Another Steampunk Storm in a Teacup?

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On May 7th, 2016 an argument broke out in the Facebook group “Music for Steampunks” over the subject of defining Steampunk Music. In one corner was Robert Brown (AKA Captain Robert) of the band Abney Park and in the other corner was a tag team of people, some from other Steampunk bands such as AUTOMATON and Vernian Process. The dispute continued for days afterwards and spawned passive aggressive posts on either side, a satirical video, online articles, and a lot of “bruised” Steampunks, but at the end of the day who won?

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The answer is . . . no one!


Evelyn Kriete upon the iron throne.

Both sides of this latest Steampunk flareup had some valid points, and both sides managed to embarrass themselves with their not-so-valid points. Things seem to have settled down now (and no, this post is not an attempt to rock the boat again), but resentments are still simmering at the edges of many keyboards. What was most fascinating to those of us on the sidelines, however, was how much it reminded us of four years ago when the Steampunk Community was in uproar about the “Good Reads Scandal of 2012.” The Facebook group “Steampunk Revolution” alludes to the summer of 2012 when many USA based Steampunks “revolted” against then perceived Steampunk authorities Evelyn Kriete and GD Falksen. Tensions had been brewing for a while, cloaks and daggers were poised, and for a moment it played out like an episode of Game of Thrones, or some bad soap opera. The “Good Reads Scandal” was the spark that lit the powder keg of a Steampunk “civil war” that some claim resulted in the collapse of the World Steam Expo in Detroit.

Robert Brown

Did Captain Robert of Abney Park do a “Falksen”?

The Steampunk Journal‘s response to the recent drama was written by Matthew deMaris Esq., asking “Are Abney Park close to alienating a large chunk of their fanbase?” The post has some inflammatory language and makes a comparison of Brown to Kriete and Falksen, coining the term “Doing a Falksen” which is “the unfortunate trap of trying to tell people what is and isn’t steampunk.” It is an unfortunate trap indeed, but it is one that, like a minefield, litters online forums all over the place. Periodically (actually it’s a regular occurrence) someone new to the Steampunk Community will seek definition and check in with the question “is THIS steampunk?” Under the best circumstances, people are generally supportive and allow the newcomer space to explore what works as Steampunk for him or her . . . but then too often there are those who leap into that minefield and begin to cast judgement on what is and is not Steampunk. This in turn sets off a chain reaction of keyboard explosions and things escalate into drama. Next thing you know people are being banned, the beacons are lit, and the war drums sound out. Whether right or wrong, one thing that Steampunks seem to LOVE to HATE is being told what can and cannot be Steampunk!

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“Steampunk’d” judge Thomas Willeford.

The sad reality is that this will happen again, and then later again, and so on. What is disturbingly fascinating, however, is the manner in which some will use such controversies to try and “dethrone” the “celebrities” of the Steampunk Community. Currently Caesar’s daggers are pointed at Robert Brown, but last year it was Thomas Willeford and disputes over the TV gameshow Steampunk’d. Society, mostly via the media, has a tendency of building up celebrities and then tearing them down, but with the Steampunk Community there is an up close perspective on this process. Many of you are “friends” with them on social media, you’ve hung out with them at conventions, maybe even got drunk with them; they are more immediately accessible and thus vulnerable. Given that the Steampunk Community is full of creative and talented people, many come to realize that they are just as talented, possibly more so, as the “celebrities.” Does this then lead to resentment? Are we envious of those who have made a successful career in Steampunk? Is the compulsion to expose perceived charlatans, and reveal that the emperor is naked, for the betterment of the Steampunk Community or for our own egos?

A small economy has grown around Steampunk and there are those who manage to pay the rent, feed their kids, and survive off of the goods, services, and entertainment they sell to the Steampunk Community. In these cases the debates, power shifts, and flame wars have a real world impact and therefore are probably best avoided by those who rely on Steampunk to pay the bills. Regardless, however, of whether you’re a professional or an amateur in the Steampunk world, please don’t lose sight of the fact that this is supposed to be enjoyable. All the debates of what is and what is not Steampunk lose focus of the notion that we are adults playing “dress-up.” For those who begin to take it all too seriously, the sarcastic reply “Oh I’m sorry that my make-believe is not as accurate as yours” does have a valid point.

The Steampunk Community is overbrimming with creativity, and thankfully many ladies and gentlemen are happy to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. As a couple of time traveling philosophers once said, “Be Excellent to Each Other!

PS: Yes the comments are switched off. 99% of what gets submitted is spambots that managed to fool the security point, so it’s easier to just switch it off. Plus, another wise person once said “never read the comments” 🙂

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