Wednesday: Steampunk World And Anime

I could’ve sworn I had covered this topic before, but since I can’t find the post in my archives, we’ll revisit. Since it’s September 11 and the country is likely to be rife with mournful posts about something that happened many years ago, I’ll revisit even older times–the world that Never Was.

Since Hayao Miyazaki has finally chosen to retire, and Nan Desu Kan (Denver’s major anime convention) starts here on Thursday, I’ve been spending time contemplating how I went from an anime enthusiast to a Steampunk enthusiast. The leap is easier than you might think, especially inj Miyazaki’s realm of “what ifs.”

Take Princess Mononoke, one of Miyazaki’s premier works. The biggest message from this film is the battle between advancing technology and the magic and simplicity of the forest. The message pervades in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind as well, and where the former focuses on interesting weapons, the latter surrounds forms of transportation as well.  In both of these films (although I am listing them in reverse chronological order), the most important thing is for people to flex their ingenuity and discover new and better ways to make their lives work through technology–but they most also learn how to live with the world they have, and not destroy the earth with their hunger for progress.

If we move on, Miyazaki’s film Porco Rosso came sandwiched between the other two, and is really more Dieselpunk than Steampunk–but with an anime about goggles, flying machines and battles in the sky, who can argue the appeal? His film Castle in the Sky came right after Nausicaa, and is really a legendary search for ancient advanced technology–a Steampunk Atlantis (speaking of which, the Disney movie Atlantis is certainly Steampunk as well). Howl’s Moving Castle is also technology-laden and anti-war, but with the idea that technology and magic are inexplicably intertwined. I love this take on things because the Victorians were weirdly obsessed with the unexplained–and for them, science WAS magic.

Miyazaki had this to say:
“To be born means being compelled to choose an era, a place, a life. To exist here, now, means to lost the possibility of being countless other potential selves.. Yet once being born there is no turning back. And I think that’s exactly why the fantasy worlds of cartoon movies so strongly represent our hopes and yearnings. They illustrate a world of lost possibilities for us.”
― Hayao MiyazakiStarting Point: 1979-1996

But Miyazaki isn’t the only anime director to obsess over concepts embodied by much of Steampunk. Another great series to look into is called Last Exile. It is best characterized by the fact that warfare in this series involves two propeller-driven airships lining up side by side, the hatches being opened, and men in 19th century uniforms firing at each other from steam-powered rifles. As if that’s not enough, almost the entire series occurs in the air.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is another great tale, based very loosely off of the Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. VERY loosely. The premise is that a girl born of Atlanteans–who were really aliens with superior technology–is running from villains who want to capture her and her blue water pendant, which allows her to enter Atlantis–assuming she could remember why she was being chased, of course. She is accompanied by a young French lad who is bound and determined to invent a real flying machine, and his ingenuity often gets them into trouble.  The costumes are great, some of the series is very entertaining, and it’s a fresh perspective on 20,000 Leagues.

No list of Steampunk animes is complete without Steamboy, although it’s not my favorite film. The movie was basically Steampunk encapsulated, but I felt the plot was stiff and anticlimactic until the very end. However, the animation is beautiful, and certainly worth watching once.

Lastly, Fullmetal Alchemist has robots, alchemists, the personification of the 7 Deadly Sins, and a fine line between science and magic that makes it a great choice–not to mention awesome costumes and a few episodes that conveniently slip into the “alternate dimension” of Victorian Earth. Yes, this is a Steampunk series worth watching from start to finish.

With so many series personifying Steampunk, I’m surprised the obsession in Japan has not been more complete. Groups like Strange Artifact and the Tokyo Inventors Society are looking to change that.

If you are planning to attend NDK, remember that the Colorado Steampunks have a Steampunk Photo Shoot scheduled at 1pm at the flagpole. They’ll also be playing Emma: A Victorian Romance and it looks like an interesting series. Don’t miss it!

