I’m not a very good steampunk, apparently.

Lately, I’ve been reading The Steampunk Bible, a sort of holistic guide to the genre. It’s a serviceable look at all things steampunk, but there’s an attitude throughout the book that leaves me cold. That attitude seems common with the subculture, a hipster-like self-importance. The author pushes the idea that the steampunk genre is subversive, that it’s  anti-establishment, anti-mass production (ironic for a genre that has its roots in the Industrial Revolution), and always has to present the reader with some sort of deep message about society.

I’m not against any of that, but what’s wrong with enjoying something for what it is, without having to look for a deeper meaning? If something is entertaining, can’t it (just once in a while, mind you) do without a philosophical point? It’s the classic debate of  “high art” people versus “low art” people. I’m not saying that subtext, metaphor, and the darker bits of society shouldn’t be used, but a large part of the fun of steampunk (and most science fiction and fantasy sub-genres, for that matter) is  in the eye and ear candy. If someone enjoys just playing around with fancy, gilded machinery and pretty gears in their stories, why do some folks feel the need to look down on them? Just because, say, the movie version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen isn’t all grimdark with the “heroes” being opium addicts and rapists, I can’t enjoy it for being pulp adventure?

So yeah, I’m not much of a steampunk.

Posted in Blog, Books | Tagged as: , | 1 Comment

One comment on “I’m not a very good steampunk, apparently.

  1. dylan on said:

    I agree to a certain extent about enjoying something for what it is. But I think the things we enjoy (especially the things we enjoy obsessively) sometimes say a lot about us–the problem is we’re not usually the most reliable interpreters of what they actually say. If you can avoid the pretentiousness of it all, It is important to ask those questions as a hedge against self-deception. (I’ll recommend David Dark’s The Sacredness of Questioning Everything and Everyday Apocalypse for alternate takes on interpreting and reinterpreting culture.)

    The steampunk subculture, at least in terms of costuming, seems very DIY in terms of design and creation. So, yeah, it’s not surprising that a certain portion of the subculture is going to have a hipster-like reaction as it becomes more mainstream.

    Sadly, geeks are not immune to faddishness and cliquishness, which is disturbing since most of us have always been on the wrong side of those things. But there are a lot of people who realize steampunk is just another color on the palette they can use and enjoy–I’m betting they aren’t always the ones writing the books, though.

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