P. Richard Nagy

ETA: If there is any effort to help out the Nagy family, please let me know! In this time of loss we must bend our hearts to the most needful!

Monday, August 26, 2013

POC-fronted Steampunk Projects? Say it ain't so!

'Cos that would be unpossible!

Or is it?

I thought Milton Davis' IndieGoGo fundraiser for SteamFUNK movie RITE OF PASSAGE was going to be the only major project featuring POC in any significant way (Black steampunk vampires, people!), but life throws things at one, doesn't it? 

There're only five days left to go, but TINKER could use all the help it can get. I'm currently in Malaysia on holiday so I've not been in a mood to aggressively interrogate people about it, so this is a belated post to tell people about it. 

What's interesting about it is that it's fronted by Filipino/Japanese actors (the Tinkers of the title), and set in SF after a brief stint in HK. There're way too many white people, and maybe too many POC villains, and there're a couple of problematic things I've identified so far in the copy, but it still seems to be a really good range of actual non-white folks given the geography they're covering, plus what looks like a lot of female characters who could actually graduate beyond Sexy Lamp level into Bechdel Test grades. (Granted this is easier to do in a series than in a movie, but even with a series, you know how they are with POC.)

So, check it out, spread the word if you can, and let me know what you think <3 I'm given to understand that writer is interested in dialog to help shape the story, which is cool.

ETA: ALSO! Among the people they have on board for the TINKER soundtrack is Steampunk POC interviewee Psyche Corporation! So that is also pretty exciting.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Steampunk Postcolonialist at SDCC!

Yeap, I'll be at San Diego Comic Con this weekend, at least for Thursday and Friday! 

Thursday morning I'll be on "The Witty Women of Steampunk" with the incredible Anina Bennet, the super-sweet Kaja Foglio, and the talented Claire Hummel! I have no idea what I'm doing on there among pros, but what the hey. We're on at 11am, in room 5AB, so come join us! I am of course assuming I don't get lost. 

I plan on making myself scarce and hiding out in nearby cafes or hanging out with friends in between panels I might go to, because I don't do well with very large crowds for long periods of time. But I will at least be around for Friday's Steampunk Drinkup at the Hopping Pig starting at 6pm. 

See you there!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Interruptions: Search Engine Fun

Also y'all only come in droves whenever I say something super angry that riles up the community and that makes me sad, so I went into my analytics to see what amusement I could derive thence:

anachrocon "goh" 2010 -- Nope, never been, sorry. Still, my surname obviously never fails to confuse!

beth dillon disseration -- I don't know if this person found what they were looking for, but I would think one ought to just ask Beth herself.

from eurocentrism to polycentrism questions -- So many, so many. 

how can one deal with racist -- Questions for our generation... and the previous one... and the previous one....

idris elba steampunk -- CAN I GET A HELL YEAH?

is+it+racist+to+wear+a+kimono -- If you have to ask, then yes, the situation will probably make it so...

people wearing other people's things -- A more common occurrence than it sounds.

the coconut and bamboo are trees? -- Well apparently bamboo is a kind of grass... but yes, do not doubt the tree-ness of the coconut.

why you shoul duse people of color -- Actually you shouldn't, because people of colour are human beings who are ends unto themselves, not means.

what+not+to+wear+and+look+racist -- A question for the ages. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Jha's Very Own Steampunk 101

So, SDCC, where I am next scheduled to appear (alongside Kaja Foglio! And Anina Bennett! And Claire Hummel! And Dina Kampmeyer! It will be a righteous all-girls'-morning-in and you all should come) will have a Steampunk 101 panel. 

I get a bit confused because it seems to me that many times Steampunk 101 panels always get scheduled after several panels have been scheduled, and wouldn't you want the 101 to come first? (Of course, upon further reflection, it then occurs to me that the 101 panel tends to be scheduled on a day when more people can make the con.)

Then it makes me wonder what happens when people come onto my site and whether they think their definition of steampunk is in line with mine. I am sure that my definition of steampunk is in no way contradictory with theirs, but I have met people whose definition of steampunk seem to me a woefully inadequate way of speaking about it in a way that encourages growth and inclusivity (I am looking at you, "Victorian science fiction" people!) rather than continued derivatives.