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A Woman in Man’s Clothing: Part 2

The long awaited second part of the series. If you recall, I discussed the basic fundamentals of taking measurements, accessories, etc in this post. Now we’ll continue on to discuss some actual fashion Dos and Don’ts, including the difference if you want to pass as male or not. Also, tons of thanks to Penny for being one of my models–her build is similar to mine.

You might recall that I mentioned that I’ve got a trim waist, small upper body and respectable hips. The space in the trunk, so to speak, makes getting men’s pants a little bit complicated. Generally if you’re shaped like a man with little to no hip, you would purchase pants with your exact waist and inseam measurements (IE 29/30, in my case). Aside from it being extremely difficult to find waist sizes smaller than 28″ in men’s clothes (look in the boys’ section), you are also facing some complications in fit type. However, my solution to having a much larger hip size is to rachet up one inch each direction–in other words, I buy 30/31 or 30/32 (waist followed by leg length). This usually results in the manufacturer of the pants having allowed more crotch spice, which translates to space in the back for me.

First thing’s first: No pleats. Do not wear pleated pants unless you have absolutely no hip–the hip shape will unfold the pleats and make them look odd across your front. The same is true for an overweight male, it’s generally just a good idea to avoid pleats. Also avoid wearing traditional “girl cut” underwear, specifically thongs and bikini cuts. They will be horribly uncomfortable with the usual seam placement in men’s pants.

Now, if you just want to be comfortable and look good, you are looking for (in dress pants) slim fit, or “modern fit” depending on the brand. These will be more hip-hugging, are more likely to be made of a slightly stretchy material and usually have pockets designed to be slim. Avoid putting anything bulky in your pockets, and make sure they fit comfortably but not too loosely–a loose fit in “slim fit” pants will sag in weird ways. As you can see here, I’ve done a 28″ waist and 32″ inseam to allow for the shape of my hips.

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If you are more inclined to want to pass as male, you will want to get a looser fit to avoid emphasizing hip shape. For this you want “traditional fit” pants, and should look for wool pants because they retain the shape of the pant better than polyester blends. If you have much hip, like I do, make sure you get the pants just slightly too big (IE my 30/32 trick) and let them hang on your hip rather than your natural waist. This also gives you room for underthings, including packing if you want to pass fully:20130727_115059
It’s very important if you are wearing nice pants to wear shirts that fit the same group. Tucking shirts in is better, and men’s shirts are usually designed to be long enough to tuck deep into the pant. Look for shirts without breast pockets, as these will just emphasize your upper shape. If you want to pass you will want a shirt that is not too big at all, because oversized shirts make it clear that you are wearing clothes not designed for you. A lot of guys have this problem too–they just buy whatever is close without picking the best fitting. If you’re small like me, neck and chesk size are going to be the most difficult here. I find it easier to look in the boy’s section for dress shirts. However, a “modern/slim fit” 32/33 14 1/2 shirt (which translates to a 32-33″ chest and 14 1/2″ collar) will fit me fairly well depending on the cut. You have to try these on–the manufacturer sometimes makes the arm holes weirdly shaped so that the shirt won’t be comfortable even if the measurements are right:

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This shirt was an atrocious color but “fit” correctly. Except when I lifted my arms. Then it got tight and uncomfortable across the shoulders. By contrast, here’s a size 12 boy’s shirt:

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“But it’s summer time, I don’t want to wear long sleeves,” you say. In which case, you have three choices. Polos, tshirts, or rolling your sleeves. Don’t do short sleeved dress shirts. Just don’t. The style is very “worker class,” and it’s even harder to find sleeves that will not make the average arm look tiny by comparison. There are lots of great tutorials on how to properly roll your sleeves, like this one:

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Polos are great, but avoid big logos or images. Screen printed tshirts are accessible everywhere–but make sure that it fits closely without billowing. You can leave some polos untucked, but generally I would recommend tucking your shirt in and wearing a belt unless it’s a tshirt–and even then, consider wearing a belt. This will help keep the waist of your pants in place, so it doesn’t shift around with your hips–a vital step both to comfort and passing. Also avoid vnecks if you have any chest shape and plan to pass, because they will lend to the feminine air. If you’re just dressing for comfort, though, vnecks are totally ok.

