Jeff Mach Speaks: Musings on Steampunk

Jeff Mach, Himself

People keep asking me: What IS Steampunk? How do I do it? Am I dressing “correctly”? How do I make it a part of my music, my art, my life, or failing that, do you know a good Steampunk Halloween costume?

These are all great questions (yes, including the last one!) I’ve seen Steampunk go through a lot of evolution – there was a long time when people dismissed it by saying, “Steampunk is what happens when Goths discovered brown”, or diminished it by saying that it was only “Victorian Science Fiction” (oddly, people didn’t seem to notice that the people saying this were Victorian Science Fiction writers. But Steampunk is something much bigger.

Steampunk is gigantic, ever-unfolding playground which we can use for any sort of wondrous peculiarity associated with a 19th-century world that might-have-been. Even more, though, Steampunk is something we can use to help transform our 21st century lives into more enthralling, more fascinating, more splendidly unexpected places and things.

I’ll write about as much of it as I can possibly fit! Come on and read – I hope you enjoy it!

Bacon Cheddar Cookies: A Total Victory Steampunk Dessert

Cheese, marvelous cheese!Bacon Cheddar Cookies: A Total Victory Steampunk Dessert

(From The Steampunk Cookbook.)

It is paradoxical, yet true, to say, that the more we know, the more we find ridiculous food is actually delicious.

-Alternative History Nikola Tesla

No, you didn’t get hit with a Confusion spell. These are savory cookies that can be eaten alone or crumbled over a salad. Either way, it’s a head trip you don’t want to miss!

You can always double down on the bacon, if you want.  Feel free to increase the number of bacon slices in this recipe.

Actually, you MIGHT have been hit with a Confusion spell.  But you might also simply have been drinking absinthe with Picasso and Tesla, and awakened with brilliant ideas for a mixture of flavours.  Enjoy it now, and don’t let Thomas Edison steal your great ideas!

Yield:35

Skill Level: 2

Ingredients:

4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped finely
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 stick softened butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Directions:

In a large skillet over medium high heat cook the chopped bacon until very crisp.  Drain on paper towel.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, cayenne pepper, butter, egg, egg yolk, and cream.  Mix until well combined.

Add the shredded cheese and crisp bacon to the work bowl and mix on low speed until combined.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured board and roll into a log about 1 1/2″ around.  Wrap the log in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours up to overnight.

During the last half hour of chilling heat your oven to 350°F.

Once chilled slice into 1/4″ thick disks and place about 1/2″ apart on an un-greased cookie sheet (you could also cut it in half, roll each half flat and use your favorite cookie cutter).

Bake for 18 to 25 minutes, or until the cookies are just turning golden around the edges and the cookies are firm to the touch. 

Cool on a rack until they are slightly warm.

 

 

Building (Metaphorical) Steampunk Playgrounds

“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.”
-Neil Gaiman

So I run events for a living. But I don’t call myself an event organizer; I call myself a Playground Builder. And here’s why:

My younger brother is developmentally disabled. He’s 35 now, but his mental age is somewhere in the 2-4ish range. (I can tell you: My brother was a 30-year-old My Little Pony fan way before it was cool.)

And Louis loves the things kids love. Trick or treating. Toy stores. Playgrounds. It was the playgrounds which taught me the best lesson, and I’d like to share it with you.

Louis is a kid. That’s how he acts, that’s how he sees himself. He’s not big for his age – something arrested his physical growth as well as his mental acuity – but he’s easily twice the size of the people he perceives as his “age”. And he really doesn’t speak as well as someone who is three or four; he’s got unusual verbal tics and mannerisms.

This is the thing:

The worst playground in the world is the one where kids turn away from him, won’t respond when he talks to him, or, hardest of all, laugh.

The best playground in the world is the one where a person, usually so small in comparison that they need to reach way way up to do it, takes him by the hand and leads him over to come and play.

In other words, the playground matters very little..,.compared to the players.

I don’t build physical playgrounds; I build events. And if you want to try to have a great event, I believe you should try to have events which encourage wonderful people. And don’t be afraid of seeming corny or silly – sure “wonderful people” sounds more like a description for a kid’s show than a kink event. I don’t care; the phrasing works. Praise kindness and model it in your own actions. Value respect. Fight for safety even when it’s very hard to know how to make a space “safe”. Discourage hateful people. Turn down their money; urge them to take their business elsewhere.

