Jha (fantasyecho) wrote,

Somewhere buried in comments Cat Valente asked "What's so important about steampunk we have to help it along?"

I have no desire to post where my comment won't be noticed, so here it is:

It's not that important, if you frame the question that way.

It just so happens to be that one subgenre which so flagrantly displays Western European hegemony, white supremacy, glorification of imperialism, capitalist consumerism, technophiliac fetish dedicated to destruction... all under the banner of post-modernist irony, post-racial/feminist sensitivities and apolitically harmless fun.

No other subgenre at the moment is such a grandiose example of the spectacle that is capitalist consumerism today. Few other subgenres are so rooted in possible fact that possibilities for unrooting hidden truths are so wide open. No other subgenre is so rooted in deeply personal and cultural histories -- whose history is being altered? Who is being mimicked and glorified as great adventurers? In what other subculture can you dress up and meet people who, not being part of the subculture, say "my grandmother owned something like this"? -- and no other subgenre has been so gaily taken up as such a pleasurable pasttime. No other subgenre has that same potential to interrogate and subvert current narratives -- who can be slave and who can be master? Who is part of the marginalized group that can find its voice? -- and no other subgenre begins from such a problematic space. No other subgenre is so ripe for the myriad of representations of truth to come out and no other subgenre opens itself so openly to the experiences of the marginalized to assert itself not just in the far distance future beyond the stars but right at the kernel of where we all started getting fucked over.

That, at least, is why I care about steampunk. You better believe I'm going to enjoy writing my Qing Dynasty period novel whupping the British by way of airship pirates for introducing and poisoning the population with opium. Just sayin'.

You want to hate on steampunk? Steampunk's not the problem. Imperialism is the problem. White supremacy is the problem. Consumerism is the problem. Implicit, microaggressive racism is the problem. Steampunk's just the aesthetic being run over by the usual bullshit, because, guess what? Of course it's going to be! HELLO CAPITALISM, HOW R U. US OF A SENDS ITS LOVE AS USUAL.

You know what? I'm sick of mainstream steampunk too! I'm sick of white folk running around in pith helmets pretending to be adventurers looking for treasure in the depths of uncharted territory (whose map are you referring to, white folk?) and I am sick of corsets worn on the outside (we get it, ladies are sexy in corsets, now get your Male Gaze offa us) and I am sick of this "anything goes, steampunks love everybody" naivete (even bigots? Do we have to tolerate bigots?) and I am sick of death rays and the Tesla cannon worship (GUYS! EINSTEIN WAS APPALLED AT THE ATOM BOMB FOR A REASON OKAY? and I'm sorry but Agatha's love for death rays falls right into this trap; love the comic, not so hot on the very USian warmongering technophilia reflected in it, reading it for Gil) and I am sick of Orientalist imagery (WHY OH WHY DID PAOLO BACIGALUPI WIN THE FUCKING HUGO?) and I'm sick of generalized statements on how history was like which refuses to engage in the problematic issues of the past (like amandaw once said, "fuckin' nuance, how does it work?") and I am sick of populist lets-vote-for-the-most-visible-pretty-people (the "oh shiny!" factor should only carry us so far).

That doesn't mean I hate steampunk though. It just means I hate rubbishy Boobieships and Titrockets style skiffy. And to be fair, nothing in the world could improve on that, not even my beloved steampunk.

OK I am done hating on the world now.

Have I mentioned I wrote a sequel to Between Islands? I did! I submitted it to Crossed Genres. It's not the sequel I'm planning for Expanded Horizons but if CG doesn't want it I'll send it over spacehawk's way.

Also, for my CSCT 700 course, I think I'm going to take the readings we did on Jameson and Adorno and apply their anxieties on capitalist consumerism to steampunk (because I can!), drawing on the example of what happened to the punk and goth aesthetics. I'm still wading through a lot of postcolonial and race theories to make sense of how I want to go about my MRP.

And in the middle of all this, Cherie Priest is a terrifically funny person. I look forward to meeting her at Nova Albion. And reading Clementin.

ETA: And to end, a quote on my Tumblr dashboard:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” -- Mary Anne Radmacher
Tags: rant, steampunk
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