Saturday, November 7, 2009

Results of the latest poll, and the next question… about "Steampunk & Magic"



Steampunk Goggles by alvaramorrigan (@ Deviant Art)

(My apologies in advance - seems that Blogger has some kind of graphics issue, preventing me from properly formatting graphics in the article. Quite unhappy about this development... perhaps it might be time to migrate to a different provider!)

The most recent poll question addressed how the readers of the Heliograph integrate Steampunk into their lives, be it real, second, or what-not. To my surprise, the results of the poll were as such…

Indulge in Steampunk via Second Life only 21 votes (23%)
Enjoy Steampunk in Real Life only 30 votes (34%)
Live the dream! Both RL & SL Steampunk 14 votes (15%)
Experience Steampunk through other means 16 votes (18%)
None of the above 07 votes (07%)

I must admit, I had expected a higher count from the Second Live individuals, as the blog has a Second Life infusion… but as one can see, the RL contingent of Steampunk had a stronger turn out. There was a strong endorsement of Steampunk for a more "enhanced" life (e.g. both RL & SL), which takes a dedication that most may not have (or perhaps more readers just need to visit SL - lol)! Interesting, the fourth category, the "other means", which after discussing it with a few individuals, would seem to mean to experience Steampunk through literature only, had a good showing as well. So what does it mean (imo)?….

Well, I'll be adding more RL posts in addition to SL posts on Steampunk. For now, I have a sidebar for upcoming RL events (though there is a location that is more comprehensive below).

Additionally, an original premise that I had subscribed to, which was that Steampunk was biased more towards a simple focused literary genre, with a few well-known individuals crafting unique items, and not much more RL integration, was flawed. It appears the RL (and RL/SL) contingent is quite active - which is, of course, outstanding! In addition to the poll, other circumstances that influenced my perception were…



1) The Oxford Museum of History and Science Steampunk Exhibition - Perhaps the biggest boost to Steampunk was to have such a well-known establishment as Oxford University put Steampunk on display. Especially for a long amount of time (from October to February), is quite the coup for Steampunk as a genre (standard amount of time). Aside from being recognized as an emergent genre, it also shows that it is able to generate the interest from the public necessary to raise the awareness of Steampunk (yes, there are those individuals who know nothing about it as of yet)!

For links to the exhibition, please turn to:

2) TOR Books' October "Steampunk Month" - When Tor books had "Steampunk month", I was concerned that it might be a simple "hat tip" to the genre, and a shuffle away towards other fictional genres. I was quite wrong, fortunately! They did quite a "bang-up" job with their recognition of Steampunk literature, and the running daily topics from their guest contributors was outstanding. One of the weakness of the genre was the slow emergence of a strong body of modern Steampunk literature (imo). There are the "Classics" by the "Masters" (e.g. Verne, Wells, et al), but for a while, the amount of Steampunk literature seemed to be a tad limited. With Steampunk month, more works have been highlighted, and hopefully more will be inclined to pay the genre a visit in their writings.

3) RL Conventions - Last month's SteamCon has set the bar for RL Steampunk in many ways. Though there were some glitches in the organization aspect of the convention, I would attribute that was to the popular growth of Steampunk. Having seem the photos and the narrative that New Babbage's Dr. O provided, it seems it was the proverbial "smashing good time". If you were unable to make it to the Northwest for SteamCon, fear not, as there are plenty more events on the horizon, such as WindyCon (next weekend!), the Steampunk World's Fair, the World Steampunk Expo, and the Steamposium, to name only a few! For a more detailed listing, please see...

4) Media recognition - Though there are movies have done well (name some), and not so well (e.g. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, ect…), the fact that Steampunk is slowly stepping into the general populace. As some remember, even the Heliograph was mentioned for a couple of small pieces on Steamupnk - so if this virtual fish-wrapper can garner that attention, then things must be looking up!