For Dickens Fest in January, the minister of the local UU invited me to speak about steampunk, just for a few minutes. One of my department colleagues snarked at me and said, "oh? can you REALLY give an introduction to steampunk in less than five minutes??" And I was like, "sure, why the fuck not?" Nobody needs an accurate history of the nuances of steampunk; folks just need a general outline of how it coalesced and a description of what it is now.

So here it is, after, haha, four years of blogging, my definition of steampunk, paraphrased the best I can from my Dickens Fest speech (the outline of which I have since lost but I sort of remember the basics). Let's see if we're on the same page!

Call for Submissions: Long Hidden

Crossed Genres is accepting submissions for their anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From The Margins of History! Click through for the guidelines, and submit by July 31, 2013! The anthology is in the hands of Daniel Josè Older and Rose Fox. 

While not specifically steampunk, they do accept alternate-history type spec fic, which can also include steampunk. If you're not sure whether or not your story will work, you can email them (questions@longhidden.com) to find out! PLEASE make sure you address it "Dear Long Hidden editors," "Dear Mr. Older and Mx. Fox" OR "Dear Rose and Daniel". This makes sure you're addressing both editors; the editorial team is working as a team, and you should acknowledge them as such.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Follow-Up: Apologies for Irresponsibility

Someone nudged me about my post about the Order of the White Feather. She pointed out to me that it was irresponsible for me to name someone as a sexual assailant without there being any formal accusations. So if you're looking for what I said about the certain someone, it's gone. I fully admit my actions in this.

I also would like to specify that neither Silver Goggles nor I personally are formally associated with the Order of the White Feather beyond solidarity; therefore, any attacks upon the Order of the White Feather are completely unjustified and nonsensical, as they are not culpable for my actions. 

Since it has gone up, with a record of a thousand pageviews in about a day, I'm given to understand that the situation has escalated, with emotions running high, lawsuits being waved about, and yelling, a lot of yelling, across the aether.

For this, I apologize.

Con Moments: Asian Dolls

SPWF was very much an overdose of stimuli for me in many ways; Jeff Mach likes to put on damned good spectacles. This might not be so bad if it didn't mean panels where we get to talk about also get sidelines and even the musicians get kind of pretty awful deals. 

The cool thing about SPWF 2012 though was that we had two bands come in, Victor Sierra from France and Strange Artifact from Japan. Victor Sierra had very unfortunate set problems: fuses blown due to incompatible voltages on their technology which meant their playing time was extremely limited. It was really a shame because they put a lot of effort into their live show and Anouk sang her heart out, plus their music is actually hella delicious.

Strange Artifact had put together a Kickstarter to help them get to the States, and it was their very first time visiting the U.S. Their first show on Friday went well, and though Mary and Yuki don't speak much English, they had two translators, one of whom was Dan, an energetic manager who doesn't actually manage for work, but shoots punk shows in Japan. I got a picture with them, plus Allison Curval, because I was quite determined to record the presence of Asians at this SPWF. 

Then on Saturday night, while I was recording one of their songs on my camera, well, this happened, check 1:10:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Con Moments: "What Are Your Credentials?"

Aetherfest was by and large pretty fun. I would have to say that the most successful panel was the "Mad Science!: Mental Illness in Steampunk" one: we had a full house of people who were probably expecting us to talk about mad scientists. My co-panelists were the wonderful JoSelle Vanderhooft and O.M.Grey, who I specifically picked to be on the panel because they both also had issues with mental health and would be able to speaking truthfully to the matter. I know some people dislike the tokenizing thing where venues will have black people talking about black issues and a gay person writing about gay issues, but for something like this, in this context, where often people with mental health issues are sidelined in favour of psychologists treating them (because we can't be trusted to talk about ourselves, I guess), it was very important that my panel be peopled ONLY by people who live with mental health problems, chronic ones, not things that can be easily fixed.

