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May 8, 2008 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Nothing signals the death of a trend like an article in the NY Times Style section. Steampunk: "The subculture that is the aesthetic expression of a time-traveling fantasy world..."

Our long (inter)national nightmare is over.
posted by dersins (212 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dude.
posted by Mister_A at 7:50 AM on May 8, 2008


I'm glad you are so fortunate that you considered steampunk an international nightmare.
posted by DU at 7:51 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Like Hip-Hop, it won't die off at all. Just become mainsteam, i.e. irrelevant :)

Nothing to see here, move on.
posted by avocade at 7:54 AM on May 8, 2008


Yeah, steampunk's dead, I guess.

For the next go at this, I suggest something like the antebellum south where they have robots instead of slaves.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:56 AM on May 8, 2008 [9 favorites]


I'm sure Steampunk accouterments will dovetail Hott Topic's other offerings quite nicely.
posted by The Straightener at 7:57 AM on May 8, 2008 [18 favorites]


No cause for alarm, chaps. I've just consulted the New Amsterdam Herald via my etheric omniscope, and it says everything is just ducky.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:58 AM on May 8, 2008 [23 favorites]


This whole article reads to me like a weirdly off-topic advertisement for some product I cannot identify, and which I, well, DO NOT WANT.
posted by cgc373 at 7:59 AM on May 8, 2008


Thanks for the obit, dersins!
posted by cgc373 at 8:00 AM on May 8, 2008


The feeling steam punk arises in me is not one of revulsion or annoyance. It's a very distinct feeling that the English language does not have a good expression for. In Dutch it's called plaatsvervangende schaamte which literally means "place exchanging shame". Shame felt on behalf of someone else, shame you feel someone else should feel. I'm embarrassed for them.
posted by phrontist at 8:00 AM on May 8, 2008 [78 favorites]


From the same wonderful part of the Paper that had the story about the guy wiping his cat's butt.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:00 AM on May 8, 2008


Hmm, I dunno. I guess the "slap lots of brass shit on it" style is lame. But for some reason the steampunk bricolage aesthetic really appeals to me. I wish I could afford to dress like that. I don't read the books or watch the animes or whatever, but I think that it's a neat trend and I hope it doesn't die off in a few months.
posted by nasreddin at 8:00 AM on May 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


The greatest decade in the history of the world is nearly over, they're selling brass goggles in Woolworths.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:01 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wait...one link to a NYT article on Steampunk, with a "More Inside" link, and there's no more inside? WTF? Where's the Wikipedia link, the fav steampunk mods, the list of steampunk works? Where the hell am I? Oh, right, Metafilter...I forgot. Never mind.
posted by mikhail at 8:03 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


and there's no more inside

OK, fine. Here's the slideshow.



.
posted by dersins at 8:05 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


plaatsvervangende schaamte ... I'm embarrassed for them.

Thank you for finally giving me a phrase for this (a phrase I can't pronounce, but a phrase nonetheless). I feel this almost daily.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:07 AM on May 8, 2008


Wait...one link to a NYT article on Steampunk, with a "More Inside" link, and there's no more inside? WTF?

Kind of a fitting metaphor for Steampunk itself, dontcha think?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:10 AM on May 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


Yes, thank you phrontist. I've always referred to it as "the feeling I get when I watch the Brady Bunch."
posted by rlk at 8:10 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


plaatsvervangende schaamte = Douche Chills and yes, steampunk gives me douche chills.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:11 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


I hope the trend dies. Then steampunk can go back to where it belongs - on the Tardis.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:13 AM on May 8, 2008


plaatsvervangende schaamte = Douche Chills

I should have said, "a phrase I can use in polite company."
posted by uncleozzy at 8:13 AM on May 8, 2008


Wait, steampunk was a trend? I don't consider mentions in Boing! Boing! and one book to be a trend, although the term "flash in the pan" might be apropos here.
posted by tommasz at 8:16 AM on May 8, 2008


I could never figure out what struck me as not cool about steampunk until I read:

Steampunk style is also an expression of a desire to return to ritual and formality. “Steampunk has its tea parties and its time-travelers balls,” said Deborah Castellano, who presides over salonconvention.com, which organizes neo-Victorian conventions. “It offers an element of glamour that some of us would otherwise never experience.”

Oh, man. They're goths. It all makes sense now. Anybody up for a game of "Vampire: The Masquerade?"
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:17 AM on May 8, 2008 [13 favorites]


I should have said, "a phrase I can use in polite company."

If you say it while you're wearing some googles and a big flappy leather duster covered with fucking buckles and you have a cellphone with some brass cogs hotglued to it nobody will mind. Pretend you just arrived in a zeppelin.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:19 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think we can safely stick a fork in the genre now.

However, I have an admitted fascination with those intricate 19th-century pen-and-ink engineering drawings, the kind with the impossibly tiny crosshatched details. You just don't get that with SolidWorks or AutoCAD.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:19 AM on May 8, 2008


I'd like steampunk more if it were a joke.
posted by PHINC at 8:22 AM on May 8, 2008


I'd like steampunk more if it were porn.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:24 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, Cory knows. He certainly does.
posted by The Michael The at 8:24 AM on May 8, 2008


Pshaw. I say this with the greatest affection - Steampunk is a genre fetish, an addition (or subset, depending upon your perspective) of Science Fiction. What makes it so attractive to some is it's aesthetic, a mingling of the Romantic era, Techno-fetishists and Pulp. It's no better nor worse than participating in cosplay, nor reading comic books, er wait.. graphic novels.

Will it go mainstream? *shrug* Unlikely. But it's not going to die. It will fill a niche, and be less popular in ten years than it is now, but it will still exist.

However, as always, I will enjoy sitting back and reading the various comments from folks who think their dislike/disdain for the genre actually means anything to those who do have an affection for it. There's a certain ...schadenfreude?entertainment value?...about people yelling their opinions into a vacuum so that they can feel better about their own aesthetic choices (or lack thereof).
posted by AccidentalHedonist at 8:26 AM on May 8, 2008 [19 favorites]


I'd like steampunk more if it lit my firecracker instead of giving me severe burns.
posted by cog_nate at 8:26 AM on May 8, 2008


Okay, so this is how you pronounce it (disclaimer: I have a Flemish accent, Dutch was my first language, but I've mostly lived an english speaking life).

"Douche Chills" is amusing... but seemingly not general enough. Maybe we could call them Dutch Chills?

Steampunk style is also an expression of a desire to return to ritual and formality.

What could be more intrinsically uncool than deliberately becoming more uptight. It just reeks of desiring attentention and an inability to chill.

However, I have an admitted fascination with those intricate 19th-century pen-and-ink engineering drawings, the kind with the impossibly tiny crosshatched details. You just don't get that with SolidWorks or AutoCAD.

Oh, see, that's the thing, I love that stuff too. The Victorian era and the 50's both hold appeal for me in being eras of seemingly magical technological progress - but with (now) campy social mores. Jules Verne is still cool - it's just trying to dress up like him that isn't. I'll have the bathwater thanks, hold the baby.
posted by phrontist at 8:28 AM on May 8, 2008 [10 favorites]


Like Hip-Hop, it won't die off at all. Just become mainsteam, i.e. irrelevant :)

Nothing to see here, move on.


...to...steamcrunk! The new, hybrid aesthetic that has all the internet hipsters imbibing potent brews of laudanum and grape soda from elaborate blown-glass contraptions while listening to music on victrolas run at half-speed.

You heard it here first, folks.
posted by felix betachat at 8:28 AM on May 8, 2008 [47 favorites]


Thanks, phrontist.
posted by fixedgear at 8:30 AM on May 8, 2008


Okay, so this is how you pronounce it

Fantastic, phrontist. (My girlfriend's got a Dutch grandmother--and a father who insists he doesn't speak Dutch, but apparently understands quite a bit--so I may actually get a chance to use this on occasion.)
posted by uncleozzy at 8:32 AM on May 8, 2008


I think the real thing to consider here is just how much money NYT Style could rake in if they'd start taking bids as cultural hitmen.

