My recent post where I argued Cyberpunk would in outlive Steampunk proved to be rather controversial. I have not had that many responses (via æthermail, Facebook and comments) to something I published on the blog in a while, like, years…
Additionally, my friend Bonsart of Radio Retrofuture published a video on his Youtube channel in which he addressed my arguments and took the stance that Steampunk has the longer life expectancy, and made some very good poinst, which made me happy.
In addition, he invited some notables of the Steampunk community, among them none other than the Airship Ambassador himself, and myself, to discuss the topic on air.
If you missed it, it is now available on demand so to speak on Youtube as well:
Seems like the stagnation and overaging is a German phenomenon but the scene is still going strong elsewhere in the world! Hurray!
Cyberpunk and Steampunk as literature genres are of literally (no pun intended) roughly the same age. In fact, K. W. Jeter coined the term Steampunk as a counter to Cyberpunk. This has been pointed out and explained on numerous occasions in the past, so I will not go into detail here.
Cyberpunk has existed as a subgenere of science fiction in varoius media for a while now, but has always been somehwere on the edge, underground, out of sight, you get the idea. It is a subgenre and likely always will be.
But you do not find big Cyberpunk conventions nor dedicated Cyberpunk cosplayers in the same way you find Steampunk conventions and steampunked versions of various cosplays. Cyberpunk simply never became something the public or pop-culture focused on in the same way they focused on Steampunk.
It may simply be because we live in Cyberpunk times. Many of the things that were written about in the Cyberpunk novels, novellas and short stories of the 1980’s and 1990’s have already come to pass and when you look at what high-tech computers were supposed to be capable of as described in the first edition rules of Shadowrun and what they can do now (although we are at the time of writing 33 years away from 2050), we have partially outpaced fiction already.
Cyberpunk times in deed. And there is Cyberpunk fashion, by the way (sSteampunk does not have a monopoly there).
And this is one of the reason (although it pains me a little to say it) why I think Cyberpunk is going to outlast and quite literally outlive Steampunk.
Cyberpunk is the genre of now. Writers will for a long time coming take cues from the present, look into emerging technologies and weave their tales from the mix. The Expanse is a good example (which also picks up on some transhumanist ideas) of that.
Steampunk on the other hand is by design stuck in a relatively small bracket as far as techology is concerned with little room to maneuver (unless you turn Steampunk into Steamfantasy and add some magic to the tech).
And although there are tons of events going at the moment (the list is also incomplete), there are a few things that are hard to miss (as far as I can tell and it may well be different elsewhere):
There are very few Steampunks who consider Steampunk their primary subculture and who cannot be found elsewhere.
Most Steampunks are also „general“ cosplayers, goths, LARPERs etc.
At least regarding my immediate contacts in the scene and the events I attend another thing stands out:
The youth is missing. The most active steampunks I know are well into their 30s or even older and the few younger Steampunks who were active when the scene first made a big splash have mostly moved on into cosplay and other stuff
There are not many new faces when I visit dedicated Steampunk events (at least around here)
The other thing with Cyberpunk outliving Steampunk is literally outliving. Because as far as I can see, the base age of Steampunks is old when compared to other subcultures and there seems to be very little new blood coming in, the scene might be in danger of quite literally dying out eventually.
I hope it will still be some time until this happens but for some reason, Steampunk does not seem to attract a lot of today’s youth. At least not in Europe and especially not in Germany (where I attend most conventions for geographic reasons).
Also: For the Steampunk scene the main focus appear to be the conventions and the literature is, while not a mere sideshow, not the primary playground of the subculture. It is very much a scene that likes to dress up and be seen. Once a convention dies, the incentive to be a Steampunk also goes away.
Steampunk literature may stand the test of time (I hope so) and it might not be as dependent on events as other aspects of the subculture are.
Cyberpunk has been going strong without very visible cosplay, conventions and other subculture events while Steampunk lives by and through these things but the people participating in these events do not appear to grow anymore, i.e. no new faces and hardly any youth.
Steampunk may well be gone in 10 or 15 years if the trend continues, while all that Cyberpunk has to do is being at the edge of technology and tell tales about it for as long as there is an edge of technology.
I hope I missjudge this. After all, Steampunk is hwat started this blog and if anyone of you has made different observations at events, please let me know!