Let me give you, then, my big secret, the formula, the recipe for a great event:

1. Attract amazing people and try to treat them well.
2. That’s it.

-Jeff Mach
Jeff Mach Events

The New Year’s Steampunk

Vintage steampunk design background with airship, clocks, fireworks and steam engine elements. Grunge textured digital photo illustration. Orange and cyan tones.

The New Year’s Steampunk will be different from the Steampunk that came before it. And in fact, that is true of every year Steampunk has ever existed, and it is incredible.

Think about it. Steampunk has evolved and grown and changed every year. Yet it is still this familiar and magical thing that we love. We have kept our favorite performers and artists and creators with us, and we have also discovered new ones. We have sometimes kept and sometimes changed our personal styles, and either way, our fellow Steampunks have embraced us. We have continued to be a friendly, welcoming, joyous place!  How rare, how wonderful that is!

And it’s still because of this: nobody was born into some Royal family of Steampunk. Nobody is the ruler of Steampunk, or the person who tells everyone what to do. We have lots of people who create fashions, but nobody gets mad if you are fashion statement is brand-new or has been with you for eight years. Our musicians are constantly creating new arch, but no single band defines Steampunk. No person defines Steampunk. No event defines Steampunk.

The New Year’s Steampunk will be incredible, because we choose to make it that way. We choose to be welcoming. We choose to create. We choose to inspire and be inspired. We choose to make a world that welcomes the new and treasures the old.

Hello, New Year! I cannot wait to see what wonders are waiting for us, being unlocked every single day by the marvelous, spectacular culture of brass and steam which infuses our lives with the peculiar, the eccentric, the glorious, and the fantastic!

-Jeff Mach
Jeff Mach Events

My Steampunk New Year’s Resolutions

This is a picture of me - Jeff Mach - taken at The Steampunk World's Fair by Babs Who Takes Pictures. As usual, I am utterly confused by my surroundings.

This is a picture of me – Jeff Mach – taken at The Steampunk World’s Fair by Babs Who Takes Pictures. As usual, I am utterly confused by my surroundings.

As a Steampunk, a dreamer, and a generally weird individual, I hereby make the following resolutions for 2018:

I plan to go out there and be as strange as I want, and as normal as I want, and not to worry about which is which.  If other people want to call me weird, I will take it as a compliment.  If they don’t mean it that way, then that is their loss!

I am going to attempt to be creative and make new and unique things!  But I will also have days when all I want to do is stay in bed in my fuzzy gear-and-coc pajamas, and on those days, I’ll be proud just get the heck out of bed.  Because being called to be different is not always an easy thing, and it’s sometimes going to be difficult as hell.  But it’s also incredibly rewarding.  I will try to remember both of those.

I can be as silly as I want, as eccentric as I would like.  But I also know that Steampunk – and dreaming in general – is not a competition.  I don’t have to be “more” Steampunk or “more” eccentric than anyone else.  I just have to make myself happy and be good to those around me.

I will foster an indomitable spirit, because you need a strong spirit to keep dreams alive.  I will foster a sense of whimsy, because humor keeps the spirit whole.  And I will wear ridiculous hats if I want to!  There’s no particular reason for that.  I just like silly hats.

I will face the future and the imaginary past, and I will attempt to conquer them with happiness, good times, good friends, new ideas, and a rich, full life.  And if that fails, then I will resort to my fallback plan, which is conquering the world with my army of clockwork flying monkeys.

Yours in service to Dream,

Jeff Mach
Jeff Mach Events

 

Tea Party Recipe: Devilishly Villainous Egg Sandwiches

Steampunk deviled eggs!Devilishly Villainous Egg Sandwiches – from The Steampunk Cookbook

The Victorians were great believers in spiritualism—did you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator/writer of “Sherlock Holmes”, helped perpetuate what is (to the modern mind) one of the most transparent photographic hoaxes in modern history, related to Faeries?

(Silly Sir Arthur!  True Faeries would never let themselves be photographed!)

