(image by Mr Xpk)
THANKS to Kevin D Steil, our Airship Ambassador, for inviting me to take part in Steampunk Hands Around the World 2015. I'm honoured to be in the company of incredible creators sharing works, thoughts, and passions within the international spectrum. At this World Tour pit stop, allow me to wax philosophical (over your preference of tea, wine, brandy, or a pensive pipe), while I get to the heart of why I like steampunk. I like to look into the past to find ourselves–especially our missing history– within LGBTQ, people of colour, or non-western cultures. Steampunk is where we can (finally!) enhance ourselves through rediscovery and take our imaginations to a new level.
This is image from: http://xdl.drexelmed.edu/item.php?object_id=2373
A memento of the Dean's reception, held Oct 10, 1885.
Anandibai Joshee graduated from Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMC) in 1886; Kei Okami graduated from WMC in 1889; Sabat Islambooly graduated from WMC in 1890.
Peering into the past through old photographs, first-hand accounts, antique possessions, and places is detective work and the anthropological hunt; we're all digging for treasures of understanding and often we trip over distressing artefacts and events. Learning history means learning how we've hurt each other, dehumanised and taken things, bodies, dignity, and identities. And along with the unseemly there are beautiful remnants of human experiences. The past can never be fully known or understood, bad or good. But what's gleaned can answer what we hadn’t known was missing from our present, and when these pieces are locked in, it’s inspiring.
This book is: Human Zoos, the Invention of the Savage, by Gilles Boëtsch and Nanette Jacomijn Snoep.
Steampunk: Solving the Mystery of What's Missing
Regarding me: being a woman and a lesbian; being an American person of colour, absorbed into the "melting pot" culture, and a person raised Buddhist, it becomes hard to find "me" in our world. I don't belong in the "old" country of my parents, nor do I want to, therefore who am I, and how do I perceive myself? Steampunk is my present answer.
I love the trappings of our Western culture and history; the clothes, places, architecture, languages, vehicles, and people. And I see myself as a strong, learned female, ready to be an exemplary example of such a culture. Past the midpoint of my life, I'm still ready. But society's mirror doesn't point in my direction, and when it does it's often disappointing, reflecting stereotype, fantasy, or myself in innocuous background roles.
Elizabeth Watasin, at Clockwork Couture for the Comics and Literature event, 2014.
In reality, I'm wrapped in the cloth of generations of human experience and our imagination. With no mirror, I create my own and visualise the best archetype I can be. This is the metaphor of steampunk, where history becomes the base to build "what if"; where seeds of change, like those I explore in the Dark Victorian series, aren’t killed but flourish. Straight, white, privileged males wrote and interpreted all our history for the Western culture. Therefore it is hard to find the accounts of the disenfranchised, the ignored, the non-English, and those who engaged in their cultures in secret.
This book is: Women in Pants, Manly Maidens, Cowgirls, and Other Renegades, by Catherine Smith and Cynthia Greig
So what to do once we identify what's missing? Arm ourselves. We find photos of Victorian people of colour, uncover 150 year old accounts of women cross-dressing or "married" to other women, rediscover historical key points where oppression can be rewritten, and make Change happen. We restore the silenced or forgotten to the world, saying: remember this? Well here we are again, new.
Metis group, Alberta (1900-1901) L-R: Agatha Garneau, Archange Garneau, Charlotte Garneau, and Placide Poirier.
From: Glenbow Museum, http://ww2.glenbow.org
I tackle the criminalisation of being lgbtq in history, undo it, re-visualise it, and create the better world needed, with pulp fiction and penny dreadful fun. But for others the improved world can be whimsical, charming, fantastic, frightening, epic, sensual, and rollicking too. Do it in music, self-identity, cosplay, fiction, blogs, crafts, fashion, games, comic books, art, design, food, and even as a lifestyle. This is the gift of steampunk.
Creating alternate history and identities may seem frivolous in light of "real world" problems, but storytelling, art, and personas are a way–like great tales, poetry, and songs–of imparting amazing, new ideas and possibilities. It is necessary to realise our potential, and it's possible 150 years from now we may be rediscovered again. The realm of steampunk is imagination taken into forgotten crevices of our many historical selves and lighting them anew.
Celebrate, have fun, and most of all, enjoy being You.
AND for the occasion of Steampunk Hands Around the World 2015, it is with great pleasure that I present an excerpt of my F/F Gothic and dark romance, Medusa: A Dark Victorian Penny Dread Vol 2, on Booktrack for you! FREE, the story is layered with a soundtrack and sound effects for your listening pleasure. Enjoy, and Steam on!
All the best, ~Elizabeth