In the last few weeks before the summer holidays it came to my attention that some of my pupils are active fanfiction writers and are active on several sites dedicated to fanfiction.
I am rather delighted by that, especially since the writers are not interested in Vampire romance drivel, but rather congregate around Harry Potter. I have since checked out some of sites mentioned in the conversations with my pupils. I have also avoided reading the stories authored by them, since I consider it a breach of their privacy, given the fact I know them personally and am ina special relationship with them.
But Iäh my Cthulhu! What have I found…
I guess there should be something called Rule 34b or Rule 35 or something… (If you are unaware what Rule 34 is, just google it) and it should be:
If you come up with some weird scenario in a canonical fictional universe and/or a weird crossover involving two or more canonical fictional universes, there already exists fanfction for it.
This is what I have come across (and skimmed over some stories):
Star Wars / Doctor Who crossover
Doctor Who / Harry Potter crossover
Harry Potter / Star Wars crossover
There are others, a seizable number containing paranormal entities who would get their behinds extremely prodded by Count von Count, but those I chose not to read.
Alas, there is also some Cthulhu / Harry Potter crossover fiction but this I also have not read, I fear the power of the Great Old Ones may be mocked and as a devoted cultist, I may be forced to devolve into an online troll, which I refuse to do as a gentleman.
But I guess eventually, I will not be able to resist the lure of those unholy writings anymore and read it anyway…
In any case, the universe of fanfiction is a very diverse place and I have hardly scratched its surface. I can only guess at the horrors and wonders that wait there.
And while I am typing these lines, another thought occurs to me and I saunter over to Google to check for something else…
Yes, there is in deed crossover fanfiction for Harry Potter and Fallout. Iäh my Cthulhu! Iäh my Cthulhu in deed!
The weather was tolerable recently, so I decided to don my ranger helmet and armor and scout the area I am now living in in depth.
Just behind the house, in the steeply rising hills, there trickle hidden brooks through weed chocked marshland infested with an astounding number of dragonflies.
It felt weird. Something was off. The brooks trickled too ominously, the dragonflies buzzed too abundantly… Had I stumbled into a time vortex, and stepped into a landscape of earth’s distant past, the Carboniferous?
There was also this rustling in the undergrowth… Was there a Arthropleura hiding, lurking for prey?
Not wanting to disturb this august creature, much less having its mandibles sink into my leg, I pressed on until I reached the top of the hill and looked around, there, the next surprise awaited me: A sign saying „Bethesda Krankenhaus“ (i.e. Bethesda Hospital) pointing towards a street winding downhill towards the southeast. I mean, I am the only one who is thinking FEV Lab here?
And just so you know I am not making this up, here is the sign at the entrance of the hospital, because I went there to check it out:
The question remains, do we have a reality-overlap here? What is being bread in the lowest level of this hospital?
The weirdness did not end there, either. Somewhere around here, there is a place where you can rent Zeppelins (although I have not seen any flying, yet):
So what is going om here? There seems to be a massive overlap of various realities plus some temporal anomalies in this town or maybe being caused by something in the hills. Do the hills have eyes or is this a comletely unrelated question? Only time will tell and I will have more opportunity to get to the bottom of this.
In the end, everything will have a perfectly reasonable explanation… Or at least that is what they want you to believe anyway…
Writing a story set in a utopian or close to utopian society is harder than I thought… This maybe because most of the stuff I have thus far written is either dark fantasy or Cthulhu Mythos related or in some Steampunk setting with some type of international conflict or the usual villain-tropes going on.
A few weeks back I thought I could participate in a call for short stories in a utopian setting, either near future or further on in time. Initially, I found it really hard to come up with a scenario that is engaging, offers potential and is not some blatant trope-bashing or something that has been written about dozens of times before. Things like a futuristic crime story where some high-tech criminals just doing it out of boredom for example.
I have found a good scenario for my story now, I think it is internally consistent and it works against a utopian background, but it has been a rather long way to get there. Now I just have to make the deadline.
Note to self: Writing positive stuff is harder than writing negative/dark stuff…
Back in the 1920’s and 1930’s when H.P. Lovecraft wrote and sometimes published his novellas and short stories around the Cthulhu Mythos, he painted a picture of a stark, unforgiving, and uncaring universe in which, to quote The Call of Cthulhu:
[…] wherein our world and human race form transient incidents.
