Hilde Heyvaert, one of my best and oldest friends in the Steampunk scene, has published a most excellent article/rant over at The Gatehouse.
With her permission, I am cross-posting it here, because it beautifully captures another one of those weird attitudes you find in our scene.
Some people really have a desperate need to be more true than you are, and to them, and the Steampunk Gestapo, I dedicate this artice:
On Alter Egos
People often come up with things to do, or be, at conventions, gatherings and events etc. This ranges from simple things like dressing up in your favourite geek attire, to cosplaying to inventing a steampunk persona to be for that day (or to keep within a steampunk group). Who hasn’t felt it would be a great idea to be a mad scientist, adventurer, aristocrat, sky pirate or whatever else the scene has to offer after all?
Now you can do two things: you dress up in the style you like, make the persona and still be yourself. You’re all dressed up and you say, “today I’ll be e.g. a mad scientist!” But you still use your own name, and that’s fine. You’re going to an event, you’ve dressed up, you intent to have a great time and that’s what matters.
Or you can go all out and invent a name for your persona, and that’s absolutely fine too!
Now what is not fine, is the lack of respect I keep on seeing for people that do X or Y. I myself have chosen not to take on a persona, a character, an alter ego if you please. I have been in a LARP group for over 11 years and frankly I’m fed up by being someone else, that point of my life has passed. And the beauty of steampunk is that I can STILL make up personas and yet stay myself! That’s awesome, and there’s nothing wrong with it! Just like there is NOTHING wrong with choosing to make a character for yourself with its own history and its own name.
Steampunk allows for both options so I fail to understand why so many steampunks can’t just accept that someone else has chosen the other one and agree to disagree. In my local group, Artifakt, I am the only one without an alter ego and no one will hold that against me. Just like I won’t hold it against them that they did choose one. In The Steampunk Objective my husband and I are the only ones without one, same story. And THAT ladies and gentlemen, is how it should be.
Having, or not having, a full on alter ego doesn’t make someone a better or worthier steampunk.
The only thing I want to really press upon is: you do not HAVE to have an alter ego to be a steampunk. Regardless of what the majority may claim, it is ok to be yourself. Just like it is ok to be someone else.
Do whatever feels right to you, whichever choice you make, and respect that others will go for the other option for whatever reason. It’s ok to say “you don’t have to” or explain (or defend, which you may very well have to do) your choice, it’s not ok to enforce it on others.
And just so you know: I do not have an alter ego either, and in case a certain someone who has decided to be my personal troll comes around and asks: If I do not have an alter ego, what’s the deal with „Traveler“, that’s not your real name (or similar beside the point stuff). Please click here for alter ego and click here for pen name.