The Victorians were deeply concerned with morality, and yet they had their deeply naughty side.  Devilled eggs were a 19th century flirtation with something unusual in Europe—the marriage of a common food (the egg) with spices from far-away.

For our Steampunk Universe, we simply realize two things:

-Devilled eggs aren’t from the devil; they’re from excellent chefs, and

-Every life deserves a little spice.

Yield: 24 servings

Skill Level: 1

5 hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons lime juice (from about 1 lime)
1 teaspoon sriracha
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup softened cream cheese or butter
20 slices of your favorite bread

Directions:

Add the eggs, mayo, lime juice, sriracha, and salt into a food processor or blender and mix until incorporated.

Taste for seasoning, adding salt, lime, or mayo until you have a spreadable consistency to your liking.

Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter or cream cheese. Next, spread egg mixture over 10 of the bread slices and top with the other ten.

Remove crusts and slice each sandwich in half on a diagonal, and then on half again on the other diagonal to make quarters.

 

 

How To Kill Steampunk

Swordwoman ready for battle.

Steampunk’s been declared dead, or about to die, many times. Most often, it is when some aspect of the mainstream, whatever that is, picks up some pieces of Steampunk. Suddenly totally “unhip” people know the big secret, and you can get some Steampunk stuff in your shopping malls. And everyone thinks this is the end of the world. So I’ll let you in on the forbidden Lore, the knowledge of the Illuminated Masters, the hidden truth:

There is no Steampunk secret.

There is no Steampunk secret. Steampunk, as I discussed other places, has no hidden Masters; in fact, it has no Masters at all, just some people who do a lot of it and make interesting things.

“An Enlightened Master is ideal only if your goal is to become a Benighted Slave.”
~Robert Anton Wilson

Sure, you can find a wrong way to do anything – every time I hear a Reeses commercial that says there’s no way to eat their snacks, I get a perverse purge to attempt to absorb it into my body using my fingers for osmosis. But honestly, would even the Reese’s company consider that wrong? Especially if already paid for their damn candy bar. If that’s what I want to do, I may not actually ingest the thing, but I’m getting fair use out of it.

You could, I’m sure find some way to do Steampunk wrong; there infinitely creative ways for human beings to mess up if they really want to.  You could claim that your pet cat is a working 747 jet airplane, and I think most of us will generally agree that you are not correct. But if you work hard and your feline wants you to pick her up and run around your place making jet engine noises and claiming to be a passenger aircraft, then we will at least recognize you’re trying, and while we probably wouldn’t buy tickets for that flight, we would find it adorable.

Likewise, you can take a chicken burrito and claim that it is Steampunk and, if you really want to be proud of yourself, you can watch the rest of us try to figure out what the hell you mean. But that’s not really being wrong, that’s just intentionally messing with people’s heads. If you have some way to tie that burrito into the vast world of what Steampunk could be, then dammit, I see no reason why even that couldn’t be steampunk, given a bit of ingenuity and a sincere desire to create something that others would appreciate.

How do you kill Steampunk?  You can’t; it’s not something that “lives” or “dies”; it’s something that we create and keep creating.  That is its own special vitality, and it comes from all of us.

How can you do Steampunk wrong?  Only one way I know.  hose who tell you that their way is the only right way? Those are the only ones were definitely doing it wrong.

~Jeff Mach
Jeff Mach Events

The Wicked Faire: A Steampunk Origin Story

Wicked Faire blue-haired Steampunk Rennaissance Faire attendee!

(Photo from The Wicked Faire 2013 – by Babs Who Takes Pictures)Our flagship event, The Wicked Winter Renassance Faire, was seminal to how we got into Steampunk.  We created an indoor Renaissance Faire which broke all the rules of Renfaires – so when Steampunk came along and broke all the rules of what a punk or geek culture could we, be embraced it with open arms.

This is the ethos behind doing an unbounded Faire; it was written eight years back, and I think you might see how it influenced the Steampunk we do.

“Hello! This is Jeff Mach, of the Wicked Winter Chocolate Factory Renaissance Faire. You may have heard of us; you may not. This is the part where it would be helpful for me to describe Wicked Faire in a single pithy sentence…but I’ve never been able to do that well, even though I strongly believe a promoter should be able to explain things that simply.

