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 Events
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!
Jeff Mach Events
“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”
― Neil Gaiman, “The Kindly Ones”
Steampunk: Exactly what the hell are we creating here, anyway?
I’m going to let you in on a huge secret here: Steampunk is imaginary. But just because it’s imaginary doesn’t mean that it’s not real.
Consider how odd our ideas of “reality” are. Does a locked door stop you from going through? Not if there’s an emergency fire axe. Does a door marked quote “authorized personnel only” keep you out? Not if you are authorized – or rude – or have a mission – or are fearless.
So many barriers are of the mind, not the physical world. Hell, even barriers of the physical world are overrated; ask the athlete or the survivor who “can’t go another step”–and then puts one foot in front of the other until they get there.
Steampunk is a product of thought, inspiration, dream, and spirit. Without those intangible things, it we would never create anything “real”–that is, tangible things, things which everyone perceives as being “real”. Humans would never make, transcend, build, invest, or dream. They would, in short, not be human.
So how about we break some barriers of Reality together?
We’re going to offer you some pathways and portals into the glorious alternative realities, the rich places in the mind, heart, and passion, which are Steampunk. It’s my hope that you can use them for any world of the imagination with which you might care to work or play.
The unreal world awaits your royal pleasure, O Majesty of the Mind.
Let’s jump in!
Jeff Mach Events
Did you know that there is a million bucks hidden in the house next door?”
“But there is no house next door.”
“No? Then let’s go build one!”
There is a lie of omission which has fucked up the lives of many a creator and entrepreneur, and it’s a very popular lie. It happens whenever anyone says, “Follow your dreams!” and doesn’t add “…repeatedly, because the first several attempts are very likely to fail”.
It’s absolutely true that most people with dreams need encouragement – lots of encouragement. It’s scary and difficult to try to break out of where you are, and do something new, especially if it’s something that few people, or no people, have ever done before. And you should absolutely support your local dreamer, but–
But frequently, a large part of that support comes in a “certificate of attendance”-style – “Hey, that’s great, you have dreams! Definitely follow them! Go for it!” Because that’s what we get told – “Tell people to follow their dreams”. Because we love that tale – we love the story of the person who has the courage and vision to dream big, and who tries to make those dreams real, and who finally succeeds against all odds.
Do you actually know anyone who’s had that experience? I don’t. Having the skills, and the knowledge, and the infrastructure to create something successful your first time – is rare. And most of the time, some of it is something not easily distinguishable from luck – the right idea at the wrong time seldom succeeds. And sure, there’s something in knowing when the time for something is right. But there’s also the good fortune of being around at a moment when your idea can find acceptance.
How do you assure that your dream will come true, then, if you don’t have tons and tons of experience, knowledge, and resources?
You don’t.. At least, not to start.. Not the first iteration of that dream.
What you can do is be ready. Not “ready to fail” – don’t defeat yourself before you start. But “ready for what happens”. If what you have is success, fantastic! If what you have isn’t success – then, tell me, what will you do to succeed next time?
The Zimmerman family at The Steampunk World’s Fair – taken by Sarah Beetham.
I know some people who talk about having done Steampunk for literally several decades. I can’t trace it back that far myself; while I fell in love with K.W. Jeter’s “Infernal Devices” when it came out in 1987, I had no idea that his “Mad Victorian Fantasy” (as the cover put it) would spawn an entire Universe.
But I’ve been a part of the active Steampunk community for over a decade now, and doing Steampunk events for almost that long. I’m starting to see people meet at our events, fall in love, get married, and have children. And then they bring the children to events. And that leaves us with a fascinating question:
What world do we want for Steampunk kids?
Ordinarily, when someone talks about the kind of world orthe kind of future you want for our offspring, it is in reference to some titanic question of legality or ethics or perceived morality. It’s also used not infrequently as a judgment, sometimes by people who suggest that the actions of others might set a bad example. Those are gigantic issues, and that’s not what I’m talking about.
(Besides, I’m pretty sure I am a bad example. I fear that if your kids take after me, they will grow weird. Be warned!)
I’m talking of something that is both smaller in scope, and yet oddly has more far reaching implications then many arguments which might take place on national or even global scale.
We, all of us, all the people participating in Steampunk–we are the people creating Steampunk. And that means that we actually truly get to decide what kind of Steampunk world we want to leave our kids.
That is such a rare thing. It’s hard to have a true legacy that will affect an entire culture, and what Steampunk is not as big as or far-reaching as the mainstream world, it is still a living, vivacious, irrepressible culture that is deeply meaningful to us. Whether you do Steampunk for a living, like I do, or are just a hobbyist who picks it up sometimes for fun (both of which are perfectly fine and neither of which is better than another)-–
Either way, you, you right there, whoever you are.… You are part of deciding what steampunk should be.
Because who else makes the rules? It’s all of us. We’re all deciding what Steampunk should be, when it could be, what it will do, how we will act.
What will that be? It’s not up to me. It’s up to all of us. But I can tell you some of what I think it should be.
Steampunk should be inclusive. It should recognize, welcome, and accept people of all sorts, all backgrounds, all races and identities and political views and orientations.
Steampunk should be friendly. I don’t mean you have to like everyone in Steampunk, or be friends with everyone. Just that we should generally acknowledge that what we seek is warmth, cordiality, a genuine willingness to accept and meet others. It’s okay to be shy, it’s okay to be antisocial, but there have definitely been social movements which prided themselves on guarding the gates to their worlds very jealously. (For example, I was a Punk in my youth, and the Punk movement had a lot of reasons why it had a lot of distrust and a lot of questions about who was a “real” or a “sincere” Punk. I’m not saying it was wrong for doing so; it had good reasons.) But we’re not that kind of Punk.* We are Steampunks.
Steampunk should look after and respect our creators. It’s a difficult and challenging thing to get away from the mainstream audience and tried to build something in a small, peculiar world many people haven’t even heard of. When you find someone who does that, give that person support, be it financial, or recognition, or maybe just some cookies.
Steampunks should respect each other. It’s easy to tear someone else down. It’s also easy for a subculture or genre to tear itself apart by being judgmental. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any sort of standards, I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about effort or energy or investment of time and resources. I’m just saying that we have very little to gain, very much lose, by opening ourselves up to needless fighting.
And Steampunks should recognize this thing: that each of us really is a part of something which is affected by all of us. Our actions, for better or for worse, have consequences on an entire world of other humans. That’s something I think about all the time. Whether or not you think about it is up to you. But I find that, for me at least, it helps add a lot of meaning to this odd, wonderful Universe that we’re building.
Jeff Mach Events
(As a sidenote: Punk was, among other things an anti-commercial movement. It distrusted the possible financial motives of a lot of its participants. It feared that the movement might be co-opted by those without that core ethos; and it was probably right. Punk was–and still is–a nihilistic expression of anger. Steampunk is an expression of a fiercely weird joy. They’re both passions; they’re just very different passions.)