What is Goth, then?

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.)

_____________

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

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

_____________

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.

 

…and then someone spraypainted Steampunk black

…and then someone spraypainted Steampunk black

Have you heard that saying, “Steampunk is what happens when Goths discover brown”?  I never quite knew how to take it. Is it a commentary on the two movements being similar?  Is it saying there isn’t much range in either one?  Is it just poking fun at stereotypes?

But I’ve finally come to a decision: it’s complementing how utterly transformative these cultures are.

It’s a superpower! With a flick of one wrist, you go shadowy all over, mysterious, brooding, dark, Goth.  Then, with a wink of your left eye, you become garish but powerful, whimsical yet beweaponed, strange yet catchy; you’re Steampunk.

Why not?  People say that we’re pretending or playing dress-up games; but what in life isn’t a dress-up game.  The military, a courtroom, a cocktail party, a wedding – these are all dress-up games with deep, serious meanings.  When we “play” at dressing up, we interact and co-invention entire Universes of thought and idea and possibility with other members of our species.  We co-exist, we form bonds, we learn more about others and about ourselves.

That’s every bit as serious or important as anything in “real life”.

And it brings us back to the original idea:

Maybe Steampunk IS Goths discovering black; maybe Goth is Steampunks remembering their roots.  Maybe what the entire world needs is a little more peculiarity and a little less of an attempt to act like “pretending” is for children.  When baby lions wrestle, it’s cute; when, as bigger lions, they use the same techniques to go through prey like, well, lions – it’s deadly serious.  What’s the difference?  Just two things – enough time, and enough pretending.  Given those two factors, you can become anything.

Are you ready to go out there and become anything you might want?

~Jeff Mach

_____________

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.

 

Gothpunk: Peace, love, and darkness

Gothpunk: Peace, love, and darkness

I’ll never forget my oddest encounter with the Goth scene.  It was the late 1990s.  Mr. Aurelio Voltaire‘s “legal” name was a secret.  I was trying to make it as a singer-songwriter, and I’d hired Voltaire to perform at one of my events.

Not long thereafter, I was asked to perform at “Gothstock” – “Peace, Love & DARKNESS” was their motto.  They asked me if I’d MC.

I was thrilled.   They said they would “feed and water” me, and give me a good place to sleep, and they wanted me to MC and introduce acts.  I asked if I could play some songs of my own, and they said they wanted me to focus on introducing people.  I didn’t think I was that well-known, and they gave this weird response: “We know who you REALLY are”.  But I just took it to mean that they knew I had some talent, even if I didn’t have a name.

Hey.  I didn’t say I was smart.

I mean, I was in my early 20s.  I was excited as all heck.  Gothstock, eh?  How cool!

And then, one day, I looked at their website.  My name wasn’t there.

But Voltaire’s was.  In big letters.  As MC.

I contacted Voltaire.  He’d never heard from these people.

I wrote them a polite note, “Hey, I notice that Voltaire’s name is up there, but mine isn’t.  He says he hasn’t heard from you.  You…don’t think that I’m Voltaire, do you?

And that’s the last I ever heard from them.

No response, no apology, nothing.

Did it ruin Goth for me?  Hell, no!  I still went clubbing, I still danced, I still listened to Sisters of Mercy and The Cure (and Alice Cooper, but don’t tell anyone.)

But it sure taught me a lesson that would matter a lot, later in life, as a promoter:  Know what…I mean, Always..I mean…

Actually, I can’t count how many lessons it taught me.  A lot of them.  Gothstock quietly folded, and was never heard from again.  It was just one more nail in the coffin of a movement that was fighting – at the time – being blamed for Columbine; being absorbed by the mass media and Hot Topic; and terrible infighting.

But Goth lived, a strange, uncanny, magical undead life.  And there it remains today.

To all the Zombies and Vampires whose closets, in the very back, have the clothes in which you used to gyrate madly to “The Cure”:  Come home.  We have a place for you.

Dark Side of the Con – By Vampire Freaks and Jeff Mach.

~Jeff Mach

_____________

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.

 

You Might Be A Dark Victorian If

You Might Be A Dark Victorian If

What’s a Dark Victorian? It’s someone who likes their Victoriana a little on the shadowy side. Let’s be real: Goth and Steampunk have shared fashions since the beginning. If you’re a Steampunk who’s into the more haunting side of life, or a Goth fascinated by the 19th century, real or imaginary… you just might be a Dark Victorian.

(This is a crossover piece between Dark Side Of The Con and The Steampunk World’s Fair.)

Here are some signs of which you ought to be aware:

* You see dead things and think ” Yes, that would like lovely on my hat”.
~Athenya Wu

* You have a favorite graveyard for picnics (yes, the Victorians TOTALLY did that.)

*Your leather corset is black.

*…and you wear it to work.

* You think “Nightmare Before Christmas” is a documentary.

* You know occult history better than regular history.
~Tim Thrae Smith

* Your “memento mori” are all cheery holiday scenes.
~Tim Thrae Smith

* Your favorite date spot is an abandoned asylum with bleeding walls.

*You get mistaken for a Haunted Mansion cast member when you go to Disney World
~David Rogers

* Your daily wardrobe would make Lestat blush
~David Rogers

* You don’t avoid murder; you just wait until the bloodstains will go well with what you’re wearing.

* You wouldn’t want to run into Jack the Ripper…because he has terrible etiquette, and uses the wrong paring knife.

*  You use HP lovecraft quotes as pick up lines.
~Renee A. Gaul

 

~Jeff Mach (with contributions from many friends)

_____________

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.