"Look, Vito, I'd love to do a puff piece on Moleskine modding this month, but there's a lot of money on the table from an anti-Shibuya group and unless you can make a better offer, you're just gonna have to put up those hipsters for at least a few more weeks. Yes, I—now Vito, you know I—actually, that's the problem, Vito; under the circumstances, that's an offer I totally can refuse. Look, call up Harpers, maybe they can—hello? Hello? Vito?"
posted by cortex at 8:33 AM on May 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


I don't feel terribly strongly about the genre, though I don't get where it's supposedly new -- this sort of thing has been a subset at the intersection of costume-inclined folks for awhile now.

What bugs me the most is the name, which is a strange use of "punk" indeed.
posted by desuetude at 8:33 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have read shitloads of sf in my time (and written another load) but steampunk never did that much for me. I guess my fave expression of it is the anime flick Steamboy, Katsuhiro Otomo's follow-up to Akira. And that mostly because I love the soundtrack.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:34 AM on May 8, 2008


"Dutch Chills" is great.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:35 AM on May 8, 2008


My sighting of the Cloister gathering mentioned in the article. They looked cuter in person, and I seriously had bustle-envy for like half an hour.
posted by of strange foe at 8:35 AM on May 8, 2008


The pictures look cool though. And that's awesome that they actually have some black dudes in there. I was high on it for a while, but got priced out of it pretty quickly. These people, however, need to quit.

I'd thought about doing some hip hop steampunk, and these guys look like they'd spit some incredibly awesome lyrics. Which of course makes it all the more awesome that they're a vaudeville troupe instead.

The whole article should have been about them.
posted by cashman at 8:36 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, I'll admit it -- I liked Steampunk. It was a cool aesthetic. Very unique; historical yet fantastic and imaginative. Something to call things like Bioshock or, as Pastabagel said above, on the Tardis.

That being said, it would never have occurred to me to dress up in said style. Thanks for the term -- plaatsvervangende schaamte works nicely.

Mainstream, though? There have been plenty of articles about Dungeons & Dragons and LARPing, but I still don't see those when I walk around on Main Street.
posted by evhan at 8:36 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Boing! Boing! and one book to be a trend

If you really think that those are the only places where you can find reading material on Steampunk, you really need to widen your scope.
posted by thanotopsis at 8:37 AM on May 8, 2008


Walking across my non-steampunk-decorated living room this morning I did muse that what steampunk needs is the hellraiser/bawdy cross-class naughtiness one with a developed sense of narrative would expect in such a formal, romanticized and anaprecise* exterior.

I'm saying we need steamporn.

(I'm at work, if anyone wants to do the inevitably messy research to make the linkstorm it should be, I'll owe you.)

*Not sloppy, but gloriously, functionally imprecise
posted by abulafa at 8:37 AM on May 8, 2008


As usual, Astro Zombie got there first.
posted by abulafa at 8:38 AM on May 8, 2008


plaatsvervangende schaamte - a phrase I can't pronounce

...or in German, fremdschämen. Which you may find slightly easier.
posted by bitslayer at 8:39 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]



...to...steamcrunk! The new, hybrid aesthetic that has all the internet hipsters imbibing potent brews of laudanum and grape soda from elaborate blown-glass contraptions while listening to music on victrolas run at half-speed.

You heard it here first, folks.


This will war against the hot new music scene trend of steamgrunge. Lots of flannel with ornate tarnished brass bits.
posted by Drastic at 8:41 AM on May 8, 2008


(Dutch grandma is also fluent in German. This also is useful.)
posted by uncleozzy at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2008


I don't get where it's supposedly new

Yeah - an illustrator friend of mine did a series of drawings in 1989 that I now would call 'Steampunk,' though at the time we had no word for it - just "that cool turn-of-the-century early-technology look"
posted by Miko at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's a certain ...schadenfreude?entertainment value?...about people yelling their opinions into a vacuum so that they can feel better about their own aesthetic choices (or lack thereof).

Why don't you just wear Gap/American Eagle/Abercrombie like the rest of us and stop drawing attention to yourself? Assimilation is part of growing up.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:43 AM on May 8, 2008


Steamporn? Look no further.
posted by mkb at 8:44 AM on May 8, 2008


What's the next step in the mainstreaming of Steampunk? Gwen Stefani or someone setting up a Steampunk fashion label? Hot Topic doing a Steampunk line of clothing?
posted by acb at 8:44 AM on May 8, 2008


Is there a snappy Dutch phrase for "initial impulses of mockery and pity for another person's exorbitantly artificial fashion choices giving way to reflection that one's own conventional fashion choices are simply normalized artificialities, just as arbitrary and exhibitionist, resulting in acceptance of and even conflicted admiration for grown men who carry lorgnettes"? Because that would save me a lot of words.
posted by dyoneo at 8:45 AM on May 8, 2008 [39 favorites]


...you really need to widen your scope.

My scope is wide. However, it is not made of shiny brass nor is my submarine powered by coal.
posted by tommasz at 8:46 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've always wanted to wrap my LCD TV in burlap. Now I know why!
posted by ninjew at 8:47 AM on May 8, 2008


Ha! Steamypunk. That's adorable.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:50 AM on May 8, 2008


I'm kind of fond of the steampunk aesthetic, because it reminds me of leisurely weekend afternoons lying on the burnt-orange tweed couch of our wood-paneled living room and watching old re-runs of "Wild Wild West" on the local UHF station. That was one sweet-ass train.
posted by padraigin at 8:52 AM on May 8, 2008


Funny, we were just discussing this on MetaChat.

I would prefer the credit for destroying steampunk go to me, rather than to the Times, thenkyewveddymuch.
posted by Eideteker at 8:54 AM on May 8, 2008


Is there a snappy Dutch phrase for "initial impulses of mockery and pity for another person's exorbitantly artificial fashion choices giving way to reflection that one's own conventional fashion choices are simply normalized artificialities, just as arbitrary and exhibitionist, resulting in acceptance of and even conflicted admiration for grown men who carry lorgnettes"? Because that would save me a lot of words.

Points to dyoneo, for the win!
posted by AccidentalHedonist at 9:01 AM on May 8, 2008


Your favorite Science Fiction genre sucks.
posted by tkchrist at 9:03 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm saying we need steamporn.

Isn't that just goth?

IMNSHO, the thing was destined to go off the rails when "steampunk" became more than just a cast-off, lighthearted joke of a term to describe a number of speculative fiction works that pulled on the 19th century for inspiration. Once it became "steampunk," it spawned a whole mess of depressingly derivative and formulaic work. Feh, let's hope that they don't discover Texarcana.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:03 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


The punk in steampunk comes from cyberpunk, which did have vague commonalities with "punk" at least in that your cyberpunk character was probably an anti-authoritarian streetwise rough misfit dude, and "cyber" because of the techno-fetishism.

Steampunk dropped the punk and kept the techno-fetishism, but kept the word punk.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:04 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is there a snappy Dutch phrase for "initial impulses of mockery and pity for another person's exorbitantly artificial fashion choices giving way to reflection that one's own conventional fashion choices are simply normalized artificialities, just as arbitrary and exhibitionist, resulting in acceptance of and even conflicted admiration for grown men who carry lorgnettes"?

sounds like hipster angst to me
posted by pyramid termite at 9:04 AM on May 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


Ha. I saw that article this morning and immediately thought "death knell!"

That being said, I saw the Heather Gold show at Maker Faire featuring some of the shining stars of steampunk. Many of the audience's questions were along the lines of "Once steampunk gets mainstream [and therefore less cool], what will you do?"

The responses were overwhelmingly "Keep doing what we're doing; we do it because it's who we are [and not because it's cool]."
posted by moonlet at 9:05 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm typing this on a keyboard I made myself out of concrete, aluminum tubes and Cesium-137 and my cpu is housed in a concrete cooling tower.
The great thing about this new aesthetic movement, 'NukeDroog' - as I call it, is that it will take 30.23 years for it to decay to half-as-cool as it is now.