Afterward though, O.M. Grey told us that apparently, some big dude, all white-haired and bespectacled, walked up to her and practically demanded, "Excuse me but I would like to know your credentials for speaking about this subject."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Solidarity Link! Order of the White Feather

Some of you may know, or may not know, that about slightly over a year ago, steampunk authoress O. M. Grey was subject to harassment, followed by sexual violence, both physical and emotional. Instead of rallying to support her when she came out of the shock of it all, many people rallied around her attacker, the well-esteemed Professor Elemental, further driving her towards the fringes of the community.

In response, some members (plus her) have started the Order of the White Feather, the website which she built, to support members of the community and display solidarity by wearing a white feather.

Monday, June 10, 2013

101 List Updated!

To prove that I'm still alive, I just updated that tab above which reads "Read These Before Engaging."

Most of you who come to this blog in good faith actually wanting to learn will actually take some time out to read what's in that tab, for which I thank you.

Everyone else visiting this blog to blergh out at me for being racist or white-hating or whatever intellectually lazy non-arguments can fuck off; I'll be deleting comments if I suspect you just want your opinions heard. 

This comes in light of learning about @Anti_Racism_Dog, which Overland's Malcolm Harris talks about here. It's actually a long thing, so let me quote the relevant excerpts.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Anonymous Asked: How Do I Deal With This Racist White Friend?

So some of you readers have discovered my Tumblr Ask Box is available for Anonymous questions. I don't respond to every single one if they don't ask a question specifically, but I do try to answer questions as much as possible. 

Today I got this question:
Hi, I hope I'm not bothering, but I need advice, in regards to writing and race, and I hope it's alright to ask! My white friend and I are trying to write a steampunk novel and she's failing so bad at race issues. She's the white liberal - racism is bad people doing bad things (but always redeemable once they ~understand~!), racism is caused by stupid people, always look forward never address the past grievances, interracial marriage solves everything! It's so frustrating. 
I’m afraid of correcting her because I don’t want to hurt her feelings, and afraid that she’ll see be as ‘one of those poc’ and hate me. I’ve tried to get her to read your steampunk blog (which I love and thank for its existence!), but she…weird about it. I know that at this point our friendship is suspect, but she is someone I love dearly and I can’t help it. And I’ve put so much effort into this project, I don’t want to give up now. Is it at the point where I should let her be, or is there something I can do to approach this topic? Thank you so much, sorry for the length. Have a good day!
It is an unfortunate state of affairs when you have to ask people on the Internet for advice on how to deal with racists on such an intimate basis.  We all know people like this. Hell, I've been that colorblind liberal! How does one deal with that kind of person? I don't have all the answers, not having all the details, so here's my general tack on the situation:

Firstly, you have my deepest sympathies. This is where it’s clear that it’s the people closest to you who cannot be trusted sometimes.
Secondly, you need to ask yourself if you really need her input on this novel, or if there is someone else you can collaborate with without so many issues.
Thirdly, if the answer is, yes you need her, you need to ask yourself what your boundaries are: what can you continue to tolerate from her? What WILL you continue to tolerate from her?
Then lay out your boundaries. Sit down with her and have a firm talk about it. Tell her to read my blog and stop being weird about it, or else it will damage your trust level and raise your anxieties about this project.
Because as much as you are afraid of hurting your feelings? It’s also really clear that she’s continuously hurting yours. If you keep letting this continue, it will irrevocably destroy your friendship because you will feel constantly fatigued at having to deal with her racism.
You need to be honest with her about the fact that her racism, which is getting to the point where it’s just flagrant ignorance and dismissal of POC perspectives and no longer microaggressive, is hurting you, and you don’t want this friendship to die.
You don’t have to give up on this project; in fact, it sounds to me that the final result will be a lot stronger and more powerful without her racism tainting its process.
If she flounces, you will know where you ever stood in her esteem.
Good luck! There are other folk out there willing to help you along if you need it.
If you were one of those colorblind liberals in recent times, what made you think differently about POC's struggle? If you're a POC who has one of these friends, what did you do, or would have done differently?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Friendly" Tech