Now for jeans… again, if you want to pass and have hips, it’s probably a good idea to get a looser fit of pant and let them hang on your hips. The same rules as dress pants apply, but for modern fit you will definitely want to avoid putting things in your pockets if you want to pass. Darker colors are easier to pass in, for some reason–likely because most womens’ jeans seem to be the lighter colors. Remember that mens’ pants can also have indigo dyes, so be careful where you lean. Try to avoid tons of holes, though a few dings are OK.
Personally, I like to do jeans with button-ups for a classy semi-casual look:

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A few vital tips:
1. Never let your ankles show. Wear long black socks with black or brown men’s style shoes (dress or dress casual), or wear a pant leg long enough to cover your ankle and the top of your shoe even if you are sitting down.

2. Test drive the pants you try on by crouching. If the crotch of the pants bulges weirdly, the fit isn’t right. You’ll look oddly proportioned while sitting down if this happens.

3. Vertical stripes, never horizontal. They both slim you down and make you look taller, thus adding to the illusion.

4. Dark colors are great but bold solid colored shirts (or earth tone shirts with bright ties) will both grab attention, make you look professional in a cutting-edge sort of way, and draw attention away from other features.

5. A big wide-faced watch is a good accessory if you are likely to wear cuffed or short sleeves. Avoid thin-faced watches, as they go better with women’s clothing.

6. Wearing a ribbed tank or a v-neck undershirt can help hide bra lines and make shirts that are often semi-transparent (IE almost every men’s dress shirt ever) less awkward. If only guys would learn to do this.

7.  Iron your pants. Really.

8. Places like Target, Aeropostle, and H&M that cater to a “metrosexual” look are more likely to have smaller guy sizes and clothes that really lend to passing. Avoid really heterosexual stores.

9. Experiment! At least in the dressing room…

A Woman in Men’s Clothing: Part 1

This is going to be a multi-part article because it just needs to be… You could also consider this a guide for men of various sizes.

First, why wear men’s clothes? Or, more accurately, clothing assumed to be cut/made for men. Let’s start with the simple reasons. Availability of pockets. Sizing that makes sense and is based on physical dimensions rather than some arbitrary weight concept invented by whatever white middle aged man owns XYZ company. Necklines that actually have buttons all the way up and can accommodate a tie. Buttons that button in the right direction. History lesson, the reason we still have men’s and women’s shirts button differently is because women were expected to let their servants button them up. Because apparently buttoning our own shirts was too tiring…
And don’t get me started on shoes.

Generally speaking, many clothing manufacturers still assume that men want comfort and women want style. So even the most stylish mens’ clothes are designed to last longer and fit more comfortably, with less chafing, sweating, and general ick.

So, to begin with, our first lesson is going to involve the actual fitting of clothes. Now, I am somewhat short waisted and long in the leg for my height. I also have some hip to me, but almost no cup size to speak of.  Keeping my dimensions in mind, I also have involved several other willing models so that we can cover different body types. This is NOT a series of articles on how to pass as male–although I will throw in a few tips here and there to help with that. Instead, this is a series on how to shop on the other side of the store, for comfort, functionality and style. Also, as my wife likes to remind me, androgyny can be sexy.

Start by getting your physical measurements. You will need the following measurements for typical or partially custom-fit clothing:

Neck – Hold the measuring tape around the thickest part of your neck, typically where an adam’s apple would be if you had one. Add two fingers between your neck and the tape to make sure a tie wouldn’t choke you to death.

Arm length – The measuring tape should start right at your shoulder joint and end at about the crease between your thumb and forefinger.

Wrist – Measure the diameter of your wrist.