That's the problem with steampunk . . . steam evaporates. Radioactive decay - now thats something with longevity.
posted by isopraxis at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


It's weird that they don't have any Wild Wild West or Back to the Future: Part III stills in the slideshow.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


“There seems to be this sort of perfect storm[1] of interest in steampunk right now,” Mr. von Slatt said. “If you go to Google Trends and track the number of times it is mentioned, the curve is almost algorithmic[2] from a year and a half ago.”

[1] Really? So it's raining steampunk? Or do you mean there is a confluence of factors contributing to the popularity of steampunk?

[2] Please define the algorithm. Or did you mean logarithmic?

Even heroic, if you like. The movement may have a postapocalyptic strain, but proponents tend to cast themselves as spirited survivors. Molly Friedrich, an artist and a jewelry designer in Seattle, approaches steampunk, she said, “from a perspective of 1,000 years into the future, after society has crumbled but people have chosen to live in Victorian fashion, wearing scavenged clothes.”

I think part of the appeal of steampunk that no one's touched on is that it comes from an era when things were built to last; rather than with the planned obsolescence of so much of our technology. There's a certain permanence; a solidity not found in our plastic gadgets.
posted by Eideteker at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


Is it still cool to hold Cory Doctorow in disdain?
posted by sidereal at 9:10 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cory can retire.
posted by HuronBob at 9:11 AM on May 8, 2008


Good lord, I didn't know there were others that had such distaste for steampunk as I do! It's very comforting.

But yeah, I see steampunk's aesthetic as just a sidestep away from the highschool drama kids that were into the whole medieval thing, but falling just short of goth.

"plaatsvervangende schaamte" could be one of the most useful phrases I learn this month.

(Oh, while we've got the Haterade out, can we take a few shots at low-brow "art" that Boing Boing keeps pushing?)
posted by Extopalopaketle at 9:11 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Steampunk style is also an expression of a desire to return to ritual and formality.

S'funny, I've never had that sensation or connection with steam punk. I don't think there's any thing ritualistic about the genre, myself. I can see the formality maybe expressed in the manner in which every day objects might be given more formal or lavish decoration.

But really, when I think steam punk, I see it more as this expression of Victorian wonderment at sciences and technology. A moment where a society firmly believed that the progression of advancement in all fields was a definite truth, and that invention and creativity could be applied to solve nearly any problem. It is the world that spawned the imagination of Jules Verne, the sense that technology could be applied with wondrous effect.

Steam Punk isn't supposed to be a glorification of Victorian social ideals, that can be represented in the lame (tea time!) to the awful (White Man's Burden). Its about those inventive individuals who rose above all that, relying on the wonders of their own creation. The key thing when looking back at the more classical examples (or even recent ones - like Steamboy), is that many of the "heros" or the main characters are considered different from the society they live in.
posted by Atreides at 9:11 AM on May 8, 2008 [11 favorites]


So the nerds who spend their free time commenting on messageboards are embarrassed for the nerds who spend their free time wrapping computers in leather and wearing top hats and monocles. Huh.
posted by gwint at 9:12 AM on May 8, 2008 [17 favorites]


"There's a certain permanence; a solidity not found in our plastic gadgets."

tell that to your local landfill!
posted by HuronBob at 9:12 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


And that's awesome that they actually have some black dudes in there.

Steampunk has black friends? It's awesome that they're not a bunch of segregationist KKK dudes? Black people are more awesome than White people?

Why does this matter?

I'd like steampunk more if it were porn.

One of the reasons I consider steampunk just a goofy slightly embarrassing hobby rather than a real embarrassment like furries is that they haven't rule 34'd it to a ridiculous degree.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:13 AM on May 8, 2008


Look at all the poor geeks who are unfortunate enough to think that something I think is dorky is cool! Aren't they funny!

I like steampunk. The aesthetic, done carefully, I think, is cool looking. That's what aesthetics are largely about. Looking cool. I'm sorry you don't agree.
posted by kalessin at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


So the nerds who spend their free time commenting on messageboards are embarrassed for the nerds who spend their free time wrapping computers in leather and wearing top hats and monocles. Huh.

dude

from yr defensiveness

i must speculate

y r BOTH

hur hur moran
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2008


acb - What's the next step in the mainstreaming of Steampunk?

How's about a revered yet snarky contemporary author incorporating ever-so-postmodern references to it into his latest elephantine opus?

That'll work.
posted by tspae at 9:16 AM on May 8, 2008


(waves goodbye from my dirigible) Ta-Ta!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:17 AM on May 8, 2008


I think it's ok to like or dislike something for aesthetic reasons and then tell people that.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:19 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


I like it. It reminds me of playing Myst. Modern technology is just so ugly, I can't blame someone for wanting to dress it up in brass.
posted by Evangeline at 9:20 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


I do admire some of the obsessive craftsmanship that goes into the work you see produced by some steampunks, these folks spend a great deal of time learning to make beautiful items. I get tired of everything being cheap (and now glitter-coated) plastic.

Therefore, I'm withholding my plaatsvervangende schaamte until I see the first printed (on old newsprint, handsomely bound, no doubt) catalog of GEAR: Steampunk Fetishware for a Truly Alternative World. Porkshanks, wearing a canvass harness with strategically placed brass buttons and a pair of goggles, should be on the cover, with a caption like "All of those pistons make me feel naughty and sooty!"
posted by adipocere at 9:20 AM on May 8, 2008


I can remember reading graphic novels from Europe, plus some issues of Heavy Metal, back in the early- to mid-1980s that had exactly this same aesthetic. And I can remember some of my parents' album covers from the '60s or '70s, with the same sort of mixing of looks on them -- dudes with wild-west facial hair, workman's jeans, and Edwardian waistcoats, that sort of thing.

So whatever this is, it isn't new.

I really like the small subculture within it that focuses on making stuff, as compared to just buying it as a fashion. But the idea that people are wearing these get-ups, and doing so with a straight face, is kind of funny. I know, I know, adults need to play, too; they are no doubt plenty ironic in their performances; they would laugh at me, too; all the usual that can be said about anyone who dresses different, be they goth or whatever.

But there is an interesting deliberateness to this, where you can see the purposeful creation of a subgenre, that contrasts with the more, uh, dare I say "grassroots" authenticity of some other subcultures. I mean, sure, at some level it is all purposeful (we don't do much unconsciously, I think), and steampunk is no sillier than big hair and spandex heavy metal or people dressing like hippies in 2008. But at the same time, this is a fashion aesthetic that comes out of fiction -- books, graphic novels, anime, etc -- rather than the more common bricolage drawn from some semblance of real life. It's a sort of meta fashion, with a self-consciousness that most subcultures don't bother with.
posted by Forktine at 9:21 AM on May 8, 2008 [9 favorites]


I think it's ok to like or dislike something for aesthetic reasons and then tell people that.

On purely aesthetic grounds, I declare this theory unlikable, and therefore anti-ok!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:21 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I declare it...ko
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:22 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


tell that to your local landfill!

itym "dungpunk"
posted by cortex at 9:24 AM on May 8, 2008



On purely aesthetic grounds, I declare this theory unlikable, and therefore anti-ok!


I can accept that.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:25 AM on May 8, 2008


I think it's ok to like or dislike something for aesthetic reasons and then tell people that.

You know who else... Oh, never mind.

I'm not too keen on the steampunk aesthetic, but, yeesh, person on the left ain't even trying.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:27 AM on May 8, 2008


"It's a very distinct feeling that the English language does not have a good expression for. In Dutch it's called plaatsvervangende schaamte which literally means 'place exchanging shame'. Shame felt on behalf of someone else, shame you feel someone else should feel. I'm embarrassed for them."

I endeavor to engender this feeling in people as much as possible. You should feel shame, if you feel the need to be ashamed for somebody. No one should ever be made to feel shame. Shame is the feeling one gets with the recognition of causing discomfort in others, but you know what? Fuck your comfort zone.

I see a lot of the criticism from people in this thread coming from dress. When it's a literary subgenre, no one has a problem with it, but when people feel the desire to start dressing up, people get all kinds of judgemental.