So I was having a conversation on steampunk today on Tumblr, as it occasionally happens, because that is the kind of thing that happens on Tumblr, and then remembered a friend dropped a link to an article on BoingBoing which is really a link to another Tumblr post about Why Steampunk Is Good And Important. I'm not going to lie: I thought the essay itself was kind of inane and boring and didn't say anything that hasn't already been said, and even brackets off some really important concerns with all sorts of handwave-y stuff.  But I was really in a procrastinating mood, so I broke with my policy for a bit and read through the comments. Most of which are the regular run-of-the-mill critiques of steampunk (“it’s not really punk” “it’s just LARP” “it’s not a real movement”) but then I came across this gem of a comment from Scott Saunders of Dieselpunk Industries (which is pretty much an online archive of old movies and serials from that period dieselpunk looks at… pretty neat stuff):
He writes that steampunk “values our bounded selves” and “insistently re-makes technology as something friendly” under a (self?) portrait of a man wearing technology that augments his human sight and strength and carrying a very large handgun. The technology he makes up for his costume is focussed entirely on projecting strength and wielding power. It is not friendly, nor does it value the bounded human condition. It is quite the opposite.
And I want to have ALL THE “THIS!” GIFs attached to this comment because, well, THIS. There is so much talk about how steampunk makes technology friendly, or even how steampunk is a friendly subculture in the first place, that THIS is what gets missed in the conversation: the fact that if you actually pay any attention to the props people are carrying? Steampunk is not friendly, and reflects pretty much all the violence of the period it draws inspiration from, whether it’s outright, like the gun props, or the violence of colonialism implied in the costuming. 

One could read the prosthetic arm and oculars as aiding a disability (because, hey, violent times, you have to expect your eye and arm to get blown off, amirite?) but very often there is this gaping hole where conversations of disability should be—relegating this performance to little more than crip drag. 

And Scott Saunders is right: this is not friendly. This is not a vision of the past or present or future that encourages community. And while rayguns may no longer be the defining item of steampunk anymore that I can see, it’s still pretty prevalent because we haven’t latched onto anything else yet that shouts “steam era, and bad!”

Anyways, discuss if you please.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


My fabulous comrade Ay-Leen wrote an interesting piece called "Yes, I Did Stick A Gear On It" for Steampunk Canada and it harks back to a long-time debate over whether a prop needs to be functional before it can be truly called steampunk. Or something! 

Since my way of navigating steampunk has to do with words (and more words and conversations and discussions) and less performance, I've never really dipped my toe into that debate. It seems a little odd to me! Not all of us are capable of mastering the skills needed to create something functional. In fact, not all of us have the resources and tools needed for functional stuff!

It's not that I'm against the position, either! I fully believe that all my steampunk gear should be stuff I can wear on a regular, non-performative basis. (As an aside, I've started gardening, and considering agricultural forms of engaging with steampunk. Moniquill and Steampunk Emma Goldman had this very brief, interesting chat about how steampunk can use anachronistic tech to help people which is unfortunately frustrated when the focus instead turns to unthinkingly celebrating militarist aesthetics.) (This conversation of theirs was spurred by this Kickstarter Project of a ship that will sail from port to port selling local farmers' produce... a kind of floating farmer's market. It is a hark back to how food was distributed Back In The Day.) I think it's cool when stuff works, just as much as I appreciate the effort that goes into making something that needs no function beyond supporting the imaginative. 

Because I've never been invested in the debate, not being a Maker myself, I don't really know anybody who says "functional is the superior" to the weird extent that keeps being brought up in these debates. (Cory Gross was yelled off Brass Goggles because he didn't Make, period.) I know a lot of people who are in the camp of "non-functional is just as legit" but who are these people who purport that steampunk props must be functional or else it's a form of "glue a gear on it"? Do they have names? Surely they have to have been fairly big names in the past in order to have their opinions become entrenched so firmly into the discourse, but my Google skills... kind of fail me =( *wails "I'm a faaaaaiiilluuuuure" you know how it is* Are they a myth, a strawman? (THEY'RE REAL, RIGHT?)

I think there could be interesting questions to ask here. The folks on the "doesn't have to be!" side use imagination and props together; there is no tension going on there because there is a tacit understanding that the props are exactly that: props. By divorcing themselves from the necessity of functional items, the imagination interacts with the physical items for a particular purpose. 

