Destination . . . 1987!

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To celebrate 30 years since he coined the term “Steampunk” we have author K.W. Jeter as our featured Guest of Honour for the 2017 International Steampunk Symposium. Our theme for the show is “30 Years of Steampunk” as we highlight the evolution of a literary sub-genre into a full fledged community of misfits, makers, and more. Attendees, however, have already been questioning what does “30 Years of Steampunk” look like in terms of costuming for the theme, and many of them have concluded that it means Steampunking 1987! So what were some of the pop culture highlights of 1987?

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In cinema, 1987 saw the release of some great films that have stood the test of time. Perhaps a romantic tale of the Airship Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride? Or cries of “Get to the ah-ship!” as jungle soldiers escape a steampowered alien hunter from Predator? Or a steampowered robot Bobby from Robocop? How about a gang of vampires who race the streets of London on their penny-farthings while fighting Captain Hook in The Lost Boys? And in those same dark penny dreadful shadows of sadistic desire, what would the cenobites of Hellraiser look like with top hats? From outer space, and from the 2014 Cincinnati Comic Expo, we have already seen a group of Cincinnati Steampunks put a steampunk spin on the 1987 classic comedy Spaceballs!

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Steampunk “Spaceballs”. Starting on the left: Helix Coil, Hanah Tikvah, Tess la Coil, and CaelynTek.

The television of 1987 had a number of new shows emerge; some have withstood the test of time, while others have slipped into the shadows of cult classics. The show Beauty and the Beast has a number of outfits ripe for Steampunk costuming, or how about the Steampunk Ninja Turtles instead of being “teenage” or “mutant”? 1987 was also the year that The Simpsons made its debut on The Tracy Ullman Show. Perhaps the most prominant show to be first aired in 1987 (September 28th to be precise) was Star Trek – The Next Generation which breathed a legacy of new life into the franchise. A number of people already steampunk Trek uniforms in what some have dubbed Steam Trek.

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Exactly three weeks before the USS Enterprise D flew across our screens, Sylvester McCoy became the seventh Doctor Who. On the subject of Doctor Who, that same year during a showing of the Doctor Who story “Horror of Fang Rock“, Chicago PBS station WTTW-TV Channel 11 is interrupted for 88 seconds by a pirate television transmitter overriding the station’s transmission signal to broadcast a video of himself in a Max Headroom mask being spanked. Back to Steampunk, McCoy’s Doctor Who was initially in possession of the most Steampunk TARDIS ever in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie with Paul McGann.

In the world of gaming, November 15th, 1987 was the European release of The Legend of Zelda, and about a month later December 17th saw the release of Mega Man in Japan. There are also plenty of other films, shows, and we haven’t even mentioned music, and more from 1987 that we look forward to seeing steampunk’d for next April. It is exciting that this spin on the Symposium’s theme has come from the attendees, and in response this needs to be the themed portion of next year’s costume contest . . . we are going to see some great and very nostalgic outfits come April 28th-30th, 2017 🙂


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