I think steampunk is fun. It's all kinds of whimsical and silly. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. The animated version of Around the World in Eighty Days. The Mysterious Cities of Gold. Indiana Jones. Anything with exploration and traps, and ancient technology. Anything Jules Verne or inspired by same (Back to the Future 3). Best of all, I find a relative absence of the very sort of cynicism propelling this thread in the best examples of steampunk/retrofuture adventures. Instead, it's the opposite: unfettered imagination. No, I'm not about to go dressing up like it, but yes, I do own a pocketwatch. Suckers!

I think blind adherence to a subculture is a bad thing. Yes, there are crazy goths, as well as hippies, fundies, and whatever else. But blind adherence to cynicism is bad, too. You miss out on a lot of fun. Okay, fine, maybe steampunk's not your style of fun. Move on. There is no greater sin in this world than to deny someone their bit of whatever little fun they've found, just so you can get your momentary buzz of kill-joy.
posted by Eideteker at 9:27 AM on May 8, 2008 [51 favorites]


phrontist: My friends and I have always called that feeling "embarassitis." That sort of contagious embarassment you get from someone who is apparently a carrier of embarassment, but does not experience symptoms themselves.

I know someone else who would express that feeling with the phrase "bottom row." Which makes no sense at all until you look in a mirror and make a face that just exposes your bottom row of teeth. Then suddenly it becomes obvious.

Usage: "Oh man. Garret showed up at work today wearing brass goggles and a strappy leather duster again."

"Bottom row!"
posted by rusty at 9:30 AM on May 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


You should feel shame, if you feel the need to be ashamed for somebody. [...] There is no greater sin in this world than to deny someone their bit of whatever little fun they've found, just so you can get your momentary buzz of kill-joy.

Ah, hypocrisy.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:31 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is no greater sin in this world than to deny someone their bit of whatever little fun they've found, just so you can get your momentary buzz of kill-joy.

Amen, bucko.

With the provision that their right to their fun stops where my lawn begins, natch.
posted by cortex at 9:32 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


So, if Steampunk has passed, does that mean that it's decedents can finally start to get some traction? Because I've been waiting for some Steam-Speed-Metal styles to start appearing. I'm thinking it will have something to do with horseless carriages going really fast, but we'll have to see.

IndustrialSteam will be fantastic, I'm sure. I'm envisioning the ordered destruction of boiler after boiler in a symphony of scalding water.

Steampunk is dead; Long live Steam!
posted by quin at 9:34 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Ah, hypocrisy."

Check your math. I think you missed a minus sign in there somewhere. My figures show a net positive.
posted by Eideteker at 9:36 AM on May 8, 2008


So, if Steampunk has passed, does that mean that it's decedents can finally start to get some traction?

I'm waiting for steamfunk. It's just like steampunk, except everything is done up in kaleidoscope colors.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:38 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is no greater sin in this world than to deny someone their bit of whatever little fun they've found,

No greater sin? Really?Pedophiles and genocidists will no doubt be pleased to learn that they're no longer occupying the innermost circle of hell.
posted by dersins at 9:38 AM on May 8, 2008


There's a certain ...schadenfreude?entertainment value?...about people yelling their opinions into a vacuum so that they can feel better about their own aesthetic choices (or lack thereof).

AccidentalHedonist, replace "aesthetic" with the relevant topic, and you've just described the entire internets. (Try, for example: "political", "economic", "religious".)
posted by WalterMitty at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2008


tspae: I thought the best thing about Against the Day was that it parodies steampunk to death. The whole premise of that aspect of the book is that it's purely empty fetishism and has no use or value whatsoever. It ends up consuming itself and disappearing in irrelevancy.
posted by rusty at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2008


Oh, man. They're goths. It all makes sense now. Anybody up for a game of "Vampire: The Masquerade?"

Yeah, they're goths. The first club to self-identify as "steampunk," Malediction Society in Los Angeles (run by a friend of mine) plays a lot of Covenant, Dead Can Dance, and Assemblage 23, so steampunk as an actual subculture sort of grew out of people who watch a lot of anime and listen to a lot of futurepop. That said, I think the fashion is fun for the clubs (more interesting than the vinyl miniskirts and fake dreadlocks they're calling "cyberpunk" these days), but the art and literature are really where it's at, from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to The Difference Engine.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:42 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Man Castle Falkenstein came 13 years too early for its creators to get really really rich.
posted by drezdn at 9:42 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Best of all, I find a relative absence of the very sort of cynicism propelling this thread in the best examples of steampunk/retrofuture adventures. Instead, it's the opposite: unfettered imagination.

I'm pretty pro-creativity and fun stuff myself, but really, one's imagination is not that "unfettered" at all when there's a specific group look/aesthetic you're going for.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:42 AM on May 8, 2008


"No greater sin? Really?Pedophiles and genocidists will no doubt be pleased to learn that they're no longer occupying the innermost circle of hell."

Really, they don't deny their victims joy? Can you have a victim without the denial of joy? If you leave someone as happy or happier than when you met them, how have they been victimized?

In other words, you missed the point in your quest to be right. No matter how many battles you may think you're winning, you'll never win the war this way. Life is not about who picks the most nits.
posted by Eideteker at 9:42 AM on May 8, 2008


There is no greater sin in this world than to deny someone their bit of whatever little fun they've found, just so you can get your momentary buzz of kill-joy.

Who-all is suggesting that steampunks or even furries get rounded up and sent to the fun denial reeducation camps now or that the Gestapo bust in and take away all their brass goggles? Finding someone's activities worthy of heckling doesn't equate to denying them their activities.

But at the same time, this is a fashion aesthetic that comes out of fiction -- books, graphic novels, anime, etc -- rather than the more common bricolage drawn from some semblance of real life. It's a sort of meta fashion, with a self-consciousness that most subcultures don't bother with.

Often the "real life" aesthetics, fashions, and norms come right out of fiction - advertising, sitcoms, the news.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:44 AM on May 8, 2008


Even ribopunk is outdated now. *sigh*
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:46 AM on May 8, 2008


This trend makes 80's metal kids look creative.
posted by zzazazz at 9:48 AM on May 8, 2008


WalterMitty - true that.
posted by AccidentalHedonist at 9:50 AM on May 8, 2008


Once the tekwar comes, this whole discussion will be irrelevant.
posted by drezdn at 9:50 AM on May 8, 2008


"I'm pretty pro-creativity and fun stuff myself, but really, one's imagination is not that 'unfettered' at all when there's a specific group look/aesthetic you're going for."

Reread that whole paragraph again. Then read this comment. It's much better than anything I've written in this thread.

Steampunk has a wider definition, in my mind. The aesthetic is only the surface veneer. Underneath is a tremendous story engine; whether that engine is brass gears or steel is irrelevant. As I said earlier, I think people are getting hung up on the fact that there are people dressing this way. It stirs unpleasant feelings of conformity and high school and makes people think of hypocrisy (rebel chic). But I see underneath the trappings of all pulp writing; unadorned and unpretentious just plain storytelling. Steampunk is the most tangible extension of this. A lot of pulp is unapologetically derivative, but I've learned that it's more important to have fun than to be original. Originality is an illusion and a trap. Storytellers for thousands of years borrowed unabashedly; I think our modern obsession with originality has shackled imagination rather than freeing it.

I apologize if that doesn't make sense to anyone else, but that's how I feel about it.
posted by Eideteker at 9:54 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


People tell me I look steampunk, but I was aiming for some kind of neo-340's/50's thing. I think my time machine needs adjusting.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:01 AM on May 8, 2008


oh, parts of it have already hit the mainstream. the large chain office supply store i was in recently had little tacks and magnets made to look like old round typewriter keys.

also, there are a couple of light fixtures in a bigbox home improvement store that had a bunch of that steampunk aesthetic.

we survived "the future will involve jumpsuits and sparse swedish-designed furniture". we survived "the future will look like everyone in leather and vinyl like in the matrix". civilization will survive this.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:02 AM on May 8, 2008


Erm, that's "neo-40's/50's"
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:02 AM on May 8, 2008


Storytellers for thousands of years borrowed unabashedly; I think our modern obsession with originality has shackled imagination rather than freeing it.

