Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Link: Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Surfacing from writing my prospectus, editing the SEAsteampunk manuscript, and preparing for the end-of-quarter madness to drop off a few important links.

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva's book, Racism Without Racists: Colorblind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States, is a 2006 book in PDF and it's basically what it says on the tin. 

If the book is too tl;dr for you (and it is, after all, a BOOK), here is a Pyschology Today article on the same topic: "Colorblind Ideology is a Form of Racism"

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Colours of Steampunk Shopping

So, I am one of those geeks who get JoAnn's discounts (thanks, Andrea, for introducing me to this franchise, I really needed a moneysuck in my life) and yesterday I went to the store to have a look at what wares they offer. 

I've bought a couple of books that have "Steampunk" somewhere in the title, mostly DIY craft books that aren't functionally different from most other craftbooks, except the examples they give are things that are labeled "steampunk" which, I have to say, aren't really functionally different from other things either... they've just got a certain shape and colour.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Steampunk Postcolonialist at Clockwork Couture's Steampunk Extravaganza!

I'm very excited to announce (and probably should have done it earlier but I don't really know how many of my readers are actually in Southern California) that I'll be at a book signing at Clockwork Couture, an Extravaganza of Comics and Literature!

Here is the wonderful lineup I'm honoured to be a part of:

Dru Pagliassotti - The Clockwork Heart Series 
Elizabeth Watasin - The Dark Victorian Series and Charm School Graphic Novels 
Jaymee Goh - Steampunk World (that's me!)
Madeleine Holly-Rosing - Boston Metaphysical Society Comic and Novellas 

Clockwork Couture is at 707 South Main Street, Burbank, CA 91506 (Between Alameda and Verdugo), and the event run from 2pm - 6pm.

If you are on the Facebooks, because apparently I am also now on the Facebooks, you can announce your attendance at the Facebook event here.

Have a pretty picture, and tell all your friends! See you there!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Goggling at Goggles

Sometime last year, I received an email from the proprietor of Steampunk Goggles, Dennis Consorte, for a plug on the site, possibly a review of goggles. Yes, this was last year, as in 2013, when I had practically no life, because grad school. I did not reply because of school, among other reasons. 

Among the other reasons is the fact that I... don't really wear goggles.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Outside Looking In

A couple years ago, I sat on a panel at SteamCon*. I'd proposed the panel, the title of which I no longer remember, as a think-tank on how the steampunk community presents itself (or how steampunk communities present themselves, or how steampunk is presented by anybody), and how the public at large sees steampunk.

Friday, July 18, 2014

THE SEA IS OURS promotional artwork!

The steampunk postcolonialist is once again heading to San Diego Comic Con, but this time as a mere attendee on the sufferance of the amazing Ay-Leen the Peacemaker of Beyond Victoriana. She'll be on The Witty Women of Steampunk panel this year, as well as running the Tor booth, so please come out to visit her! 

I, for my part, will be swanning around with flyers for the Carl Brandon Society, and promotional postcards for STEAMPUNK WORLD (you know, the steampunk anthology I'm in with Nisi Shawl and the one with artwork by James Ng) and THE SEA IS OURS. I only thought about this last minute and ran about like a headless chicken trying to figure out how to put together a promo card for THE SEA IS OURS, and turned to Shing Yin Khor, of Sawdust Press, I'd been following her Tumblr for quite some time now--she has this lovely delicate watercolour style, just the sort of thing I like! (I would have appealed to the amazing calligrapher Likhain but she is rather busy right now.) 

"Shing," I said, trying to put as much wheedling into one email as possible, "Shing shing shing, can you pleeeeaaase throw together something for THE SEA IS OURS so we can use it at SDCC?" 

She asked me, "what do you want on it? Is there an overarching theme for the anthology?"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Achievement Unlocked in PhD Adventures

Before I forget again, just to officially announce it here, I recently sat for my qualifying exams over the first two weeks of June, and defended on the 19th. My committee was very interested in what I have to say about steampunk and generally agreed that I had too many ideas and not a single cohesive argument. Which, yeah, it's true. I forgot to cite Mwanda Ntarangi's Reversed Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology, as the type of project I want to do on steampunk (although more a POC Ethnography of Eurocentric Steampunk, I suppose). 

I have advanced to official PhD Candidacy, and reached the much sought-after ABD status.