But those on the side of "function!" are also doing interesting things with their interaction with physical technology too. Maybe I am looking in the wrong places, but surely this conversation is happening somewhere? I don't really feel like theorizing about something if there's already stuff out there.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Silence May Be Golden, But Promises Are Not

It has been a while since original posts that aren't reacting to something have come up on this blog. Part of it is school keeping me busy. Lots to read, lots to digest. And sadly, not all of it helps me ruminate on my new steampunk project: examining white supremacy and neocolonial processes.

Since year I began this blog, I have pretty much said all that needs to be said and I'm much more interested in pushing the conversation further. But how to do that, without pushing my own self further?

So, I've been keeping quiet, and examining. Examining my hubris, examining my privilege. Examining the fact that I want to critique steampunk by distancing myself from it; examining the fact that I have to tear myself away from being on the ground into the ivory tower. Examining the resources I am taking up and being given; reconciling the fact that I am in graduate school at a time when so many undergraduates are struggling to make it through, with the fact that in order to further my goals, I need credentials. Because a woman of colour needs just as many, if not more, credits to her name in order to be taken as seriously as a man. This is thankfully not reflected in my publishing oeuvre thus far.

I know there are some fine Tom Doubters out there who question why I spend so much time "attacking" steampunk when I "claim" to love it. I myself am not a fan of loving the potential over the reality. (Especially boyfriends, do you really want to clean him up in the hopes that you'll have a happy relationship once he gets his act together? but I digress.) There is not much in the reality of steampunk, once you get past the novelty, that is really outstanding. Creative people are always thriving, wherever one goes. We always find a way. 

But there is not much reward in loving mere potentiality, either. When The Steampunk Bible came out, I noticed that works like mine appear in the chapter entitled "The Future of Steampunk" and I got a little mad after the fact. Why are our stories considered "the future" rather than part of the present? 

Feeding ourselves a promise means that we never have to take responsibility for the stupid shit we do today, because In The Future! Things Will Be Better! 

And then when it's not "the future will be better" malarkey, it's the "roots of steampunk" nonsense: that steampunk began with a critique of the modern world and has thus always been about critiquing the modern world. These kinds of critics will cite their Moorcock, their Gibson and Sterling. And when I told this to Monique, she said, "look at the fruits of steampunk now. They don't look anything like what steampunk used to do."

There are two kinds. The kind of steampunk which wants to circumscribe the aesthetic into a particular definition, a particular look that inevitably evokes colonialism whether they want it or not. The kind of steampunk which is "anything goes" and anybody can participate because we are just that inclusive. And even the latter has hubris and some strange arrogance that ignores the implications that if you include just anybody, you are always giving way to the oppressor to participate and take over. 

That includes the oppressor in you, in me, in us. 

So I've been keeping quiet and looking inside, at my participation in an industrial complex that has its roots in institutional oppression, because yes, universities, the bastions of knowledge, are themselves rooted in prestige and status afforded only to an exclusive class. And now, universities, transforming into sites of consumption where you pay for your education, a paper certificate that is supposed to open doors to you, are now becoming sites of consumerism and capitalism where you pay a price to get a product that is supposed to afford you prestige and status through social mobility. Again with the promises! 

I've been keeping quiet and examining my discourse, the discourse I've been pushing forward into the ether, and how it's been changing. I can't speak for Ay-Leen, but the more I present "Steam Around The World," the more aggressive I have become about dealing with racism. It's not a very intersectional approach, but that's what "A Better Steam Society" is for. It still tugs at me. And while my discourse is changing, new people are entering steampunk and they say the exact same thing everyone says when entering steampunk.

It is.... mind boggling, and yet, so interesting. Mind-boggling because it's like, I and so many others have spent all this time building this space and now folks are coming in and ignoring all the furniture we put in there for other people's convenience. And interesting because it proves further to me how steampunk is in a constant state of re-constitution. I haven't yet decided whether I'm more annoyed or more smug. 

A space of constant re-constitution is a good place to be, in my books. But it is also the most dangerous. While the privileged may see this space as dangerous because it could produce something that threatens their privileged, those of us on the side of anti-oppression also need to recognize that it's dangerous because at any time, someone more powerful can come in and occupy it, the way the powerful occupy everything else. 