Oh, I don't think there's a modern obsession with originality at all -- if there is, I haven't seen much evidence of it. That's not a value judgment, since I'm not sure how possible originality even is (nothing is made of whole cloth), it's just an observation. Maybe we're obsessed with originality as some unattainable grail? Everyone would like to be the visionary who proves there's something new under the sun, but it's not gonna happen. People (and, more to the point, corporations) certainly seem to like trying to brand their creations as original, but that's more about ego and ownership than anything else.

As far as unfettered imagination within this genre/subculture/whatever you want to call it goes -- all I'm saying is that there are clearly things that are not steampunk, that to include them would make what one is doing something else, and so must be excluded in order to meet the parameters of the thing itself. Hence, the imagination is bridled, fettered, leashed, bound, and any number of other words that sound much cooler with the "un-" prefix set in front of them. That's not me cracking on steampunk, because that's just as true of any other genre/subculture/whatever you want to call it; merely a point of clarity.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:10 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually you know now I've seperated out in my mind steampunk as a loose grouping of alternate history fiction tropes and steampunk the whatever-the-fuck-this-shit is. I'm actually pretty okay with it. Realising that it's just a bunch of manga-goth stuff with next to no ties back to anything I'm interested in was a big step to accepting and ignoring it.

Cory Doctrow still gets over excited about any old bollocks with rivets and brass though.
posted by Artw at 10:16 AM on May 8, 2008


I still prefer Range Murata style retro. (NSFW)
posted by zengargoyle at 10:19 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Psychobilly is still edgy right?

It is? cool. I'm going to get a royal flush shaved into the back of my head after work, after I pick up my hearse from the shop.
posted by The Power Nap at 10:20 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Enjoyed the talk about an "algorithmic" curve. On the TV show "Medium" recently they made the opposite mistake - the engineer husband started talking about his clever new software logarithms.
posted by w0mbat at 10:21 AM on May 8, 2008


The punk in steampunk comes from cyberpunk, which did have vague commonalities with "punk" at least in that your cyberpunk character was probably an anti-authoritarian streetwise rough misfit dude, and "cyber" because of the techno-fetishism.

So, you're saying it should be called "cybersteam"? I think "steamnerds" would cover it pretty well.

I like it. It reminds me of playing Myst. Modern technology is just so ugly, I can't blame someone for wanting to dress it up in brass.


Exactly. Between Myst and Bioshock, video games have brought this aesthetic to more people than any of the other examples the NYT cites, except maybe Brazil.

Is it still cool to hold Cory Doctorow in disdain?

Not unless you've read Little Brother. It's an order of magnitude better than any of his previous novels.
posted by straight at 10:25 AM on May 8, 2008


See, if I was still clinging to the idea that it actually meant anything I’d be objecting and pointing out that Bioshock is art deco/40s futurism with a dash of deep sea diver aesthetic, and bugger all to do with Steampunk as I understand it.
posted by Artw at 10:33 AM on May 8, 2008


Hence, the imagination is bridled, fettered, leashed, bound, and any number of other words that sound much cooler with the "un-" prefix set in front of them. That's not me cracking on steampunk, because that's just as true of any other genre/subculture/whatever you want to call it; merely a point of clarity.

This is true on the surface, but I think it's more an accident of metaphor than any kind of truth. If rules are bridles, then yes, creativity is bridled by rules. But if rules are sinews that keep the thing together, then rules make creativity stronger. Or, as the great rules-free poet put it, "fjaslf lk faslkmfval kkjdf09#&"

But it's just a point of semantics.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:35 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


DR. REVANCHE V. AVENGER AND HIS WILY METAFILTER ZEPPLIN SQUAD TO THE MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON
posted by Avenger at 10:37 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can remember reading graphic novels from Europe, plus some issues of Heavy Metal, back in the early- to mid-1980s that had exactly this same aesthetic. And I can remember some of my parents' album covers from the '60s or '70s, with the same sort of mixing of looks on them -- dudes with wild-west facial hair, workman's jeans, and Edwardian waistcoats, that sort of thing.

Apologies if someone else has said it (I have read the thread) but Forktine's comment has suddenly reminded me of the British pop star...Adam Ant?

He was labeled a new romantic, I think- but had his own edge. Pirate-highwayman-red indian...kind of a steampunk medley.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:43 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Atreides: But really, when I think steam punk, I see it more as this expression of Victorian wonderment at sciences and technology.... Steam Punk isn't supposed to be a glorification of Victorian social ideals, that can be represented in the lame (tea time!) to the awful (White Man's Burden).

Ahh, so steampunk isn't a glorification of Victorian social ideals, except when it is a glorification of Victorian social ideals. Which brings us to Eideteker's rose-colored glasses:

Eideteker: Anything Jules Verne or inspired by same (Back to the Future 3). Best of all, I find a relative absence of the very sort of cynicism propelling this thread in the best examples of steampunk/retrofuture adventures. Instead, it's the opposite: unfettered imagination.

Which just goes to show that steampunkers have not really bothered to read more than superficially the works they namedrop, and have a rather idealistic vision of their own "genre."

In fact, I'd say that some of the best works that use mid-industrial settings are quite openly cynical about the values and conditions of the time, including the 19th century Victorian speculative fiction authors that steampunkers claim as foundational. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, City of the Lost Children (and connecting the dots to Delicatessen), Svankmajer's Alice and the Quay brothers' Institut Benjamenta, are just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is true on the surface, but I think it's more an accident of metaphor than any kind of truth. If rules are bridles, then yes, creativity is bridled by rules. But if rules are sinews that keep the thing together, then rules make creativity stronger. Or, as the great rules-free poet put it, "fjaslf lk faslkmfval kkjdf09#&"

Well, some sets of rules are much narrower than others, though. I don't think that "I'm going to dress like a character from a Jules Verne novel" is an especially expansive set. So to claim that this is "unbridled imagination" isn't giving imagination a whole lot of credit.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


"all I'm saying is that there are clearly things that are not steampunk, that to include them would make what one is doing something else, and so must be excluded in order to meet the parameters of the thing itself. Hence, the imagination is bridled, fettered, leashed, bound, and any number of other words that sound much cooler with the "un-" prefix set in front of them. That's not me cracking on steampunk, because that's just as true of any other genre/subculture/whatever you want to call it; merely a point of clarity."

Ok, then it sounds like there's not much disagreement between us (or if there is, it's the happy kind). But if I may go back on my earlier admonition against picking nits, there's a flaw in your argument. There are an infinte number of even numbers, numbers divisible by five, and prime numbers. Constraints do not equate to limits; what is limited in some fashion is not necessarily finite. I honestly don't mean this as a nitpick, though I admit it sounds like one. You must have some structure to define anything; fettered or not. You can't say there are an infinite number of ______ without saying what _____ is. So in that sense, I disagree. But I understand your fundamental point, even if I don't agree with it (and I appreciate your civility).

I have no emotional investment in steampunk. I just can't stand to see people cracking on a subculture because, well, it's a subculture. Remember Pinky and the Brain? A lot of folks in this thread could learn from that show. "One is a genius, the other's insane." Well, they never said which was which. I like to put my money on the genius being the one who had the most fun.
posted by Eideteker at 10:46 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I don't think that 'I'm going to dress like a character from a Jules Verne novel' is an especially expansive set."

Again, you're getting caught up in the dress. We're talking about two different things, then.
posted by Eideteker at 10:49 AM on May 8, 2008


Duh, when I was trying to think of a fairly old example of a steampunkish aesthetic, I missed perhaps the most obvious one.
posted by Miko at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


"It's a very distinct feeling that the English language does not have a good expression for. In Dutch it's called plaatsvervangende schaamte which literally means 'place exchanging shame'. Shame felt on behalf of someone else, shame you feel someone else should feel. I'm embarrassed for them."

I endeavor to engender this feeling in people as much as possible. You should feel shame, if you feel the need to be ashamed for somebody. No one should ever be made to feel shame. Shame is the feeling one gets with the recognition of causing discomfort in others, but you know what? Fuck your comfort zone.