I’ll try this: If you took an event which changed rules of place and time, like a Renaissance Faire; had an insane amount of entertainment, like a festival; was social and full of rich interaction, like a convention; and worked its metaphorical ass off to give unusual people a place that felt like home–

Then you’d come as close to a good description as I can.”

We’ve gone through good times and bad time and most of all weird times, and we’ve learned this: the more we welcome and accept ever-greater weirdness and friendliness, the more we help create joy.

If we do it right, if we welcome you, then I feel, in the back of my mind and the center of my heart and the core of my gut, that we have succeeded in the thing I wanted most: We have put together something unspeakably, gloriously, wizardly unworldly great this year–and at the very damn core of my being, I want to share it with you.

That was my credo almost a decade back.  It’s my credo now.  And it’s my happiness and my delight to see that I’m not alone – to see that Steampunks all over the world feel the same way.

I live in the best of all possible worlds: the one right between the imaginary and the infinitely possible.

Yours in service to dreams,

Jeff Mach
Jeff Mach Events

Nerds are damn hot

Erotic geek fashion concept. Sexy nerd wearing alluring black sensual lingerie sitting on the couch having cup of coffee or tea

I think about geeks getting together pretty much all the time. I have to. It’s my job; I run events for geeks – and while, in actuality, “geeks getting it on” is shorthand for “geeks being able to make powerful social connections which lead to longterm connections” – it genuinely occupies much of my brain.

I keep considering the question of scarcity. If I were viewing this a younger geek, thirty years ago, it would deprecation, with a culture whose members were universally told that they were not wanted, and would never be wanted. For me, the journey might be summed up like this:

1995: “You geeks love computers because they’re the only things which will ever love you.”
2017: Holy DAMN, were they ever wrong!

Not every geek has an incredible intimate life, not even in 2017. But now we know that every geek can. They told us we’d be locked out of intimacy for life, barely able to find enough kindred souls to form a few friendships – certainly not love, not sex, not abundance. But they were wrong: in fact, un-fucking-believable nerdex is the legacy of this generation of geeks.

I won’t try to define “geek” or say exactly what a “geek” or “nerd” is; there was a time when those definitions seemed totally critical to my life, but now it’s just Tribe: If you’ll declare yourself a Geek, and be open-minded and good to other Geeks, I’ll call you a Geek. Simple as that.

Whether it’s romantic fiction or not, I like the historic view that geekery as we know it started with science fiction. That’s quite disputable, but it’s still one good place to begin. There we were, inventing a weird genre with no literary credibility. There we were with no support but that which we made for ourselves, when we started tiny magazines and began forming tenuous communities. We had nothing except our minds, and the concept that you could–and should!–use ideas to challenge conceptions of the world around us.

Then came my generation, and, again, my vision of it is more of a romantic memory than a real historical breakdown. But give this a nice 80s rock backbone and splash it into a montage:

The embrace of home computer technology! Our entrance into pop culture (as deranged, invariably male engineers with terrible social skills, true – but at least they knew that geeks existed) – and the rise of what was starting to become modern fandom! We helped establish the culture of geekery – in art, film, literature, clothing, gaming, social lives. We were the ones given the tools and materials to build the fledgling Geek Nation.

And now?

Now comes the geekery of joy! Now comes the geekery of celebration! Now comes nerdsex beyond belief!

This is the generation of those who know geek love is strong. After all, this is the generation whose members might very probably have attended their first conventions with their parents. This is the generation which, as others have noted, can wake up any morning and be immersed in geek culture. This is the generation which knows that geeks are not alone.

This generation of geeks has the entire architecture of imagination as their rightful heritage. Our bequest is that of dreamers-of-dreams. Because we are the third generation to push the boundaries of what is possible. Because our creativity has decades of spanning galaxies and millenia in search of new ideas. Because we have spent half a century building rich lives of the mind– and being told that those were the only lives we would get. And we are shattering that idea so hard that the next generation won’t even believe it really existed.

Geek sexuality has always, always been powerful; it’s simply that we were few enough, and our confidence little enough, that you seldom saw it. Now we’re visible, and we are creating the birthright of those who’ll come after. Because if geekery has always embraced the mind, and geekery can now embrace the body, then the geekery we build is limitless.

We are getting together for our future. And it is a glorious damn future indeed.