Our understanding of the universe has grown by several magnitudes in the now 80 years that have passed since his untimely demise. What our increased undertsnading of the cosmos has taught us is: Lovecraft was right.
The cosmos (of which there might actually be more than one) is unimaginably vast, so much so, there are parts of it, we will never see.
The size of what we can see is several times that what it was 10 years ago, thanks to technology, and the more we know, the vaster the universe becomes, the more we shrink in comparison.
We have also learned that down the ages 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth have died out. It is only a matter of time until we, too, shall enter the long darkness of extinction.
So yes, we are nothing but a transient incident.
We are starring out into a vast, cold universe, occasionally lit by tiny islands of stars called galaxies but most of them we will never reach, if any at all.
Yet, we have gotten far and we must not forget that we are actually capable of starring into the abyss, up to the stars and into the vast, cold chasms of void between the stars, and to our knowledge, we are the only ones who do that. This should make us feel good and here, the way the Cthulhu Mythos has developed in the past 80 years comes to our aid.
Most people familiar with the Cthulhu Mythos today do not know the cosmic horror sleeping beneath the waves in his corpse city of R’lyeh, no, they think of things like this (please click):
Cthulhu is largely no longer a manifestation of supreme cosmic horror but rather something cuddly, funny and generally very lovable and this is also the way the indifference of the cosmos should be approached.
Since the universe does not care what we think about it, we are far too insignificant, living on a single rocky planet in the outskirts of an unremarkable galaxy and destined to go extinct eventually, we are free to think and act towards the universe any way we like – It does not make a difference!
The Cthulhu Mythos has become something coudly, so why should we not just give a long, good cuddle to the darkness? Maybe then the darkness gets a little warmer and more comfortable for everybody.
If we are destined to go extinct, why not make the best of the time we have and make it the best for everybody we meet? After all, everyone only gets this one shot of existing in the universe. And no, even if you believe in reincarnation, this does not change anything. Because this is still you and you only get one experience, even if it is spread out over several incarnations. It is still you and you should do your best to make this world a better place for everybody!
So, let’s follow the example the evolution of the Cthulhu Mythos in the past 80 years have set: Face the horrors of the cosmos, but give them a cuddle!
The political post on this blog are few and far between. Out of the the so far 1.512 posts on this blog, less than 50 are in any way politcal (and some of those are of the „Vote Cthulhu!“ type) but now it is time for another one and it is on a hot topic:
The refugee „crisis“.
OK, where should I start? As you may know if you are a regular reader of my blog, for the past months (since March) I have been working as a teacher. In one of my classes, there is a particularly friendly, quiet and inoffensive boy who struggles a bit to catch up, since he has two new languages to learn in my class: German and English. He is a Yezidi refugee and literally the nicest pupil in this class.
Last week, we moved to the city the school I work at is and my son has already befriended three boys living in the neigbourhood (the only ones there at the moment, most likely because all the German children are on holiday).
Those children are: Two brothers from Syria and one boy from Iraq, all roughly the same age as my son.
All three speak better German than my son’s ex-classmates (yes, even the Germans among them!) at the primary school he used to attend before we moved.
All three have really good manners, are very kind and are simply great kids!
My wife is now also teaching the youngest of the three how to play the recorder, he got interested when he visited us and discovered the instrument in my son’s room.
So, as far as my experiences with refugees go (and so far they are heavily focused on children):
They are just regular children! They do not pose a threat, they are not already indoctrinated into salafist Islam or some other dogmatic shit!
From what I have observed, they are interested in:
Running around in all weather
Spending time on the playground
If you have any complaints about that, please go and see someone who can administer some heavy-duty psychotherapy.
So no, I do not see problems with refugees in my community. If we accept them for the humans they are, they will simply be absorbed into our society.
Hell! The Persians managed to completely absorb their Mongol CONQUERORS (see here) and none of the refugees is trying to conquer us!
What will happen: The refugees will become citizens of your country and add their cultural heritage to the wealth of your culture. Everybody wins! Yes, I know, there are asshole refugees who will grope you, or someone you like, but guess what: There are people who share your skin colour and cultural heritage who also have the tendency to grope people of their sexually prefered gender(s).
No country/ethnicity has a monopoly on idiots and/or creeps.