Head – Measure your head diameter at about 1/4″ above your eyebrows and roughly 1/2″ above your ears. That should be about the thickest part of your head, and where most hats sit. Even 1/4″ of diameter is important here, as hats can slip and slide with even a little give.

Chest – Hold the measuring tape tight around the thickest part of your chest (yes, including your breasts if you have them). Wear whatever kind of bra you usually wear to make this measurement, since the shirt will go outside of that. I prefer sports bras, personally, but that’s because I don’t have to worry about holding anything up. If you want to pass and have to bind or otherwise flatten breasts to do so, make sure you are taking this measurement with binding in place.

Waist – This should be your natural waist, so that means measure this right at where your belly button is.

Hips – This may be right across your butt or may not, but should be wherever the widest portion of your hips are.

Inseam – This is the hardest one to get yourself. You need to measure the inside of your leg from the side of your crotch (all the way up in the joint there between inner thigh and exceeding PG-13 rating) to the floor. Do not wear shoes to take this measurement. Mine is exactly 30″, for the record.

 

Now that you’ve got all of your measurements down, you’re ready to get started. In the next article I’m going to talk about actual clothing selection and choosing the right styles of cuts to fit you, both in dress clothes and in more casual attire. To wrap up today, however, we’ll talk some about accessories of the necessary variety.

First of all, let’s start with belts. Belts are a necessary evil that can make any outfit –casual, semi or formal) look nicer or just ruin it. It’s a fact that usually the smaller you are, the wider a belt you can wear. Generally I would say that if your waist is the widest part of your body, you want to keep your belt width below 1.5″ but above 3/4″. If your hips are wider than your waist you can do a wider belt, but anything wider than 2″ will have a hard time fitting belt loops and generally look more feminine anyway.

Consider suspenders if you have difficulty keeping pants sitting at your natural waist because of waist size. They will hold your pants up and, if you wear them over your shirt, can be considered a fashion statement. Suspenders are coming back when done right. There are also men’s shirt garters (like these from Men’s Wearhouse) that will keep your socks up and your shirts down, but under your clothes. Good for men and women of any size.

Next, and of a bit of interest, is the underwear. Men’s clothes rarely have a waist that makes sense with the thong or bikini cuts popular right now. Personally I recommend boxers for comfort, but there are also “boy cut” women’s briefs that don’t ride up too much. If you are planning on passing, consider boxer briefs. They have a shape that expects a package, and so are really weird on a girl with hips unless you have something to add to the front of them. However, a well placed deception looks best in close fitting boxer briefs.
Avoid the kinds of knits that will be uncomfortable on your skin. Woven soft cotton is wonderful. Satin feels good but will raise the temperature (not in a good way) on a hot summer day.

Moving onward, ties… Now, ties can be just downright fun, but I recommend avoiding very wide tie styles. Also avoid obnoxious patterns–stick to stripes, solid colors, paisleys, etc, but avoid very bright and “loud” ties (Mickey and Garfield, anyone?) that are designed more for casual fun than for formal attire. Silk ties are beautiful but tend to wrinkle, so make sure you don’t leave them tied. A mid-width tie is also easier to tie into unique knots, like the eldredge knot. The latter has been one of my favorite party tricks, so to speak. You can see how to tie it here.

Finally, hats. If your method for passing runs the way of the gangstah, you might consider a big thuggish ballcap. That’s not really my style, so I enjoy a variety of newsboy caps and fedoras. Places like Target carry lots of these right now, and they come in small (which is really medium) and size huge. Whenever I find one that fits, I snatch it up because my head is fairly small. This is where your measurements come in handy! If you want a nice top hat, for example, or a bowler, you will need your band size to order them. There will be a lot more on this when we come to the final part of this article, the part about dressing in men’s clothing (in period attire).