Cupcakes of congratulations are much appreciated. With any luck, I shall be back to regular blogging (haha, as if I ever blogged regularly) soon enough to share with you the things I am reading!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Once More, With Feeling: A Belated Response

Sometimes last year, after Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution  edited by Ann Vandermeer came out, acclaimed SF critic John Clute wrote a review that was bounced from the essay that Ann Vandermeer graciously had me rewrite for inclusion into the anthology, in which I wrote a long call-out of steampunk, not merely of the performative aspect, but also of the literary, the communal, and the creative. (At least, I think it is supposed to be a review; much of it was spent not actually talking about the book itself, so I am not sure.) Clute sidestepped my criticism by focusing on the literary, the "roots" of steampunk, as it were. To quote:

"the extremely loose set of fictions that were retroactively treated as taproot texts for late-century/new-century Steampunk were in fact pure story, certainly if storytellers are most subversive of hegemony when they tell bad news with what looks like a smile but is not, for the original Steampunk texts are precisely not a nostalgic immersion in some polished-brass, utopianized version of Victorian England requiring only a twitch of the kaleidoscope to come true."

There are two claims in this sentence bubbling over with long words that I certainly would have been told to re-write by any professor and editor of mine: 1) the texts from which steampunk were coined were "pure story" (a term that could be read to mean either "totally divorced from reality" or "so real it hurts") 2) that call out the terribleness of the Victorian times for what they are. And, from what I understand, this is how we get an anti-hegemony writer like Michael Moorcock (and somehow his work from the 1960s which would later influence his Nomad of the Time Streams series will be relevant, because literary lineage). As well as a plethora of other writers who form, I suppose, the canon of "early" steampunk.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Article List Update and other stories

As I procrastinate prepare for quals, have an updated list in the "Read These Before Engaging" tab. I've added four new articles (one of them is actually an ebook), all of them in PDF for you to read on your ereader of choice. They are also all academic articles. Please note the nuances between the different types of racism. Of course it is easy to slip into the "all racism leads to the same racist end" mode, but I think there is value in noting the different manifestations of racism. If anyone is interested I'll post a more much comprehensive reading list on studies of racism.

What is perhaps most depressing is how long these studies have been going on, how long the discourse surrounding racism has been rearticulated and given nuance, and yet still at large we are stuck with people who insist on using a faulty dictionary definition for their arguments on racism.

On a different note I finally read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and am disappointed there are not more kraken battles and anti-colonial fisticuffs and most of it is just Arronax and Nemo swanning around taking a tour of the oceans with a litany of cataloging sea creatures, geography,  shipwrecks and a Canadian whaler's constant whinging about being stuck in a submarine. (I also mistakenly thought, for some reason, that the submarine could go 20,000 leagues in depth, but no it's 20,000 leagues of a tour of the planet's oceans.) Clearly I am a philistine for my assumptions.

I don't remember if I mentioned meeting Balogun Ojetade; a very fine encounter of minds! Bryan Thao Worra, who works on Laotian speculative fiction, mostly Lovecraft but he's also thought through Laotian steampunk, was also there. Balogun spoke extensively of his new movie, Rites of Passage, which looks tremendously action-packed, and of the challenges he's faced, being cheated in the media production industry. 

WisCon put me at long last face-to-face with my publisher, Bill Campbell, of Rosarium Publishing! I have new books: Day Black (about a black vampire who, I guess, daylights as a tattoo artist) and John Jennings' new artbook, Pitch Black Rainbow. You should check out his catalog and buy stuff because you would be supporting POC artists. Besides THE SEA IS OURS, Bill will also publish an anthology tribute to Samuel Delany, edited by steampunk novelist Nisi Shawl! Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter.

I also got the chance to meet Tim Powers sometime last week when he came to UC Riverside to speak about a writing process through a paranoid lens on reading history. He is a funny speaker, much like KW Jeter, but of course I saved my steampunk question until after the talk, and he told me, "yeah, I don't know much about steampunk or why I got classified into it, but it keeps me at cons and brought the Anubis Gates back into print!" He is also incredibly gracious and warm.

I have three more written exams to go, and my oral defense is on the 19th. I will see you after!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Secret Questions: Rest In Power, Yuri Kochiyama

I don't remember how I learned about Yuri Kochiyama; I know it was sometime after I grew into feminism, and was slowly learning about race identity and what that could potentially mean. I had very little sense of what Asian America was, what its relationship to Black America was, where it stood in the purview of white supremacy. But somehow I stumbled upon her name, and finding her biography interesting, I decided to look her up elsewhere.
I came across a Youtube video interview with her, of two young Asian women asking Yuri Kochiyama (and I thought, "how grand it must be to meet such a venerable elder" because it is the elders who have the stories that inform us how the world works, and it is through oral re-telling that such stories get transmitted) how she became involved in activism. I don't remember where the video is or what she said exactly, but she spoke about learning of the Native American genocides and how terrible it was that no one knew, and, I paraphrase, "how can you not do something about it?"

