How to enjoy the perfect afternoon tea

Conceptual illustration with ghost serving tea on a tableSteampunks love tea, but more than tea, we love the idea of tea-time, an oasis during which we might sip stimulating boiled plant-leaves and eat things that are like cookies but fancier, and like cake but smaller, and like toast but called something cooler, such as “scones”.  It is my goal to show you how to enjoy an absolutely perfect afternoon tea.

  1. Become a Steampunk Mad Scientist and study villainy assiduously.  This is not, strictly speaking, essential, but it will aid deeply in the other bits.  Also, it’s significantly more fun than pretty much any other major, most particularly Organic Chemistry.
  2. Hatch a deeply villainous plot.  This is where your skills from #1 come into play, particularly the Mad Science.  If your assistant doesn’t pause at least once to say, “No!  No!  This is against all laws of Man and Nature!”, you’re probably doing it wrong.  Don’t be discouraged.  You’re just undercaffeinated.
  3. Become fabulously wealthy.  This is why we suggest you not just study villainy, but study it terribly well.  Otherwise, you run into the challenges of villainy gone awry: infamy, jailtime, and being stuck in a dead-end job perpetually asking the toffs, “‘ere now, Guv’nor, do you want crisps with that?”
  4. Purchase the finest tea place in the land. Pro tip: Yes, being evil and powerful, you could make any tea place “the best” by obliterating all the others, but you will quickly find that you have ended up with “the best tea place which still exists” instead of “the best one you could possibly find”.  There’s a tremendous difference; one of the two tends to burn the toast.
  5. Gently inform the serving staff that they are to serve you the finest tea one can possibly have, or they will spend the next thousand years guessing which part of their oddly immortal bodies you will next feed to your crocodile. When they point out that (a) this is gross, and (b) your crocodile won’t live that long, apologize profusely, and simply explain that you could really do with a good cuppa, and if they help you out, you won’t destroy everything they love.
  6. Enjoy your tea.  I’m sure you will.  Pro tip:  Everything tastes better when you’re evil.

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

What is Goth, then?

spirit of Halloween in a cemetary at nightToday’s the last day to get $20 off of Dark Side Of The Con with promo code “vampirefreaks”, and so I thought I’d do something Gothic.  You might have seen my recent entry wherein I crowdsourced the question “What is Steampunk?” I thought, given how quickly  is coming up, I might try the same thing with the eternal (or at least undead and ever-living) question: “What is Goth?”

Here are some of my favorite responses:

“Goth is an appreciation, understanding, or love of the macabre and all things dark.”
~Sarah DeLeon

“My middle name.”
~Eden O’Clair

“An amazing lifestyle.”
~Austin Bounds

“Goth is what happens when Steampunks discover black.”
~Jeff Mach

“There are a great many dichotomies in this world, including light vs. dark and order vs. chaos. Goth is being in touch with the dark side.”
~Christopher Pinky Gazeent

“Seeing the beauty in what others deem not.”
~Stephanie Linn Hardick

“I never saw “being different” in and of itself as the point to “being Goth” — dressing different from most others, maybe, but the point to me was to get together with people who liked the same music and clothes, or at least very similar music and clothes, and go to clubs, go to movies, go to coffee-houses and hold poetry readings and, in general, just have some good harmless fun. Did I look like a dork? Sure, but so did everybody else in the club. We weren’t “being different”, at least not all of us, we just were different and the point was to stop bitching about being different and just have fun.”
Ruadhán J. McElroy

“The Goths were a proud East German people whose clashes with the Roman Empire would one day bring about its end. :)”
~Brian McKinley

(Quotes sourced and collected by yours truly, Jeff Mach.)

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

Steampunk, Zombies, Goth, Weirdness, and Reality

Zombie hand coming out of his graveI used to stay up all night playing ‘Resident Evil 2,’ and it wouldn’t stop until the sun came up.. Then I’d walk outside at dawn’s first light, looking at the empty streets of London, and it was like life imitating art.. It felt like I’d stepped into an actual zombie apocalypse..

~Edgar Wright

We keep trying to escape this reality; is that because this reality isn’t good enough?  No, not at all.

It’s just that we keep realizing this reality’s deficiencies.  Carl Sagan said, “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”  And that’s true.  But…

It’s pretty damn arrogant to think we understand the Universe.  I’ll be honest; it took me something like two years to figure out exactly how I liked my morning coffee.  It took me ten years to realize that I look bad in shorts.  We seem to think that a small portion of a human lifetime is enough to tell us what’s “real”.

Friends, reality is malleable.  We are human beings; we are not slaves of destiny, we are not machines, we are not programs.  We change the world simply by existing within it.

That’s part of what Steampunk says: “To hell with the real past; this past is BETTER!”  This is what zombies say: “To hell with your day job, this future is more ALIVE.”  That is what Goth says: “Forget the insipid joys; a real joy should be able to exist in the face of the complete and exquisite knowledge of sadness and remorse.”