Keep reading next week for part 2: Style for the short and smaller than average…

Steampunk World: Steampunk Archetypes

It might be said that you know a genre has hit it big when it has more than one archetype. Steampunk probably has hundreds, but there are a handful of “character archetypes” that I’d like to discuss today. If you’re struggling to come up with costume or character ideas, these will hopefully help you get started. I don’t have a full complement of photos, but feel free to add your own!

Note these are not ALL the Steampunk Archetypes, just the most common ones…

First, there’s the ever-present Airship Pirate Captain. This character has the tendency to be a mixture of Mal from Firefly, Captain Jack of Pirates of the Carribbean fame, and Indiana Jones. The character will most likely wear more pirate-esque clothes, may be male or female, but likely carries more weapons than anyone else. The gadgets are not as necessary to the image as the style. Charming rogue is the name of the game.

Next, though less common, is the Airship (non-pirate) Captain, whose attire is likely more militant. Naval Captains fall under this group because there simply aren’t enough Naval Captains to get their own category. This is a more lawful good type, but they still have a roguish quality about them. They are most likely well-decorated and may fall under the category of the Modern Major General of the Pirates of Penzance.

LyttonMajorGeneral

Now we have the Pilot (Airship or biplane). Amelia Earhart falls under this category and it is more often characterized by women in the Steampunk genre. This person is a speedster, constantly dresses as though they are about to hop into a plane, always has goggles, likely has a scarf, and certainly would never be caught without boots. This character looks like Indiana Jones in aviator form, and is likely obsessed with the air. They don’t necessarily have the confidence to be a Captain–or they are a loner, or they understand that there are more captains than airships in the world. This person might also pilot a dirigible.

Earhart

Next is the explorer, who is likely to dress as an individual just coming back from Safari. They likely have something like a weather vane or goggles on their safari helmet, probably have whiskers (if male), and likely dress in khaki. They might carry compasses, spyglasses, fairy nets, scientific objects or any number of varietal “exploration” tools. This character is likely eccentric and certainly will be entertaining on a field day. He likely will have a monocle on him somewhere.

Lionel

Now–and I’ve edited this post to add this forgotten (but vital) archetype–you’ve got the Airship (or whathaveyou) Mechanic. She can be male or female and sports engine grease and a knack for making the mechanical magical. They tend to love their machines and desperately want you to respect them. Sometimes they just need a coal-smudged hug. A great example is Audrey from Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

AudreyAtlantis

Next is the Highborn Lady or Gentleman of the aristocracy, whose clothes are of unquestionable cut. These likely wear either a glorious range of colors or none at all, sticking strictly to black. Both ladies and men are likely to wear tophats, and pocket watches are an absolute must. They may or may not carry weapons, but are just as likely to have parasols, canes, monocles and fancy jewelry. They may wear tailcoats and will surely have neckware. Accessories are not as important as fine cut cloth. This is the most Victorian of the Steampunk stereotypes.

VicCou

Now we have the Gambler/seedy gentleman/lady of questionable background. These are likely to dress in a western style, often show more skin than they should, and might include such well-dressed entrepeneurs as Howard Hughes or span all the way to the devilishly handsome lady with bare ankles who runs a brothel. These often wear bowlers rather than tophats. They aren’t poor, but they are certainly industrious. Women will likely have pinstripes on them somewhere and men may wear waistcoats without ascots, sleeve garters, etc for example.

HHughesNow there is the inventor, who might also be eccentric and certainly is intent on showing off their latest gadget.  This character tends to be similar to the airship pilot or the gambler, but with more handmade objects. They might blow something up. They are fond of jetpacks/wings/other flight objects. They likely carry unusual wristwear.

Airship

Finally, we have the Mad Scientist, whose view of the world really comes down to “can I weld/redesign/rebuild/reproduce that or blow it up?” They are likely to wear lab coats (not period), leather aprons, other big coats and simple enough clothing, but literally be covered in gadgets and strange objects. They might go the route of an alchemist and carry phials and vials with toxic chemicals. They enjoy freaking out their fellow Steampunks.