-Jeff Mach

Jeff Mach Events / The Steampunk World’s Fair

Three Defiantly Non-Victorian Steampunk Anthems

"Kiss The Misfits", by Felix Hagan & The Family - Album cover.I have long maintained that there’s a key spirit of Steampunk music which doesn’t need to fall within the Victorian era, or be about goggles or gears; I love those things, but the true heart of Steampunk culture is that Do It Yourself, fiery passion, a refusal to be satisfied by the “ordinary” Universe, and an outpouring of creative possibility; as Men Without Hats put it, “We can act like we come from out of this world, leave the real world far behind.”

With that in mind, here are three defiantly anthemic songs which have real Steampunk souls.

Felix Hagan and the Family, “Kiss The Misfits”.  I’m biased, because I absolutely love Felix Hagan.  But there’s a reason behind it; they create music about the grandiose, glorious struggle to make truly original things and bring them to an audience.  There are few subjects more near and dear to my own heart.  This is the title song of their recent EP, and it will make you want to do exactly what the chorus says: “Kiss the misfits, dance with the punks!”

Adam Ant, “Stand And Deliver”.  You might know Adam Ant; he’s been making mockingly, glimmeringly charismatic punk-glam-pop music for decades now.  He’s seen it all, the punk movement, the scifi of the 80s, the peculiar evolution of the 90s–and then he’s just kept making music straight up to the present day.  Here’s a very young Adam Ant, in a music video whose era clearly predates the Victorian era by no more than, say, twenty or thirty years; there’s just a tad too much Revolutionary War for this to be the 19th century, but I don’t care about that; I want the dandy highwayman to leap through windows and frighten all the staid and stolid gentry!

and then

Jethro Tull, “Too Old To Rock & Roll”.  Steampunk purists would assuredly tell me that this band is too well-known to be Steampunk; that the video covers too many eras, only some of which appear to be 19th-century; that a mad flute player isn’t their idea of an airship pirate.  To them I say: Nuts to you!  Jethro Tull is in their fiftieth–yes, fiftieth!–year of making music.  Sure, some of their work, including this song, can be heard on classic rock stations, but they’ve got literally a dozen albums (including several rock operas and concept albums, which are not easy things to make) – spanning all manner of subjects mythic, dystopian, unusual, and often previously-unexplored.  And there are few songs more subversive than this tune–written while the band was still young, and already anticipating the thing we’d later experience in the 1990s, that phenomena where rock-as-revolution had turned into rock-as-supermarket-background-music.  Tull has refused to stop or back down; they just create.  I’ll raise a glass to that!

-Jeff Mach
Jeff Mach Events

Steampunk festival memories

Steampunks hanging out at The Steampunk World's Fair 2013 - photo by Babs Who Takes Pictures

Steampunks hanging out at The Steampunk World’s Fair 2013 – photo by Babs Who Takes Pictures

It’s cold outside, but in a part of my heart is always in May.  I realized that the welcome that I used for the last Steampunk World’s Fair would actually work well for pretty much any Steampunk event.  So I thought I’d release it into the public domain.  Please feel free to take this and modify it for your own Steampunk festival, event, or show!

And behold! We come to the biggest and best Steampunk World’s Fair in all recorded history to date. Welcome! Steampunk and Steam-curious, Goth and Faerie, Geek and Rennie, Scholar and Artist, and Person Who Just Likes To Hang Out In Places Where There Are Lots of Goggles, it’s our pleasure to have you with us.

To our returning attendees, let me quote Oscar Wilde: “There are many pleasures in life, but few can match that of seeing a friend again.” To our new guests, let me quote Kermit the Frog: “Oh, I wish I were you people, seeing this movie for the first time!

Do remember to wander everywhere you can in our Fair! It’s meant as an adventure, and we have everything from big stages to quiet nooks. Encounter them all!

Do patronize our fine vendors; they are the lifeblood of any event. When they do well, we all do well.

Do be kind to hotel and event staff. If anyone, in turn, treats you with less than kindness, please let me know.

Our venue wants your good reviews! So if you have troubles during the weekend, and they aren’t fully resolved, please let us know!

And thank you for being here!

Yours truly,

Jeff Mach
Jeff Mach Events