Other people have written more about her work and I didn't grow up knowing about her significance at all, but that question really stuck to me. When one sees injustice, how can one not do something, anything, about it? How can one just choose to turn away? It's not that I grew up with that kind of apathy, but none of my immediate family are activists. None of them move with the same quiet roar of righteousness I've seen from these luminaries.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

SPWF's New Anti-Harassment Policy

I'm given to understand, from my dear friends Ay-Leen and O.M.Grey, that recently Jeff Mach, teddy bear and con owner of Steampunk World's Fair, introduced a working document of Jeff Mach Events Harassment Policy.

A cursory glance shows that it's a very easy-to-read document detailing what is considered harassment (stuff that ought to be understood and tken for granted by every adult reading it), what steps an attendee can take if they are harassed (a reasonable number of options including individual confrontation and escalation procedures), how con staff will respond (ideally; it remains to be seen how it actually will work out BUT it offers a nice standard for expectations), and finally a section on how to avoid being accused of harassment and what not to do if found guilty.

Jeff Mach had been in and out of touch with me several times before, requesting assistance in developing an anti-harassment policy in response to my post in solidarity with O.M. Grey's Order of the White Feather efforts to support members of the steampunk community who have been assaulted and hold the accused accountable. I thought it was very nice of him, so although I declined to work directly on it, grad school and all, I directed him to a few places where he could get started.

It's a pleasure to see that something has come to fruition. I find the language very clear, and the terms on what constitutes harassment is really quite reasonable. Some of the document could use tightening and reference to New Jersey laws, to be clear that harassment is unlawful and to impress on con attendees that here is a convention dedicated to making sure the law is on the victim's side. He should also put the staff through some professional training--it will be far more useful and those are useful skills for anywhere.

But what's this I hear? About a dust-up on the SPWF FB page protesting this step taken to protect potential victims of harassment? Well goodness gracious me slap my gun and call it Fanny I never.

..... That's code for "I am completely unsurprised" in case the sarcasm didn't get through. After what happened to O.M.Grey, after the backlash I received for even a hint of besmirching a steampunk idol, after all the "reasonable debates" I've both witnessed and had the misfortune to be a part of, I am not surprised at all that such a policy, that lays out clearly that what usually is tacitly accepted is now no longer acceptable, has received such a furious backlash. Apparently there are people calling it draconian. There are vendors threatening to pull out. This is only hearsay on my part, seeing as I do not have FB and therefore cannot witness this myself, and probably a good thing too, because I don't think I could handle this much casual misogyny at this point of my life.

Apparently being open about wanting to protect attendees from what is quotidian assholism (that oftentimes goes right into rights violation) is something worth getting riled up over. Apparently it's a bad thing to want to take initiative towards making a space safer and friendlier for women and other easily-harassed people. Apparently this is so ideologically-questionable it is worth giving up business for.

I think it is always worth saying, with a suitably accusatory finger, that if you choose to be angry over being told what you can't do towards women because it somehow violates your rights, you are most definitely part of the problem. You are part of the people who would rather be allowed to do what the hell you want to do at the expense of other people's discomfort, rather than rein in your own worthless self. You are part of the distress we face everyday just existing in public spaces. And if your response is to tell us to pull up our big girl britches then you clearly have more selfishness for your own desires than any care for women.

Fucking leave and never darken our doors again. We won't miss you, and you'll be replaced by people who won't have any trouble with the policy of openly declaring that harassers are a problem. They will be just as skilled and just as cool with the added bonus of not being fucking assholes. So get ye gone already.

I encourage Jeff Mach Events to stand their ground in face of the criticism because the safety of attendees is not something to be compromised on. Dedication to making a con experience better for vulnerable people also means getting flak from people who prey on them. Sure I expect some fuck-ups along the way in the enacting these policies, but I very much appreciate the initiative taken.

And I feel a bit sad, simultaneously, that it took this long.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

SteamFUNK at Cal State U! May 8, 2014

Fabulous steamfunkateer founder Balogun Ojetade, of the Chronicles of Harriet, will be coming to Southern California next month! He will be part of EagleCon 2014's programming on indie comics, superheroes, critical thought and the creative industries surrounding them.

Balogun will be screening the new steamfunk movie "Rite of Passage"!