Steampunk World Wednesday: Steampunk Kids

Those readers visiting for the first time will be delighted to know that my toddler, now-two-year-old Aubri, has been wearing costumes since she was only a few weeks old. It’s about time I got around to talking about ideas for costuming your really little one, especially where Steampunk is concerned.

I’ll begin by saying it’s almost impossible to avoid having your female child mistaken for a boy when in costume, unless she’s wearing a dress. That being said, finding Victorian-style dresses for babies usually involves shopping for a summer flower girl dress, such as this one or this one. Naturally you’ll want to add accessories, like a miniature parasol, a cute little hat, or some baby-sized goggles.

Now, for baby-sized goggles, I personally raided a stuffed animal–I found a stuffed dog with motorcycle goggles and snagged those for my 7-week-old. If your kiddo is that young, those little wedding teddy bears with tuxes might sacrifice a pinstripe vest (or even spats, if you’re lucky like I was) to dress the kiddo. I also found mini pocket watches on Ebay (made in China, but super cute), such as this one. The nice thing is that they are pretty cheap, so if the kid chews on it you don’t have to worry that much.

Little hats are a lot harder, because the typical clips for mini tophats (which are full sized on some babies) are way too big for most kids’ thin hair. I settled for using “golf/newsboy” caps, because they are frequently available in adorable sizes at places like Babies-R-Us.  

Now, if you want to do accessories like pouches, backpacks, wings…just remember that THIS IS NOT STEAMPUNK. On the other hand, this DIY jetpack could be VERY Steampunk, if you work out some extra accessories. Try cutting out gears from grey or yellow foam, if you have a kid who likes eating inedibles… I’m working on one of these myself, so I’ll post results.

The nice thing about costuming with kids is that they can get away with plastic even better than a grown-up…who’s going to get upset about a three year old with a repainted squirt gun?

The most important part of Steampunk for kids is getting them involved in the creation process. And for the record, if the kid is under 5, you can in fact glue some gears on it and call it Steampunk.

For your reference, a couple of pictures of Aubri’s first costumes:
At two weeks ish:

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And then at 7 weeks:

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And finally, one of the whole family at AnomalyCon 2013:

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Steampunk World Wednesday: Why Steampunk is Bigger Than the Victorian Era:

In the olden days, back in 2009/2010, before AnomalyCon was even conceived of, I would have told you that Steampunk was Victorian Science Fiction. It was a pat answer many of the Colorado Steampunks settled for when trying to explain to passersby what we were doing in Victorianesque garb in the middle of a hot July. I would have linked you this 9 news story, wherein Aimee Matheny and I were both interviewed, wherein the Colorado Steampunks suddenly gained many members, and wherein the voiceover stole almost every line I said because they decided a male voice was more interesting than mine… really?

In that day I was still focused on the initial draw of Steampunk, the pretty side. The interesting costumes that usually have something to do with an era somewhere, the goggles and the personas and the idea that anyone could captain an airship. I grew up absorbing books like 101 Balloons and 20,000 Leagues and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Steampunk was right up my alley. It was defined as, at the most basic level, advanced technology powered by steam/gears set in the Victorian Era. In essence, the end of the Industrial Revolution rolled back to happen in the beginning.

But then I started writing Radio STEAM, thanks to the initial idea by Ryan, who is also on AnomalyCon’s board of directors. I started putting a lot of business and organization into the Steampunk hobby, and it became more real to me than just a Jules Verne novel. It became very important to me to empower creative people to make more of themselves than starving artists–to give musicians, artists and authors outlets for expanding their influence, improving themselves and creating more good stuff. So AnomalyCon has a beautiful Steampunk aesthetic, but the content is as much about becoming more or breaking into that creative thing each person wants to be.

You see, there are many facets to this genre that we’ve lumped together under the Steampunk banner. Sometimes those facets become factions, but like any large gathering of people, not everyone will always get along. Just ask anyone who plays first person shooters.

