I have hardly recovered from this rather drastic bout of influenza, along comes the next thing that send me reeling:
Justin Bieber is using steampunk gear in his latest video/photo shoot:
The image came to me via æthermail, it is also already making the rounds in the usual virtual gathering places. I do not intend any copyright challenge and will remove the image if asked to do so.
As far as I could find out, the people at Skinznhydez have supplied the gauntlet pictured and can very likely expect good business in the foreseeable future. The extra exposure alone they get through this…
But what can we make of this? Has steampunk now entered the main stream on a really broad front or is Justin Bieber genuinely interested in the style, esthetics and subculture? Or is this some sort of image-shift attempt, taking him from teenage heart-throb to… ummmm… Rocker?
I have no idea, what his reasons were, I can only speculate. One thing I am reasonably certain about: This will not cause a gigantic influx of early-teen girls into the scene. The Twilight Saga failed to produce such an effect on the goth scene so why should one video/photo shoot now make steampunk something hip for young teens?
If steampunk should really be going mainstream, well, the EuroSteam Convention is still in the planning stages and we can still expand, if all of a sudden a few thousand new people show interest.
Jak dowiedzieliśmy sie niedawno, Steampunk jest bardzo EDIT: popularny w Polsce (was, erroniously: popularna w Polska).
And because I do not speak Polish (except for a few things like „dzień dobry“ and „Piwo prosze“) I had to use Google Translate to get the title and the first sentence. I appologize for any mistakes in there, should there be any. I honestly cannot check.
I did a little research, „Steampunk“ gets more search queries in Poland than in Germany, The Netherlands or France, both in absolute numbers and of course adjusted to population size. So I was wondering, if there are quite a few Steampunks in Poland, why do we hear so little over here?
I have close ties to Steampunks in the US and Canada, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands and Germany and Austria but no regular contact zo our Slavic speaking friends and fellow Steampunks.
The reason why contact to the scenes in Eastern Europe (Russia has also an impressive number of search queries by the way) is not as tight as it could and should be is obvious, I think: None of us here speaks Polish well enough to get into closer contact with some of you people and your scene seems to be vibrant enough to make it unnecessary to get in touch with us on a bigger scale.
Through comments on my blog I know I have readers from Poland and I have an offer to make:
I invite you as a guest blogger on this blog here, please tell us something about the scene in Poland, where you meet up, what clubs you go to to dance, which sites and museums you frequent, basically something a Steampunk tourist to Poland would like to know.
And if you find it in your clockwork heart to send an article (I would like it in Polish and English, please) you would earn my undying gratitude and an Amazon Voucher (or something comperable).
It would be great if this little outreach-connection project works and maybe it grows into something semi-regular with other nations being featured as well.
If any of my Polish readers want to take the offer, please leave a comment or send an æthermail. I would love to get some feedback on this one.
It had to happen eventually. The professional spammers have discovered the Steampunk section of the æthernet as a source for traffic, customers and what not. As a result, there are now sites on the ætherweb wich have the term Steampunk in the URL, have a design which fits into the esthetic range but…
And this is the point where it is getting ugly. The rest has little to do with what you would expect from any site at all. I have mentioned this before, my day job is in online marketing. I am doing SEO, Social Media and limited SEM for a few sites of a major magazine publisher in Germany and I am quite sensitive to dodgy marketing/link building/spamming for obvious reasons. In this particular case, my professional skills were not even required. Everybody with half a brain would have found out that something was amiss:
I received the following comment on one of my reviews a few days back:
Good web site online! predilection the seventh heaven you might have on scheme here. Please run on the changing into occurring moreover I consign equal skookum tumtum to go to terribly frequently.
If you can make any sense of it, let me know, I cannot. I also consider it quite deplorable the comment actually made it through the spam filter. Now the „user“ who made this comment simply called himself „steampunk“, therefor using the keyword and the term was again used in the URL, as mentioned above. I was a little puzzled about this bot-generated comment appearing in a subculture related context and after taking a few precautions, I put on my goggles, got the breathing-apparatus ready, strapped myself in and sailed the stremas of the ætherweb to the site mentiond as the commenters homepage.
What a surprise! The site is a blog of sorts, has lots of advertizing and several articles, all with the terms you might expect in the headlines and also in the texts itself. Most of these texts make about as much sense as the comment quoted above. They are as sensical as:
Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Only they are in prose and use actual English terms but otherwise they are a jumble of words with no meaning. In between this linguistic mess you find actual articles, ripped from other websites, I presume, such as a review of Carnal Machines, and some images and topical Youtube videos.