Thursday, May 8, 2014 (2:30 – 3:05p)
1st Floor | U-SU | Theatre


He will also be on a Steamfunk 101 panel discussion afterwards:

Thursday, May 8, 2014 (4:30 – 4:20p) 3rd Floor | U-SU | Alhambra Room
Steamfunk is an increasingly popular style of art and writing and a rapidly-growing area of study that combines the existing world of “steampunk” with the history and context of the African and African-American cultures.  This introduction to the world of steam funk is presented by two of the foremost leading authorities on the subject. 

Check out EagleCon's other programming and buy tickets from their website! I'm hoping to get a ride out that day so I can finally meet the man, fingers crossed!

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Finally, it's happening. I found a publisher to take on the project of a Southeast Asian steampunk anthology. Bill Campbell of Rosarium Publishing, which also recently published Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond in which my short story "Between Islands" is reprinted, very kindly extended an offer to me and Joyce Chng to co-edit an anthology which we are calling THE SEA IS OURS: TALES OF STEAMPUNK SOUTHEAST ASIA!

We currently have a cohort of really excellent SEAsian writers on the SFF scene, and Joyce and I are very interested in encouraging more talent across the region. We're looking for a wide range in terms of stories, characters, histories and geographies. 

Here is the official announcement with a fuller FAQ section, but for general guidelines hit the read through!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"London Waka" by Robert Sullivan

I have just finished reading Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, edited by Grace Dillon, and Dr. Dillon ended the anthology with a superb poem by Robert Sullivan, a Maori poet (Ngā Puhi). In her introduction to Sullivan's piece, Dillon shares the gist of another of his poems, called "London Waka" which briefly lays out an alternate history in which Maori warriors take over England, ransack its museums returning the loot stored in them, and free the British colonies, thereby creating alliances with basically a quarter of the whole world. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Customization and Class Privilege

In conversations and research, certain concepts, ideas, pop up repeatedly, as if they're core principles of How To Do Steampunk. Among them is customization, the idea that you can take something that may or may not have been mass-produced, tinker with it, and make it "your own", so to speak, fitting your taste and persona. Sometimes customization means ordering it made just for you, and paying for the service. Sometimes customization also means using something as it is, but in a way that is different from what it was originally made for. 

We can call this knack any number of names. Pastiche, the bringing together of elements from many different places into a cohesive whole, in which the elements are recognizable, is one way. Bricolage, my other favourite, the twisting of elements from their original purpose into another cohesive whole, is another. Sometimes we go whole hog, and sometimes we just pilfer little things here and there. 

What interests me is this intersection of customization and class privilege, which is another thing I've seen come up time again.... from people who would like to get into steampunk. They don't, because that entails the disposable income to firstly buy these things, and secondly, the further disposable income to customize them. 

Even if you make your own things, or modify them yourself, you have to be in possession of a few other things that enable this: the requisite skills, and the requisite tools. 

The skills one may be lucky enough to have learned, through exposure. Some of us do still grow up in families that preserve these skills. Some of us are lucky enough to meet others who are willing to share their knowledge (like me; I knew some basic stitching from Home Economics in secondary school, but without Wilma I certainly would never have developed past that). 

The tools, one may be lucky enough to have inherited, or maybe one picks them up over a long period of time at the same time one picks up the skills. 

But let us assume a lack of access to either--let us remember that most of us don't have the disposable income to buy the tools, nor the disposable time to learn the skills. What then? What are their options? Payment. 

I hesitate to say that steampunk can only be exclusive as a result of this. I'm sure that there are ways in which working-class people are participating. It may be more accurate to say that they are living the steampunk life, not merely participating in the subculture. 

At this conjecture, anyone who feels compelled to point to steampunk books in which working-class characters are strong, admirable protagonists---PUT. THE BOOK. DOWN. I am of course aware that many fine authors feature working-class protagonists, and have reviewed a few such books. I'm not talking about the literary imagination, I am talking about real life, and in real life, at our real-life steampunk cons, we would not openly open a conversation on our income background.

Mostly because that's not the function of these cons. These are escapist spaces where we move to get away from the real world for a bit. 

This exists in tension with the fact that we have to support our artists, who are dedicating their time and often a lot of emotional investment in making money through their art. I've never really seen a discussion that honestly tackles the fact that we encourage the development of specific skill-sets and then also encourage the consumption of the production of these skill-sets. The idea is that the community has space for both: not everyone has the inclination to develop skills, so they buy instead. And this isn't necessarily contradictory, but I think it is worth interrogating how it is really working out for us and asking what dynamic our communities are supporting. 

This sort of DIY personal expression is very appealing--that you could fit into the group and yet still maintain a unique look that you could wear to perform a role. I don't think there is any real tribalism going on in steampunk communities, but certainly like other aesthetics past, it's congealed communities around itself.