To revisit this (because this is really the part of the thread that set me off): I've felt embarrassed before, and ashamed. It doesn't happen often, but I'm familiar with the sentiment. But I cannot honestly say that ever in my life have I felt ashamed for someone. I much prefer to feel... what's the other one? Oh, yes. Compassion.

Hard not to feel disgust here, though.
posted by Eideteker at 10:54 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Not unless you've read Little Brother. It's an order of magnitude better than any of his previous novels.

Has he given up on derailing his narratives with entire chapters of free bandwidth polemic? Which was a damn shame about Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. There was actually a pretty decent urban fantasy novella in there struggling to get out from under the "free the internet" screeds.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:54 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Adam Ant? Brazil?

You people are really trying to blow my new zen like calm and ability to not rage at “steampunk” for appropriating random non-steampunk stuff, aren’t you?

I mean, fucks sake, why not just throw in Mad Max II? It’s got technology in it and it’s all a bit grungey and broken.
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Constraints do not equate to limits; what is limited in some fashion is not necessarily finite. I honestly don't mean this as a nitpick, though I admit it sounds like one. You must have some structure to define anything; fettered or not. You can't say there are an infinite number of ______ without saying what _____ is. So in that sense, I disagree. But I understand your fundamental point, even if I don't agree with it (and I appreciate your civility).

I pretty much just replied to this above (before this was posted!), but it works better here: I don't think steampunk is all that big a structure, is my whole thing. Can it be neat? Sure. But it's not a be-all/end-all, a place where imagination is completely free to create; and while no structure really is or could be that, I'm sure there are others that give you more room to breathe. These are relatively narrow confines.

As to civility, there's no reason I wouldn't be civil, trust me: I'm sure I have more in common with people who dig this aesthetic than I do...um...a lot of others. I don't dislike it. I kinda made light of goths up above, and as with that subculture, I cringe because I care.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:56 AM on May 8, 2008


I much prefer to feel... what's the other one? Oh, yes. Compassion.

So instead of feeling ashamed for the people featured in the linked article you feel sorry for them? Me too!
posted by dersins at 11:01 AM on May 8, 2008


Hard not to feel disgust here, though.

No ,you don't have any emotional investment in this topic at all. Clearly.
posted by dersins at 11:03 AM on May 8, 2008


I also think it's a mistake to overestimate the workmanship and quality of the late 19th century. The industrial revolution after all was built on the mass production of "good enough" items. What gets passed on as working antiques is the cream of the crop.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:04 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I mean, fucks sake, why not just throw in Mad Max II? It’s got technology in it and it’s all a bit grungey and broken.

I'll have you know, Artw, I was going to chuck in Mad Max - with my Adam Ant mention, but then I decided to be more discerning!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:05 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Again, you're getting caught up in the dress. We're talking about two different things, then.

I'm not so sure...at least as regards where the borders of this territory lie. Which is to say, fairly close to the center. I mean, up above when you're mentioning Indiana Jones and Back to the Future and all that, that stuff is undeniably great, but I think you have to really stretch to call it "steampunk" -- to me, that fits under a more generalized heading of "adventure," a subset of which may be steampunk. And yeah, I'd agree that within that you can do a whole lot (except for stories that are less than adventurous, which is...a great many stories?). Buuuuut I'm thinking that maybe what you're talking about is not really what this article is about...?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:05 AM on May 8, 2008


phrontist said: Okay, so this is how you pronounce it (disclaimer: I have a Flemish accent, Dutch was my first language, but I've mostly lived an english speaking life).

Such a fantastic phrase. That's how I thought it should be pronounced, but it's been over a decade since I've spoken to anyone in Dutch, so dank u wel ! :)


As to the article and comments: See, when I hear the phrase "steampunk", I think about Neil Stephenson's Diamond Age. (Which was a brilliant book, but then, I'm a bit of a Stephenson fan girl, so YMMV.)

But consider that the London goths in the 80's had a Victorian subset. Seriously, I have VictoGoth clothes in my closet that are older than some of those kids. There's always been a Victorian fashion club, since Queen Vicky herself. There was a fashion movement during WWII that captured the same essence, there was a movement during the Vietnam era, there was one 20 years later, and now 20 years later again. Leading one to believe that all fashion subtrends are somewhat cyclical.

Or perhaps it's that creative kids get into their parents closets and think "Wow, I could do something with this!". Or maybe when people like me think "Man, I'm never gonna be a size 4 again, I should get rid of these boxes of velvet crap taking up all this space." and the new generation of Art School Girls of Doom spot them at the charity shop and recycle them into a new trend, I dunno.

But really, it's just fashion...why the hostility? As a rule the pseudoVics are polite, well spoken, well read and don't smell bad. Given a choice between being in a room with them or Trekkies who are still trying to cram a size 42 body into their unwashed Trek t-shirt from 7th grade...I'll take the Vics.
posted by dejah420 at 11:06 AM on May 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


Merlin Mann's take sums up my feelings on "being" steam-punk.

I'm all for the aesthetic of the things that are made. Most of them look good. That's nice.

But the whole - "Oh, I am the epitome of Steam Punkitude/tte, look at my outfit..." I dunno. I grew up wanting to look like either Elvis Costello or Joey Ramone. Yeah, being trendy is a young persons game. Shitting on the trends though, oh baby am I just entering my prime...
posted by From Bklyn at 11:08 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Adam Ant is Steampunk...? What it this madness... so you just have to wear a cavalry jacket to be steam punk, do you?

Oh and from reading the first chapter Little Brother seems to be Hackers for the naughties, only a lot less fun

My liking for Steampunk is entirely lit related but I'm not going to begrudge someone wearing brass goggles and a bustle... it's not like their furries or something equally beyond the pale
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:17 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


But really, it's just fashion...why the hostility?

It’s a genre discussion, genre discussions always go badly (“how dare you call that ambient techno? It’s clearly minimalist drum and bass! Rarr!”). Genre discussions related to SF get bitter and nasty twice as fast. Combine people having that conversation with people who think of it as a fashion thing, or use the term as a catch all for all kidns of things and you have a recipe for EXPLODO.

Also DAMN KIDS! ON THE LAWN! GRRR!
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on May 8, 2008


deja420: I love the aesthetic, I hate the pretense and hype that's sprouted up around it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:21 AM on May 8, 2008


Really? This is the best retort for the "cooler than thou" argument? Really?

Seriously, isn't it easy to mock folks who dress in funny costumes, who become fanatic about the work of a few, and attend large gatherings with others who share their affection?

Or one could simply acknowledge that people do weird stuff all of the time in the name of passion and fun.
posted by AccidentalHedonist at 11:23 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I mean, fucks sake, why not just throw in Mad Max II? It’s got technology in it and it’s all a bit grungey and broken.

You did read the article, right? Yes, the one linked at the top of the page we are all looking at right now.

Quote:

That definition is loose enough to accommodate a stew of influences, including the streamlined retro-futurism of Flash Gordon and Japanese animation with its goggle-wearing hackers, the postapocalyptic scavenger style of “Mad Max,” and vaudeville, burlesque and the structured gentility of the Victorian age. In aggregate, steampunk is a trend that is rapidly outgrowing niche status.
posted by Forktine at 11:25 AM on May 8, 2008


Drat it...

it should be... become fanatic... a good point lost to poor html.
posted by AccidentalHedonist at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2008


And I'll stick my neck out and say that furry is one of those fan subcultures that has was hijacked by the roleplay yiffers and the media focus on them. Which led to a downward spiral as it attracted folks looking for a kink rather than the fiction and animation.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Adam Ant is Steampunk...? What it this madness... so you just have to wear a cavalry jacket to be steam punk, do you?

Fearful Symmetry,

He did not "just...wear a cavalry jacket"!!!.


He had that whole fucking arch vibe going - steampunk lite if you insist - but a damn sight more than "just" a jacket!!!

(Trying to get worked up here because it's one of those heated "genre discussions". Failing badly. Maybe he was a really silly example!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:27 AM on May 8, 2008


Forktine - fuck that.
posted by Artw at 11:28 AM on May 8, 2008


He had that whole fucking arch vibe going - steampunk lite if you insist - but a damn sight more than "just" a jacket!!!