The first facet I focused on was that of women’s equality–and not just women, but also gays, lesbians, the bisexual, the transgender, the ambiguous and the certain. Those who wish to flaunt their sexuality and those who do not. In the Victorian era these things were acceptable, but only in private places (read or watch Tipping the Velvet or Fingersmith if you dare). Steampunk brings postmodern sensibilities to a premodern design concept. I don’t know about other parts of the world, but in Colorado this is basically the only “geekdom” that is dominated by women–which reflects in the fact that AnomalyCon has a 60% female attendance, and that most of our biggest authors (Cherie Priest, O.M. Grey, Gail Carriger, Delilah S. Dawson, I can go on…) are female. Some men might turn their nose up at that, but the industrial gentleman will realize that means he is, as a person interested in steampunk, a commodity to the straight female audience. It certainly turns the tables compared to other fandoms where any woman daring to sneak her head into the door is instantly considered a piece of meat (anime fandoms sometimes not included).

The next facet that intrigued me was the availability of technology. As a systems engineer I design and implement huge environments, and I know why everything does what it does–but at the silicon level, the molecular level? The average person–even the average super genius–couldn’t tell you why all that green stuff with gold and silver wiring actually transmits the kind of data we process on a daily basis. In the industrial age, and even with Babbage’s machine, everything made sense when you broke it down into common components. You could pop the hood of a steam engine, so to speak, and tell where all the parts went and how they worked. I often hear mechanics bemoan that modern cars are impossible to work on unless you specialize, because they aren’t designed for average people to use.
Would I miss my smart phone? Oh yes. But read The Difference Engine. Look at designs by Da Vinci and, better yet, look at Al-Jazari, who was basically a robotics genius of the 13th century. (Read this article about badass pre-electric robots). While people of the age didn’t necessarily understand how the devices worked, it was likely because they were revolutionary at the time. Or the designers were better at protecting themselves under the hood…

The next aspect that really hooked me tied into the technology thought process–that of making, adapting, building, reusing, repurposing. Taking common junk that fills old houses and landfills and turning it into props, devices, aesthetically pleasing attire, decor, points of interest. Some of our local tinkerers are very good at this, but others have gained world reknown for their design choices. People can start at any level, from painting squirt guns to rebuilding them into something completely beyond the scope of plastic. People can sew their own clothes or cut, slash, tuck and adapt things they find in the thrift stores. The only limit to style is a person’s own elitism, because while the “Steam” has a basis in the idea of the Industrial Revolution, the “Punk” is when you adapt it to your own devices. It’s not just the maker ethos, it’s also making recycling sexy.

With these facets–equality, ingenuity and adaptability–I find that Steampunk is so far beyond just the Victorian era, or even the British/American concept. It is taking advanced technology powered by kinetic energy (steam, gears, etc) that is visible to the human eye, and putting it out of its time. Add a sprinkle of the idea that more than just one person in the world can be a creator, can build and design. Instead of being the minority, they are the norm. Empower the common human to have control over their life and resources in a way most people can’t imagine in modern life. And then, go forth and modify something.

 

Monday: Professional Outside the Job

“Dress For Success” is a saying you hear bandied about, invented who knows when. I’ve found it accurate for interviews, but not everyone applies the same principles. I find that, especially at conventions, a lot of people don’t realize the impression they put forth when they are trying to sell books, etc.

If you are an author, artist, etc, conventions are part of your job. Dress the part. Smile for photographs.

The elusive “unphotogenic author” is a myth that authors have invented to excuse a pervading fear of people rising across the nation.

Impeccable clothing (or a good costume) can be considered armor. If you are afraid of people, dress well. Talk to them before they talk to you. Control the situation. Make eye contact.

It was not my intention for this miniature bit of advice to be a rant, but there you have it.

Those who make friends from the people who pass them by sell more books. Or action figures. Or caricatures. Or whatever.