My verdcit on the refugees coming here: Please come in, can I have some of your Falafel, please? They are just humans who want to live their lives and have some fun and joy, too (and their kids are great as far as I can tell).
In the past I have on numerous occasions complained about the way Germany and Germans are portraied in Anglo-centric Steampunk fiction (i.e. the authors had a tendency of making the Germans a) the villains and b) Nazis with Pickelhauben).
Now I have the great pleasure of presenting a genuine German Steampunk novel to you and an awesome one on top of that. Ætherhertz gives you a first-hand look into what Steampunk Germany could really have looked like, with an accurate depiction of what society in the time of the Kaiser really was like and with amazing attention to detail.
Ætherhertz has of course been translated into English for your reading pleasure, I am not forcing you to read a book in German, do not worry.
Ætherhertz is a splendid read, the German original (by the same name) is still the Steampunk novel I meassure all other German Steampunk novels against. The world feels real, has beautifu Steampunk and Steamfantasy elements in it and presents a Steampunk world from a very different perspective to the one you may be used to.
No colonies, no big cities (Baden-Baden is a rather small town, even today) and no threats to the British Empire. This novel is about the people, and it spans the whole spectrum, high-society, the poor, the military, the criminals and all of the people feel real.
But before I sing more praise for Æthehertz, here is a short synopsis from the author herself:
Since the turn of the century, a substance called Æther is rising from the waters, and it is changing the world. A blessing for the industry, a curse for the people, for some of them are being transformed into creatures from fairy-tales and legends. The so-called »Corrupted« are haunting the green mists, and themselves hunted and locked up in jails or asylums.
It is in these strange times, the story begins:
In the famous spa town of Baden-Baden, young women are being poisoned by a mysterious substance. While investigating the case, Fräulein Annabelle Rosenherz uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the whole Grand Duchy of Baden.
But Annabelle is in grave danger herself, she has secrets of her own, and while she tries to solve the murders, she finds rejection and people obsessed by power, but also love.
A steampunk novel set in the beautiful town of Baden-Baden: Stroll with us under the brightly lit gas lanterns, wander along the Lichtenthaler Allee, past the stately casinos towards the first class hotels and fashionable gathering places of the high society, but also towards the perilous secrets thriving in the dark and the misty heights of the Black Forest.
Look here if you want to know more, or contact the author about a free copy for a review: Ætherbooks on Facebook
Oh my Cthulhu! What is the world coming to? A major, august and venerable sci-fi series get a lead that *gasp* does not carry a y-chromosome? (I initially wanted to say something else, but went for the familiy-friendly option).
Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor!
OK, I am a day late to the party, not having had a proper internet connection for the past three days but this also gives me the opportunity to add my two thoughts after reading some (a lot) of the comments around the web and also after grabbing the headline in The Guardian, concerning the fact that two, lets say less reputable print-products, had nothing better to do then releasing pictures of Jodie Whittaker in the nude, and thus proving again, how primitive their respective audiences are.
Alas, they are not the only ones focusing on the fact the next Doctor will be portraied by an actress, not an actor and being highly sexist about it.
Oh, it’s the death of the franchise… (well, it wasn’t with Star Trek and Captain Janeway).
How can you change a male lead into a female one… (it worked with Starbuck in the Galactica reboot, rather splendidly, I must say)
And so on and so forth…
It all comes down to this: There are still a lot of sci-fi fans out there who have not caught on to the fact that sci-fi is no longer a 90% male hobby and fandom. The times have changed and are changing still. This is not a white male only club, get used to it!
We had female leads in Star Wars since the beginning (Carrie Fisher, always and forever in our hearts) and Star Trek had the first female and African-American lead, and this was 50 years ago! Star Wars was released 40 years ago and both Uhura and Leia have been pillars of the fandom and both their characters and actresses have become legends! Stop whining as soon as a female shows up to take a place in the spotlight! It is not a new thing and you are not being overrun, OK? This world is a diverse place, this fandom is a diverse place, the series which spawned the fandom can be as diverse as the fandom!
Personally, I think Jodie Whittaker is an excellent choice, I loved her in Attack the Block, the movie that also saw the first major role of a certain John Boyega…
Which leads to a personal wish of mine: Finn (a.k.a. FN-2187) has to make a cameo appearance in Doctor Who! Well… Just a dream…
I am really looking foreward to seeing her in action as the 13th Doctor!