It wouldn't be such a source of anxiety if I didn't hear so much claptrap about how everyone is equal. 

Ideally, everyone is equal. In reality, that isn't the case. Some of us have more power than others. The refusal to acknowledge this is what lends to the everyday violence that the oppressed face. 

I say this to you as a member of the oppressor class myself: the rich, the comfortable, the one never in fear. 

So I've been keeping quiet, learning about all the discomfiting about privilege and oppression and how I am a part of it. Learning to live with the discomfort. Learning not to leap to defensiveness when a group I recognize as being part of is rightfully attacked for being oppressive. Learning not to disavow that group. 

Promises are valuable only when they are achieved and delivered. 

I have nothing left to say to you that would lead to your promise, your potential of helping everyone who needs you to change the world and overcome the oppressive structures you operate in. I believe in your strength to do so and that is all I can say for now. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Steampunk POC: Theresa Breaux (Black Canadian/American)

Hello, Canada! This time we're talking to Theresa Breaux, a friend of mine on the Toronto steampunk scene, with whom I have hung out and we have counted POC together. It's fun hanging out with her; we've gone to Dundurn Castle together, and had looooong chats about moving across borders (she's from New Orleans!). She writes paranormal romance as well as urban and high fantasy, and she has several writing samples up on her site, so go check her out! I actually got in touch with her back in January, but I suck and only got to this for April. 

Without further ado, Theresa!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fool's Day is also Time To Show Your Racism Day

Locus Magazine, one of the many bastions of white male SFF out there, put out some spoof articles today for April Fool's Day. Among them has this title: "Underpopulated, Bankrupt Detroit Renames Itself “Boilertown,” Goes Into Full Steampunk Mode".

I've read article upon article about Detroit's problems, much of which stem from class and race issues (which in turn then influence other problems). Detroit, already suffering from problems which essentially stem from white supermacist capitalism, is picked to be the butt of this "joke" article. 

About slapping on a white consumerist image onto a poor industrial city often coded as black. 

Let's talk about the erasure of racism in this article. Let's talk about jokingly migrating big names, all of whom are white because seriously apparently this writer cannot think of a single big name in steampunk who is not white, to Detroit. Let's talk about a space where radical dreams are being dreamt and solidarity must be built, and slap on for shits and giggles and a fucking laugh an image driven by consumerism. Let's talk about using manual workers, child labour, disintegration of unions and gentrification as jokes. 

Because these are funny, you know.

Is it satire? Who is it satirizing? Steampunks? Have we forgotten that many steams are regular folk who just like playing dress-up? And does this satire need to come at the expense of having a laugh at a city like Detroit and the issues I pointed out above? 

Of course it's a joke. Privileged racists find it funny to pull shit like this. 

Let's mull on the fact that Locus Magazine, long-established mainstream SFF magazine, had the gall to pull this shit. Let's sit on that. 

This is the establishment. This is how white supremacy is enabled in SFF. This is racism in action. 

And this is why I will not fuck with anything remotely mainstream-looking in steampunk anymore. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

PhD Adventures: The Culture Industry

I was going to post an entire paper I wrote on the discourse of "adventure!" in steampunk, but I got lazy in converting all that academese into plain English, plus my wrist hurts so you get a quote instead:

 The culture industry, as Adorno and Horkheimer saw it, runs on technology owned by the powerful (121) and is designed to push out products that require "quickness, powers of observation, and experience" to apprehend, "yet sustained thought is out of the question if the spectator is not to miss the relentless rush of facts" (127). The culture industry is about style, "the predominance of the effect, the obvious touch, and the technical detail over the work itself" (125) that designed to overwhelm the consumer, "that they fall helpless victims to what is offered them" (133). The culture industry prevents the consumer from the opportunity to apprehend the systemic forces behind the spectacle, and "amusement itself becomes an ideal" (143). 
Adorno and Horkheimer wrote The Dialectic of Enlightenment after fleeing Nazi Germany for, of all places, California, where they saw the same shit happening all over again with how media was being used. 