But apart from the few stolen articles, this site is pure spam, aimed at attracting traffic via a fringe keyword that has accquired some traffic potential.
I am not going to share or even name the site, this would mean the spammer has actually reached its (yes, I use this one on purpose) goal and got a link to its spammy site. I am willing to share it, though, so you can put it on your spam list, too. Drop me a line, if you want to know which site it was.
A valid question and one that has come up within the Lovecraft Community on a number of occasions. Among others, Chad Fifer, Chris Lackey and Andrew Leman discussed this on the side once in an episode of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast. The H.P. Podcraft team mentioned the Cthulhu plushies in particular. Back in 2006 when I was writing my master thesis on the Cthulhu Mythos I stumbled upon the plushies for the first time and incorporated them in the paper, of course. In fact, I’ve got a plush Cthulhu and a plush Nyarlathotep sitting on my nightstand and I guess sooner or later either one of the two or both will migrate into my son’s bed.
The plushies are only one facet of the overall tendency to turn the entire Cthulhu Mythos into something rather cute.
So, today’s topic (and the name of the hypothesis to explain the phenomenon) is:
The Kawaii-Drift of Cthulhu
A quick stock take of the elements of Cthulhu Fandom or the Mythos inspired subculture as a whole shows the following picture (again, this needs a deeper look into)
On the horror side of Call of Cthulhu:
The fiction by Lovecraft, his collaborators and their modern successors.
The Call of Cthulhu Role Playing Game
some Youtube videos
Lovecraft inspired adaptions in various forms of media (comics, videos, movies, audio plays etc.)
On the far less evil side:
various web comics with Cthulhu making guest appearances such as Userfriendly.org
a significant number of short subjects and videos (see below)
My first impression: The humorous part has in recent years eclipsed the horror part in productivity (i.e. output of material measured by volume) and is also the more visible part. I have also observed a tendency of light-heartedness in the respective role-playing community (and not only regarding Munchkin Cthulhu).
The question I ask is this: What motivates the Kawaii-Drift? If you take a broader perspective, you will notice that Cthulhu or rather the Cthulhu Mythos as a whole is not the only horror topic affected this way. A lot of monsters of the olden days have had an image change of one sort or the other.
Take for example the Peter Jackson adaption of King Kong. Peter Jackson’s King Kong is not a monster. He is actually a hero and mankind is the real villain.
Dinosaurs, one of the staples of monster-movies since the dawn of film itself have had quite a renaissance and are also available as toys and plushies. OK, the toys have been around for a while but in popular opinion, Dinosaurs have come a long way from the dull, hulking brutes they were still perceived as in the 1970’s (oh dear, that’s 40 years ago…)
Dragons, too, have had quite an image shift. They are no longer the maiden-eating, peasant-terrorising monsters but range from sophisticated leaders (Dragonheart) to pet (Harry Potter).
And then the vampires and werewolves… Don’t get me started. Their proud and fearsome heritage has been blemished by the abominable, sanity-shattering works of… STAKE EDWARD!
Excuse the outburst.
I thus speculate the Kawaii-Drift of Cthulhu is not a phenomenon only affecting the denizens of R’lyeh, Sarkomand and Dunwich. It is a trend concerning horror as a whole. Of course this needs more looking into and I could fall victim to confirmation bias, here.
The fact that so much non-evil Cthulhu material is appearing, very likely more than in any other comparable movie/RPG/literary subculture maybe is explainable thusly:
The works of Lovecraft attract a certain type of person, possible with above-average whacky tendencies. They also tend to be more creative and driven, almost like a cult and the Cthulhu Mythos is an idea with a lot of stickiness to it.
So, “Cthulhu Cultists” turn their creativity towards the Mythos and make all kinds of stuff out of it. Since the overwhelming majority of real world Cthulhu cultists are genuinely great and fun people, they turn out great and fun stuff. (This last statement is, quite obviously, not biased at all.)
And here are some visuals I’m sure you will enjoy:
Well, Iä! everybody, have a great day and disturbing dreams of non-euclidean cities beneath the sea!
Today is international Steampunk Day and it is really easy to participate:
…dress up like Steampunk Characters, watch steampunk movies, play steampunk video games, read steampunk books and just bask in the glory that is the steampunk genre. So bust out your goggles and your ray guns, your felt vests and your steam gaskets and imagine a history that might have been…at least for one day.