We are beings of imagination and creation.  Go ahead, try to tell us what’s “real”.  We’ll fight back with a reality ridiculous and implausible, a reality flawed in every way except…

…except that as humans, we can make it real.  And that is Steampunk and Renaissance Faires and zombies and Goth and Renaissance Faires…but it’s also cell phones, computers, video games, and a basic understanding of history.  Reality is much less limited than anyone thinks it to be; Moore’s law alone proves it.

We’re humans.  Our only limits are imaginary, and we can break imaginary rules any time we want; ask anyone who’s ever played Dungeons and Dragons.

Never let Reality hold you back.

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

A Valentine for my Steampunk love

A Steampunk clockwork heart concept with a heart shape made of cogs and gears

Valentine’s Day!  A day which will forever be dear to restaurants and people who sell holiday cards.  That being said, there’s something to be said for Love, True Love, and so I thought I would speak to you, for just a moment, of my deep and abiding Steampunk Love.

When I sailed my Airship to the farthest port of the known World in order to bring you back the rarest of oils to perfume your bath, you mentioned that you’d just asked me to nip out and pick you up some aspirin for your headache.  I will admit to being a touch miffed.

When you journeyed far into the Underdark to bring back the rarest, strangest Goblin fruits for the delectation of my table and the satiation of my hunger, I noted that I’d simply said I could use a snack, and pointed out that we had mini-pizzas in the freezer.  This was not, I suppose, our best moment.

When we declared our love atop the very tallest peaks, shouting it through the mighty lightning storm which struck our castle and awoke our Frankenstein monster, it was terribly romantic, but I must admit that it displeased both the local peasantry, and all of the wedding guests, the former of whom attacked our house with torches and pitchforks, and the latter of whom found the top of a mountain fairly inconvenient, and complained that they got terrible pictures of the ceremony.

When we both sipped that singular and wondrous tea, the tea which had been procured for us by our dear friend and boon companion Dr. Jekyll, and both turned into beings strange and ravening and monstrous, savaging the countryside beneath the night of the full moon–

Well, that was just fun.  Let’s do it again sometime, shall we?

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

“What is Steampunk?” – a crowdsourced version

Blue-haired Steampunk women.

Some Steampunk cosplay, captured at The Steampunk World’s Fair 2014 by Babs Who Takes Pictures.

If I had a dollar for every time someone had asked me, “What is Steampunk?”, I’d have enough money that I’d be writing this blog from some sort of beach somewhere much, much warmer than New Jersey.  I have plenty of my own thoughts, but I figured I’d try asking The Steampunk World’s Fair Facebook page.  And behold – here are the results!  But, as always, I encourage you to find your own answer to that question, and decide what works for you.

“A punk rocker in a steam room?”
~RW Backus

“Steampunk is the answer to the question “what if?”
What if Tesla had business sense? What if Steam had reined? What if pirates took to the air instead? What if we wore our corsets on the outside?! The answers in expressions from the page to fashion to music and whats for tea are Steampunk!!!”
~Alicia M Downs

“Romanticized Victorian to early 1900s style alt universe focusing on a world that utilizes steam power, leather, glass, and vaguely scifiesque early electrical elements and gas lighting to create a setting of wonder and excitement in a world of what if love and adventure.”
~Travis Roseberry

“According to many it’s anything you stick cogs on or a flux capacitor in. I personally don’t find the inside of my daughters princess watch or the delorean at all steampunk but maybe I have a very narrow view of it and need educating.”
~Alison Burnaby

“Steampunk means to me, referring to the couture and theme:
It’s a combination of genres and history, fiction, victorian, invention, hippie fabrics, ruffles and leather, a few “normal” clothes with added flair and interest Love the whole thing.
Plus the strong female presence portrayed as feminine with added badassery of weaponry and invention history usually places with men.”
~Shannon Feyhl

“Part Victoriana, part unbridled imagination.”
~Dawn Vautier

“Steampunk is a love affair with something sublime, Victoriana at its finest, with a generous helping of vision, bravery and limitless possibilities. Ode to the steam era. The smell of sweet worn leather pulled tightly around my cuffs, or my thighs. The corsets thrusts you back in time….as hard as the corset you wear, the class the sheer beauty. I cannot truly describe what steampunk means to me, but I am so so pleased that what I was obsessed with since being a young girl, had a name. And of course, it lead me to the works of Tesla the great (my hero) the visionary.”
~Deidre Glasgow

“Steampunk began as a sub-genre of alternative history SF. It then added some of the other functions that were often featured at SF conventions, such as costuming. It added music, film, graphic novels, and eventually grew into a full-fledged alternative culture complete with every aspect one could expect. One thing that separates Steampunk culture from other alternative cultures is the emphasis on the maker. People who make things, whether music, literature, art, clothing, jewelry, leather goods, brass objects, etc… make Steampunk more than just a hobby, but a culture in which people can actually lead full lives. Culturally, Steampunk is also a culture of diversity and acceptance. This is just as important as any other aspect and provides a home for those who didn’t belong anywhere more restrictive. That’s only my opinion, but Steampunk makes me feel at home.”
~Lawrence Tagrin

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.