5) Steampunk Empire - Finally, there is a newer outlet for Steampunk, via a Ning titled the "Steampunk Empire". Focused on RL Steampunk, it has extensive depth on the genre, from contributed and found videos and excellent discussions to the mundane (e.g. the historically accurate method of brewing Earl Grey Tea). If you haven't visited the site as of yet, hurry to the Empire, at:

That's my take on the most recent results, and onto the next poll… Magic in Steampunk. In New Babbage there is quite a heated discussion regarding "magic" in the genre, with both sides (the pro and anti magic sides making impassioned arguments). The body of literature has this dichotomy as well, with most "classic" writers and some modern authors eschewing the idea of magic (again, Verne, Wells, ect…), while others, such as China Mieville, integrate it intimately in their stories. Trying to define "magic" is always a tricky topic, so I have attempted to keep the categories for it as basic as possible, providing simplistic choices.

So without laboring much more about the topics, my question is - "What level of "magic" are you comfortable with in Steampunk genre?"

I have divvied up the categories as such, on a scale from one to five….

One - No magic at all! Steampunk is all about science, steam, and technology only!

Two - Very little if any at all, mostly things termed as "magic" are explainable slight of hand and blinking of the eyes, but some additional unexplained aspects do exist.

Three - Unusual mythos, very minor "spell casting", and some mysterious beings exist (e.g. Cthulhu mythos, Vampires, Werewolves, ect…), but are still uncommon.

Four - Magic and the Supernatural is known and usable to a portion of the populace, but is not available to everyone - only a select few.

Five - Magic and the Supernatural should be integral part of Steampunk, and can easily be a common part genre.

If you wish to read up on the thread about magic and Steampunk in New Babbage, please turn to: http://newbabbage.ning.com/forum/topics/limitations-of-magic

(I believe there are a few more, and I will add them as I locate them).

If you can't find a choice you can endorse, please feel free to leave a comment on any details you would like to clarify.

3 comments:

Brigid Ashwood said...

What a wonderful post. I voted as one of the RL/SL Steampunk participants. My perception is that RL and SL steampunkers seem to have little integration and understanding of each other. The SL steampunk movement as you know is HUGE. And I think more RL fans should give it a serious look. For one thing building in SL has far fewer limitations then building in RL. (Materials, tools etc are not much of a financial challenge). So fans of the genre who might want to try their hand at creation can do so in SL with fewer risks and limited skills. It can be a great stepping stone to building in RL. Akin to modeling a figure in 3D CAD before building in manually.

In fact SL has been an integral part of my steampunk obsession. In SL I am Brigid Yoshikawa and I and my partner - Dagny Mannonen - make dirigibles and homes (Charmingdale Designs) and have been a part of the Caledon and Winterfell communities for quite some time (I owned Brythony Isles - part of the Realm of the Roses for quite a while before sadly it sank into the sea)

In RL I am an artist who paints steampunk inspired clockwork dolls and machines. In fact I was just at Faeriecon where I was part of a Steampunk Panel along with Thomas of Brute Force Studios (whose work is featured at the Oxford exhibit you mentioned.) and Joseph Corsentino. I was the only panelist who participates in Second Life. I mentioned the SL steampunk community briefly on the panel but would have loved to have spent more time talking about Second Life and its tremendous value to creatives. Maybe I'll suggest it as an idea for next years Con. :) Sadly I think Second Life continues to be greatly misunderstood. People outside of SL - even those who admit to playing other "video games" see SL as playing at a "fake life" view it as a little sad.

Those of us with thriving fan bases and businesses in SL who enjoy the community and tremendous amount of interactive art - well we know better don't we. ;)

Dr. Rafael Fabre said...

Dear Miss Ashwod,
I can't agree with you more, madam. SL's Steamlands are perhaps the most vibrant venue for Steampunk imagining and conceptualization. There are those in RL who have a jaundiced view of "virtual" Steamlands, but prior to judging they should give SL a try at least.
Perhaps the continuing growth of Steampunk will attract more people who exclusively exist in RL to try SL - after all, it is the only place where one can truly have one's only airship!

Jen Fries said...

Terrific blog.

In re Steam and Magic, I think steampunk is about the technology and science and the period. If the story/reality is magical, then the steam aspects would be the background, the environment in which the magical story takes place. I can easily see a sub-genre of steam-magic, but I don't see why magic should be integral to steampunk.

I'm not steampunk myself. I love the style of it, but for my own art and fiction, my period is more 18th than 19th century, kind of proto-steam, more sail than rail. However, I do enjoy some snazzy goggles.