So today, I am wearing my gear-cufflinks, my goggles and of course my pocket watch in the office (the latter I usually wear anyway).
I will post some images tomorrow but right now, I do not have a camera ready.
And always remember: Steampunk is a feature, not a bug!
During the third meeting of the Club of Bavarian Gentlemen we discussed a number of things and we discovered that most of us had some connection to the Goth scene. We also had made very similar observations regarding the development of the scene.
Right now there seems to be a certain cadre of people who consider themselves to be the elite and who judge everybody else. You may know what sort I am talking about.
At that point I made a joke about me being “Elite Steampunk” and backed it up by citing Angry Robot Books, who have this to say about this blog:
And these guys know steampunk!
I do not consider myself elite. To do this would automatically mean I am not. It is a Catch 32 situation.
Unfortunately, there is a certain trend apparent within Steampunk going in that direction. There are certain individuals who do consider themselves the elite.
Anyway, I thought I could do a little anthropological research into the subculture and find out about elitism in Steampunk. I already had a lead:
Some time back, when I still had the time to participate in/troll forum discussions, I had a run-in with an elitist.
In this particular case the point was, I could not be a real Steampunk because I was too old (I am heading towards 40). Apparently said person was under the impression you should not be allowed on the ætherweb if you are 25+ (or something like that), really strange…
I also remember a voicing of grief by an internet-acquaintance of mine about the issue.
After a little research I now have the following (incomplete) list of criteria defining Elite Steampunks (there are more…):
wear appropriate gear 24/7
go to every convention they can find
create their own gear
spend huge amounts on extra gear
steam-up their home
are older than 16 (or 18, or 21 or something)
are younger than (put arbitrary number here)
write fiction/poetry and/or play an instrument and/or are into some other kind of art (producing Steampunk-themed works, obviously)
have a blog or website where they tell of their Steampunk endeavours
are recognized within the scene
So, let me see… three of these points apply to some degree or another, so no, I am not elite. I guess nobody with a day job and/or a family easily can be.
Luckily, the people who make these claims are a minority, rather vocal but still a minority.
What is worse, if you look at popular authors in the scene, most of them are ordinary people, a bit freaky maybe but they look like the people in the street.
So, would you exclude the person whose books you enjoy simply because they do not look the part?
Please, my fellow Steampunks out there, do not overdo it. It is bad enough the Goth scene has style-Nazis.
Steampunk is a mindset and a subculture, not a prom and certainly not a pageant. Please keep up the inclusiveness and do not make up rules to shut out people!
Oh my… I guess this was my first rant in a long time…
Does this not look great? I really envy the United States (or the whole of North America for that matter) their rather active scene. Right now, the scene is picking up steam here in Europe, too, but it is still a far cry from all that is going on o the other side of the Atlantic.
Oh, talking of things going on. We are having a Steampunk Get-Together in Augsburg on May 1st, a week on Sunday, so to speak. So, if you happen to be in the area, drop me a line!
To a lot of Steampunks a little bit of mysticism is part of the style. After all, seances and occult secret societies were rather en vogue in Victorian times. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in the late 1880’s and Aleister Crowley took his first steps towards becoming an occult celebrity in the final years of Victoria’s reign.
Also, occult elements taken from the Fin de Siècle can be found in contemporary steampunk music. Tom Slatter’s Lines overheard at a Séance comes to mind.
So it is little wonder I would sooner or later encounter a Steampunk Tarot Deck on the ætherweb, and quite a marvelous thing it is. Here are some sample cards:
I do not believe in devinition of any sort at all, excep for the weatherforcast, I am a skeptic, after all. I am also a minor collector of more exotic tarot decks and I guess this one would go quite nicely with my Lovecraftian Tarot Deck. It could also serve as a control experiment deck. You see, whenever I tried devining the future with te lovecraftian deck, all I got was: R’lyeh will rise, everyone’s gonna die… *sigh*
I guess I should write a little something about the Cthulhu Deck some other time… In any case, if you want to take a closer look at the Steampun Tarot Deck, go here:
Today is one of the most important holidays in a Steampunk’s life and I actually tried to wear a little steampunk gear in the office. Since I am working for a really respectable company now, my choices were limited. So I settled for an acceptable mix of regular office wear with some dieselpunk touches.
… and I am always carrying a pocket watch with me anyway.