And this is why we don't want to go mainstream, OK? So let's stop getting excited over the concept. We should totally celebrate when more people get into steampunk, but that's kind of different from going mainstream. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Steampunk POC: Psyche Corporation (Chinese-American)

HAPPY NEW LUNAR YEAR! I, er, did not actually purposefully delay putting up this interview so it would fall on the first Friday of the lunar new year, but I thought about it afterward and really liked the idea. Anyway, this month I present to you that fabulous singer known to the steampunk community as Psyche Corporation! When I first met her, I was pretty impressed by her music and singing. And then I found out she's a med student and went, "hmmm." When I met her again at CNSE, I tried to hang out with her more, but she had to go write a paper, and I went, "oh, she's one of those Asians." You know, those overachieving Asians who embody that model minority stereotype?

I say that with affection, of course, because she really is one of the sweetest and coolest people on the scene. She comes up on stage, does her thang, and then goes off to do further business without much ado. She also has a quirky sense of humour. Evidence:

Myself, PsycheCorpwith a moustachioed
banana she painted with a Yam Yam stick, and Allison Curval  
Also, she has a song about zombies.

PsycheCorp is extremely prolific; the newest album, Crypts and Codes, recently came out, and is the fourth album since 2006. The music is about as weird as the world it was created for, and I caught up with the singer recently to talk about that music, her life in general, and her involvement in steampunk!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Racist Things Steampunks Are Not Immune To: Looking for Other People's Hurt To be Offended By

So this morning I woke up to like two emails about the exact same thing: some nonsense-filled thread talking about "how to not offend people" when it comes to multicultural steampunk. And a cursory glance through the emails, which copied the exact same Facebook thread, proved to me once more how impossible it is to talk to white people who don't want to change their mind about what offensiveness is and what not to do.

While I am certainly pleased to say that there are people who are definitely aware of the implications of what they do, even in some fuzzy way that they wouldn't be able to articulate properly even if their lives depended on it, I am also very well-aware of the fact that there are a ton of people... shall I say, LOOKING FOR OFFENSE. 

The offence comes in the form of some perceived limitation of their actions and options. Well OK, you were looking for offense, so here is some. 

There are some people who will set up strawman arguments about how POC are looking for things to be offended by to the point that these poor folks feel like they're walking on eggshells everytime they move. 

"I can't wear a pith helmet," they will whine, "because then it would be colonialist and thus offensive!"

"I can't wear a kimono," another set will whine, "because then it would offend Asian people!"

"I can't incorporate gypsy styles," some more will whine, "because then I'd be accused of appropriation!"

Can we even consider the absurdity of these statements?

You CAN'T because then... someone will remind you why it sucks for them to see you wearing it?

You CAN'T because then... someone might tell you off and express their anger at you doing it?

You CAN'T because then... someone will remind you they are hurt that their culture has become a commodity item, while they're trying to live their daily lives trying to gain recognition as human beings? 

That's so fucking self-centered I can't even begin to fathom the amount of sociopathy it takes to not empathize with the person who you perceive is being "offended". 

It's also really fucking self-centered because then it starts being all about YOU, and how YOU CAN'T. There is no empathy for anyone else in such statements. There is nothing at all in these statements demonstrating you understand the large-scale problems behind these statements and behind what, exactly, makes these actions so problematic.

Someone expresses anger that you done fucked up again? It's about YOU, and YOUR ANGER, and how YOU FEEL about being put on the spot and made to feel guilty.

I get comments on here sometimes, people looking for offense saying, "well now I know but you didn't have to be so rude about it."

How fucking long have I been writing this blog? Since 2009, folks. 2009! And we STILL have these conversations. And people STILL fuck up. And well-meaning allies whom I do adore STILL get awkward and remain unable to fully articulate in a clear way why this is a problem. 

If politeness got us anywhere, I'd still be writing on here on a regular basis, reviewing white-written work about POC and dealing with the pain I get everytime I see potentially good work ruined because it's clear this person just doesn't talk to a wide range of POC who have various diverse experiences with oppression. Let alone other white people on various axes of oppression, gosh! 

This is not a steampunk problem, this is a cultural problem, this is a problem with white supremacy.

