Friday, April 1, 2011

Steampunk Lifestyle

Jeremy and I have been asked how we got "in to" Steampunk.  It isn't really an easy question to answer, not unlike: "How did Jerermy choose landscape architecture as a profession?"   Well it all started when Jeremy was a little boy and his dad would teach him the names of trees, then in high school he got into bonzai trees and zen gardening. . . So our coming into steampunk was kind of similar, small things over a long time that in the end added up to steampunk. 

During the dessert portion of our SteamPatrick's Day dinner I presented a reading from a blog I found recently whose author claims to be living a steampunk lifestyle.  He brought up some intriguing points about steampunk culture, and interestingly shed some light on how it is that Jeremy and I have found ourselves wearing bustles and bowler hats while snacking on corned beef. 

Greyshade, the author, gives his definition of a steampunk lifestyle.  A lot of people think of steampunk as simply a "genre" or a "fan culture" of people at comic conventions in outrageous costumes.  But he describes it as a movement of people wanting to combine some of the better parts of an older version of our society and technologies along with some of the better parts of our current society and technologies.

So steampunk differs, for example, from the fan culture of Renaissance fair-goers who are reenacting a time period. Steampunk is about improving upon the Victorian era with the better aspects of today or even of the future.  So why not just live in today and the future then?  Well, because there are some things that have not improved over the decades. Today's society can hardly be called as such--no one "socializes" anymore.  

I realized in reading that essay that us sitting there in a group having dinner and a discussion--something that used to be a regular source of socialization and enlightened conversation-- is very much not common in today's society where most everyone lives their lives online.  In today's society all interaction is digital and all entertainment is virtual.  We rebel against that.  That's how we're steampunk.

Greyshade's essay also addresses the fact that with the advent of the industrial revolution households began to shift from being units of production, to the average household of today which is merely a unit of consumption.  We rebel against that.  All our efforts in chicken farming, in backyard gardening, and sourdough bread-making make us just a little more steampunk.  We do things the old way, but with help of some of today's technology.  I gratefully search the internet for fast and diverse results when researching home yogurt making, or free patterns for sewing sunhats for my boys, and in my never ending search for new and delicious real food recipes. 

So why do we choose Steampunk then?  The same ideals can be seen in a number of coexisting movements around the world and country.  Urban Homesteading, the Slow Food Movement, Going Green and many others all include similar ideas.

Steampunk first came out as a sub-genre of science fiction.  That's where the term was coined.  Well Jeremy and I like science fiction.  Jeremy loves stories and movies with robots (sentient or manned) and I've always particularly liked speculative fiction.  So steampunk incorporates hobby with lifestyle--isn't that everyone's dream? 

What I particularly liked about Greyshade's essay was the assurance that what Jeremy and I do is definitely a little bit steampunk and if we want to call it that we can, even when we don't own any mini steam-powered robots, and the closest we'll get to creating working steampunk gadgetry are spray-painted Nerf guns.  Jeremy and I are still incorporating a lot more steampunk into our party (and lifestyle) than is visible in our simple but fun amateur costumes. 

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