I sense a plot to revive New Romantic! Bring in the stormtroopers! Exterminate at will!
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on May 8, 2008


Did someone say "New Romantic"?
posted by dersins at 11:34 AM on May 8, 2008


(the whole song)
posted by dersins at 11:36 AM on May 8, 2008


So instead of feeling ashamed for the people featured in the linked article you feel sorry for them? Me too!

I was going for the sympathy definition rather than the pity definition. But make sure to twist it whichever way makes you feel the best!
posted by Eideteker at 11:36 AM on May 8, 2008


dressups for kids that are still growing up
posted by Postroad at 11:39 AM on May 8, 2008


There's going to be a Sigue Sigue Sputnik revival and then the world will end.
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


But really, it's just fashion...why the hostility?

Because, for better or worse, fashion separates us from them.
It identifies "the other," which to some people equates with "the enemy."
posted by KoobieKitten at 11:53 AM on May 8, 2008


I have Sigue Sigue Sputnik's "21st Century Boy" on my MP3 player. It still raises eyebrows when it comes on when I'm driving with friends.

I simply explain that I want to be prepared when it gets to be twenty minutes into the future.
posted by quin at 11:54 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


And then, we can have the attack of the Nomis. (Which would be too darn cool.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:55 AM on May 8, 2008


And just for fun:
Some New Romantic goodness
posted by KoobieKitten at 11:56 AM on May 8, 2008


But really, it's just fashion...why the hostility?

I think I know this one - is the answer because it is something happening on the internet?
posted by Nabubrush at 11:57 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Getting back to steampunk...
posted by Sys Rq at 11:57 AM on May 8, 2008


I'm ordering in an airstrike.
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on May 8, 2008


Duh, when I was trying to think of a fairly old example of a steampunkish aesthetic, I missed perhaps the most obvious one.

Brazil is not steampunk. It's some sort of cyber-1930s/40s. Is there a term for this yet? If not, I'm going to make one up. Ummm ... fedoratech.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:02 PM on May 8, 2008


I'm ordering in an airstrike.

Really? Because I'm calling one in... with a poison kiss.
posted by dersins at 12:04 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Steampunk always struck me as much more Edwardian than Victorian. Those (amazingly) white "steampunk" kids in the NYT pictures just look wannabe victorian goth to me. Too much elegance and red and black not enough browns, and brass, and dirty fingernails, and scary hair hiding under a bowler.
posted by aspo at 12:04 PM on May 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


However, I have an admitted fascination with those intricate 19th-century pen-and-ink engineering drawings, the kind with the impossibly tiny crosshatched details. You just don't get that with SolidWorks or AutoCAD.

Write a rendering plug-in to do this.

I think there would be a market - I suspect plenty of businesses would like to be able to decorate their receptions and client spaces with these kinds of prints of the products they design or manufacture.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:04 PM on May 8, 2008


Really? Because I'm calling one in... with a poison kiss .

Ah but Nemesis was good Steampunk... well some of it was.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:11 PM on May 8, 2008


It's a very distinct feeling that the English language does not have a good expression for. In Dutch it's called plaatsvervangende schaamte which literally means 'place exchanging shame'. Shame felt on behalf of someone else, shame you feel someone else should feel. I'm embarrassed for them.

For the record, the field of psychology has recently given us a perfectly good English expression for this: "vicarious shame."
posted by moonbiter at 12:12 PM on May 8, 2008


Nemesis had smiting of deviants - APPROVED!

Be pure... be vigilant... BEHAVE!
posted by Artw at 12:14 PM on May 8, 2008


(dersins should of course still be sent to the vats)
posted by Artw at 12:15 PM on May 8, 2008


plaatsvervangende schaamte. How is this pronounced?
posted by felix at 12:22 PM on May 8, 2008


I don't get how people can get so grinchy over something that's as fun and silly as steampunk. If the NY Times Style section managed to find people who missed the humour- well, every crowd's got some. And for all we know they were making fun of the reporter, who probably seemed determined to turn it into something it isn't.

From last year's Maker Fair: A school of salmon touring the Neverwas House, which is a small Victorian-style house that travels around by means of a steam-powered engine.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:23 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Julie Burchill was very succinct about why New Romantics were wankers, while punks were not. She said it was because the New Romantics were fat, and punks were skinny.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:41 PM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


plaatsvervangende schaamte. How is this pronounced?

It's pronounced "I'm a pretentious douche who makes himself feel better by looking down on others."
posted by Justinian at 12:41 PM on May 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


Rich kids have more fun. News at 11.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:49 PM on May 8, 2008


It's pronounced "I'm a pretentious douche who makes himself feel better by looking down on others."

No, that's what it means. It's pronounced - "Plaa..."whatever it is he says.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:55 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Regarding plaatsvervangende schaamte:

This is what I've always referred to as "the cringe factor".

49 year old, slightly overweight woman doing interpretive dance in public without irony:

*cringe*

people in their early twenties reading their not-very-good poetry in public and being told by their friends that they're "awesome":

*cringe*

New Age geek from Connecticut with trust fund saying he feels "more Indian than the Indians":

*CRINGE*

TV talent shows where you find yourself PRAYING that the person you're watching is actually a plant, otherwise it would be just too cruel:

*CRINGE!!*

Yes, that good old plaatsvervangende schaamte, it seems to be getting more and more common.

That brass computer, however, was pretty freakin cool.
posted by crazylegs at 12:55 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not much makes me cringe anymore. If it floats their boat, more power to them. The exception is when people are self-righteous and humorless in a way that I know I have been some earlier era.

This Thing/Way of Thinking is the Only Right One! If you disagree, you are Ignorant and Uncultured! Even if you have 40 years' experience on me! Damn it, I read it in a book/ my professor told me so!

*CRINGE*
posted by small_ruminant at 1:14 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Steampunk is cool, punk all you steampunk haters. I was steampunk before there was a term for it, back in the early 90s, I realized that "digital" was everywhere and it all felt so plastic and I had a pining for something not-new, something ANALOG something TRADITIONAL and yet techy. The Victorian scientist ala HG Wells Time Machine, lots of analog gears, analog dials, analog Nixie lights.. anything un-digital that's techy - man, that's pure heaven. I even talked about opening a store selling that stuff but I'm not that weird and was probably before my time. There is probably still a niche for it. I see this trend sticking with a generation or two for a lot of reasons.
posted by stbalbach at 1:31 PM on May 8, 2008


I see this trend sticking with a generation or two for a lot of reasons.

I see this trend making a level of noise disprortionate to the degree that it actually exists on various websites I frequent long enough for it to be even more irritating than it is now, then gradually fading away.
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on May 8, 2008


i was just about to mention that if this was going to go mainstream, it probably would've happened with that Smashing Pumpkins video like 10 years ago, but Sys Rq beat me to it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:44 PM on May 8, 2008


Also, I predict this will be cool until the Gap ad with the attractive young people dancing around in cast-iron khakis comes out.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:45 PM on May 8, 2008


This is too edgy. I'm more of a steamsoftjazz kind of guy.
posted by naju at 1:51 PM on May 8, 2008


Er, steamsmoothjazz.
posted by naju at 1:52 PM on May 8, 2008


steamnewwave
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:03 PM on May 8, 2008


plaatsvervangende schaamte - a phrase I can't pronounce

There's always igry.
posted by the_bone at 2:05 PM on May 8, 2008


Oh, I don't think it's so bad. I personally like up-to-date technology that works well and has surface materials that are pleasant to touch. I mean, why do we have leather steering wheels in our cars?
posted by davejay at 2:09 PM on May 8, 2008


I guess I'll put on my grey suit and sit down at the operating console of an IBM 704, gotta move on to new retro styles.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:09 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Haha! NERDS ARE STUPID!!!
posted by Slap Factory at 2:27 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Slap Factory - you misunderstand - THESE NERDS ARE DOING IT WRONG!
posted by Artw at 2:29 PM on May 8, 2008


Ef all y'all,

I'm going Jet-age Gothic a la Venture Bros.
posted by The Power Nap at 2:35 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I really liked Perdido Street Station.