"Steampunk is just fantasy!" cry these assholes looking for things to be offended by.

Well then don't let your fantasy ruin mine!

"People aren't perfect!" whine these assholes looking for offense in perfectly reasonable requests to not do certain things which may cause harm.

Well then go fuck up on your own time and in your own goddamn space! Not where I can see you, not where other people can be collateral damage! 

We ask and ask. We ask nicely and get told "well whatever" and we ask again and get told "you're looking for offense where there's none" and we ask again and we get told "you ALWAYS have a problem and NEVER a solution" and we ask again and we get told "I JUST WANNA DO WHAT I WANT!"

And since you assholes like to make it about YOU, how about I make it about ME.

Because I wanna do what I want too. I want to have fun in steampunk and have great discussions about how steampunk can teach us real history and help us have conversations about the past and how it has been so skewered and mis-read by historians as a site of culture and knowledge and I want to have wonderful dialogue with wonderful people coming up with strategies to help ameliorate current suffering that came about because of the history we want to re-imagine (because mark this: solutions can never come about through ONE PERSON alone, it comes out of cooperation, willingness to listen, and honesty about the problem and if you expect a singular person who notices a problem to come up with a solution on their own, you fall back on individualist hero thinking that got us to where we are in our selfish, self-centered society today).

And you know.... despite all that, I STILL do this. And I CAN do this. Even with assholes railing against our work in trying to point out the problems because they're more keen on digging in their heels to defend their freedom from knowing about other people's hurt and anger, even with ubiquitous louts who aren't willing to even admit that there is a problem or if there is one it's really not that bad and I will still do this even though I know, at every event out there I'm going to come across at least ONE of these irredeemable sociopaths who just wants to look for offense in what I do. 

Because my love is stronger than your ignorance. It is fed by the knowledge of past wrongs never uncovered to the light of day because we are too afraid to reckon with it, and it is fed by the rage of knowing past wrongs still surface in different ways today, and it is fed by the pain I feel that every thing I consume, every move I make, every cent I spent, is part of a machine built by greedy people and run by their fearful, perhaps innocent minions and oiled by cowards. 

And yes, my love manifests with fury and vengeance, and if you cannot fathom how this can even be, yet allow that injustices will happen and you don't have to hew your mind to fully comprehending your place in it, you're not as open-minded, or as inclusive, or as welcoming as you like to think you are, because you cannot seem to accept that there are variegated ways of being and doing that are beyond even your measly comprehension. 

So yeah, go ahead, go DO that thing you want to do! Just don't limit the reactions you're going to receive from them... because that's not welcoming either. Don't try to tell people how they SHOULD react to you. Frankly, I highly doubt anybody is going to engage with you out of the blue about your offensive-ass costume because if you had the brainlessness to even wear it out in public, you probably wouldn't have the peace of mind to handle any criticism of it without doing some crazy mental acrobatics justifying that shit you're wearing. I don't know, maybe you do, there have been such miracles in the past. (How sad is it that this is a miracle to us?)

Just do it far away from me. The fandom's big enough, right? 'Cos I'm certainly not looking for fuck-ups anymore and I don't even have to because people keep pointing them out to me. I got better shit to do, cut me a break and go fuck up somewhere else.

But never mistake that I am offended by anything anymore... no, I've COME to expect this sort of racist shit. I'm done having high expectations for you folks. 

And you people "afraid" of giving offense... you sure do take a lot of offense when being told you've being offensive.

I'm now going to go read about slave ships. I'll see you all later.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Steampunk POC: Balogun Ojetade (Black)

It's 2013! I surprisingly have not run out of POC in steampunk to interview! How about that. And kicking off this year is Atlanta-based Balogun Ojetade, a strong proponent for Black steampunk like no other steampunk I've ever come across. Balogun has a long history centering blackness in other genres of writing, and he burst onto the steampunk scene with Moses: the Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, a steampunk take on the legend herself.

Since publishing The Chronicles of Harriet, Balogun has gone on to host the Mahogany Masquerade, a Black-centric steampunk event, and co-edit SteamFunk!, a Black-centric steampuk anthology. So I poked him recently to see if he'd be down with an interview, and he was.