That is all.
posted by tkchrist at 2:37 PM on May 8, 2008


why do we have leather steering wheels in our cars?

We eat too many cows, and with dumping and garbage collections fees what they are, the meat industry decided to stop paying landfill fees on all the inedible bits they had to get rid of, and instead cut those bits up into tiny pieces and then hide them all over the country.

They're so good at it that you probably though your steering wheel was supposed to be leather, and think that your once thin and supple cloth-boots are cloth-lined boots. The meat industry is truely Ninja.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:46 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


There was that PC game from a few years back that I quite enjoyed though. It was a bit like 'Baldur's Gate'. I forget the name.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:53 PM on May 8, 2008


Is it still cool to hold Cory Doctorow in disdain?

I'm not sure that's a point of fashion. I'd call it more "facing reality". Guy's a spastic.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:06 PM on May 8, 2008


He does know a lot about Disney though.
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


[[shrugs]] Y'all can make fun of steampunk all you want. I think it's awesome. I esp. like this Mac Mini/monitor mod, and the fact that it encourages chicks to wear cute britches, tall socks, button-up shirts and chunky boots. This is one chick who thinks she could stand to add a good bit more steampunk to her life.
posted by limeonaire at 3:09 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'll be honest, I'm a fan of steampunk, and I doubt that this article will have much affect on it one way or another.

I also think that the "punk" label fits in well with the original intentions, which were a combination of sci-fi with Jack-the-Ripper era noir. This combo of increased technology and social rebellion fits in well with the punk aesthetic, and also creates a glorious, romantic landscape, not of roses and puppies and bright meadows, but of dark alleys, smoke-filled bars, unweildy technology built upon itself like a house of cards that's just about to collapse, and yes, steam, with it's romantic images reaching from Victorian London through the Seven Year Itch and beyond. The images are gorgeous, while pointing out the beauty and decadence of man's designs. They exist in urban sprawl, but that sprawl is so busy that it suggests that anything is possible.

Yes, it's pulpy, but pulp is inherently romantic as well, ever nostalgic for a time that never was and will always be. It romanticizes the underbelly of society, transforming criminals into heroes, and whores into long-lost loves. Steampunk, in my opinion, does this most beautifully.

Which is why I kind of hate the idea of turning what should be a niche literary (and video game) genre into a fashion statement. I get that there are people who want to wear it, just as I get that there are furries out there, and I wish neither groups any disrespect - get your jollies where, and while, you can. But there's some undefinable line where fashion just becomes costume, and these people are on the other side of it, not a part of the world they're dressing for.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:33 PM on May 8, 2008 [7 favorites]


I always kind of liked steampunk constructors. I like the guys who put the classic feel on modern things... I do have to draw the line at people dressing up in the style of their obsession. This holds true for anything for me. I love the Lakers, but I wouldnt even wear a Lakers t-shirt. I find the look of anyone who feels they have to express their hobbies or obsessions through an "in your face" dress code to be a tad sophomoric.

But then again, Im sure some would say the same about me... So, carry on, then, judging each other against your internal sliding scale. Thats what seperates us from the beasts.
posted by subaruwrx at 3:44 PM on May 8, 2008


Because 19th century and victorians are now off-limits, people move forward to put serious effort in artistic re-imaginations of nazis in space. I'm curious to see what happens when people start to dress for the genre. I hope they are allowed to do so without people harassing them, for me that would be a sign of a pretty nice Culture.
posted by Free word order! at 4:12 PM on May 8, 2008


I kind of thought steampunk was dead when they re-made "wild wild west" with Will Smith and Kevin Kline.
posted by TMezz at 4:26 PM on May 8, 2008


I have no problem with steampunk dying off, as long as its followers don't switch to my latest thing: hogansheroespunk.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:31 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


hogansheroespunk? That shit is old busted and used up. You best get on the new train. It's all 'bout Teletubbies Urban Commando now.
posted by tkchrist at 5:50 PM on May 8, 2008


Everybody needs to do what they want, sometimes they are going to get teased about it, that's just the way it shakes out, we're all dorks to someone. Steampunk on steampunks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:04 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


??!!

What the heck is wrong with steampunk? I thought it was a joke, kind of. I mean, it's cool in that it's massively implausible. If people get "into" it, well, you can find people who will get into anything.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'm neutral towards steampunk. It's not Brittany Spears-level annoying. The media is not saturated with steampunk stuff. It's not exactly ubiquitous, even on Boing Boing. Save you ire for stuff that is truly obnoxious and inescapable.
posted by JHarris at 8:03 PM on May 8, 2008


Steampunk has its share of annoying fashionistas. This makes it no less and no more annoying than any other hip aesthetic. +/-0

Steampunk emphasizes the importance and essentialness of craftsmanship. And this is happening in America of all places. +100
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 8:34 PM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


What about grungetech?

That's what I do; it's all about wifebeaters and pay-as-you-go phones and stealing wireless internet and bluegrass torrents and cheap beer and crusty old computers running buggy linux and second-hand/scavenged technology hacked up to work and homemade tattoos and saying "y'all". I think this new aesthetic puts me on the cutting edge of cyberpunk derivatives and it's easier DIY than covering a computer in brass and cutting out intricate calligraphic designs for all the keyboard keys.
posted by fuq at 9:00 PM on May 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


Why do you keep coming into these threads to yell, Artw?
posted by ODiV at 9:05 PM on May 8, 2008


Hey, I was full of zen-like bliss and accpetance earlier, it was great. You missed it though because people ANGERED ME WITH THEIR STUPIDITY. You wouldn't so something like that though, would you?

Go on, tell me that you think Billy Idol is quite Steampunk, I dare you.
posted by Artw at 9:08 PM on May 8, 2008


poor cory.
posted by micklaw at 1:15 AM on May 9, 2008


Billy Idol was totally Steampunk. That funny leather vest? The snear? The monocle? I mean, c'mon.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:36 AM on May 9, 2008


Because 19th century and victorians are now off-limits, people move forward to put serious effort in artistic re-imaginations of nazis in space.

previously: fascisti su marte
posted by darkripper at 2:18 AM on May 9, 2008


Billy Idol was totally Steampunk. That funny leather vest? The snear? The monocle? I mean, c'mon.


From Bklyn?

Don't listen to Artw - that's an excellent observation!

Maybe even more so than Adam Ant, frankly!
And I think we should add Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the steampunk film canon (with Brazil). Retro brass fittings and Edwardian junk contraptions galore!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:05 AM on May 9, 2008


turgid dahlia the game was Arcanum. Great game.

I think part of the idea with steampunk (I hate that term) is that you have inventions running on physical laws that are not quite accurate. Maxwell had just codified electricity and magnetism, Einstein had yet to explain how gravity worked, there was ether and no such thing as atomics. Which leads to things that are in a way safer. And that the builder knows how they work. The last vestiges of artisan work. Of course as kirkjobsluder pointed out, this is patently false. But people don't care.

Personally, I'll take the art deco/streamlined moderne style at least for design. All our rockets should vaguely resemble the Chrystler building, not a bullet from Jules Verne. I want my stuff to look like there is nothing out of place. And to have nice curves.

That said, I adore Mieville and really enjoyed The Difference Engine.
posted by Hactar at 7:00 AM on May 9, 2008


What's interesting is that the modern post-Bauhaus designed products -- all function and no form -- appear to serve as an ideal base onto which Steampunk accoutrements can be easily affixed.

It's a great concept, but I find it bothersome that the designs are so rigidly formulaic.

Personally I'd love something similarly modified, but in a more Art Nouveau-via-cyberpunk vein, all dragonflies-with-boobs and monochrome monitors. But that's just me.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:39 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I love long compound words for abstract feelings. Also, 99% of any genre in any medium is crap, the corollary is that there is usually something cool or well done or worthwhile to be found if you look hard enough.

Now leave me alone. Matlock is on.
posted by everichon at 10:12 AM on May 10, 2008


steampunk porno: chitty chitty gang bang.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:14 PM on May 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, that article fails in so many ways. Astonishing.
posted by ...possums at 3:04 PM on May 16, 2008


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