Tag Archives: steampunk

Racist Things Steampunks Are Not Immune To: Dysconscious Racism

"Planetary Alignment," by Julie Dillon. Courtesy: Digital-art-gallery.com

By Guest Contributor Jaymee Goh, cross-posted from Silver Goggles

Dysconcious racism is a term coined by Joyce E King (in the Journal of Negro Education, Spring 1991, JSTOR, but you can get it through Google, too) as “the uncritical habit of mind (i.e., perceptions, attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs) that justifies inequity and exploitation by accepting the existing order of things as given.” It’s pretty much the reason why Moff’s Law exists as a comment policy on pretty much any blog that seeks to analyse pop culture.

You know when people say stupid sh-t like, “there will ALWAYS be racism,” or “people have ALWAYS been prejudiced towards one another” and “human beings are just like that”? And, like, what the fuck kind of argument are you going to have with that kind of statement, anyway? It’s not like there’s any kind of untruth to them; it’s just that it’s a really f-cking lazy thing to say and absolves people of any responsibility to actually think and address the problem of, you know, RACISM!

Dysconscious racism in steampunk is part of a larger attitude of escapism, usually exhibited by people who just think steampunk (and other kinds of fiction) is a fantasy, and whenever you try to engage with them about the political implications of their very problematic ish (whether it’s literature or world-building or whatever), they get their “Why Do You Have To Be So Political About This?” tantrums on and “Suddenly The World Is Ruined and it is Totally Your Fault” because you brought it up, so there.

On another note, dysconscious racism can include the refusal to consider the ins and outs of racism, and a lot of grouching about “being made to feel guilty.” Sometimes, some effort is made to engage, but there’s a lot of tip-toeing around the actual problem, a lot of stumbling around, and rather than have an actual conversation, we all sit around making vague statements about why racism still exists. Which, FYI, doesn’t actually help any.

Anti-racism is a conscious thing. It has to be cultivated as conscious habit. We grow up with so many unexamined assumptions and with poor education systems that cannot possibly cover the length and breadth of the world. Sometimes, our own education systems don’t even cover the ins and outs of our own countries’ histories (and seeing as how schools are as form of state apparatus to mold citizens that comply with state expectations, it’s no wonder!), so it’s easy to grow up not realizing all these histories.

Dysconscious racism, then, is sort of a default state of mind for a lot of people who refuse to develop the critical thinking skills needed to actively combat racism. There’re only so many ways to combat dysconscious racism, and unless the person exhibiting it is willing to give thinking a try, there’s really not much you can do, except reiterate, over and over, “racism can be fixed. Racism is not a natural state of being. Racism is not here to stay. Racism is taught, not intrinsic to humanity,” and hope they gradually internalize that.

 

Excerpt: Monique Poirier previews her vision for Native American steampunk

Native Science understands that nature is technology – a compost pile is a massively-tested super-applicable multifaceted waste management system resulting from four billion years of research and development where you put food waste in and get high-yield fertilizer out and the whole process is carbon neutral!

I imagine a Steampunk North America (Turtle Island) in which the buffalo population wasn’t deliberately eradicated for genocidal purposes and which thus still enjoys the resources of vast areas of tall grass prairie (you need buffalo to have prairie as much as you need prairie to have buffalo because many seeds will not germinate correctly or thrive without passing through a buffalo’s digestive system unless human intervention is applied). I imagine a Turtle Island in which deforestation is severely curtailed and vast areas of old-growth forest are deliberatly maintained. I imagine city architecture utilizing rammed-earth walls and green roofs on large communal buildings, and time-tested local building technologies on smaller, private residences. I imagine populous cities designed for walkability and communal pedestrian culture. I imagine a North America in which the Black Hills are not defaced with gigantic carved graffiti of doofy white dudes.

By the 19th century in my alternate timeline, Turtle Island has a thriving, technologically advanced pan-Indian culture, a collective of independent nations with distinct regionalisms that has a UN-like organization to engage with the global community. A group of nations that meets Europe as equals and trades technology and cultural influences as such.

- From “Musing About Native Steampunk”

Using The Term ‘Multiculturalism’

By Guest Contributor Jaymee Goh, cross-posted from Silver Goggles

I’m currently re-reading Angela Davis’ Abolition Democracy, and her interviewer, Eduardo Mendieta, in response to her reiteration that “we need a new age–with a new agenda–that directly addresses the structural racism” (30) about multiculturalism: “very smart strategies are being used, ones that displace attention from issues of racial justice by speaking in terms of multiculturalism” (31).

Over the last year or so, I’ve become incredibly disillusioned with how the term “multiculturalism” is used in various spaces, including steampunk.

I’ve always loved the term, and multiracialism as well. In Malaysia, we are openly a multi-racial society; you see food stalls with Chinese lettering and Indian mamak shops. Wherever you go, there are clear signs that any given space caters to the needs of specific races, and it’s only hyper-consumerist spaces that cater to as many people as possible, that are, ahem, “race-less”. (Neocolonialism, you see, strips a country of its cultures, and replaces it with a singular culture of buying and selling and marathon window-shopping.)

We’re super-imperfect, and there are a ton of things I do not know about the different races and cultures within Malaysia alone. Partly because it’s simply not part of regular interracial interaction and thus it never comes up in conversation. Partly also because sometimes these practices are deeply private and specific to certain groups, and we kind of don’t see why we HAVE to tell others about it. But at functions, we are fairly happy to see each other dress appropriately, and in the cultural clothes associated with the race of the host.

Contrary to the politics of Malaysia, I really do think that the Malaysian people get it right sometimes, or at least, it did. Recently I’ve come to believe that our taciturn attitude towards talking about our cultures has become a wall and now we stand around awkwardly and don’t really know how to talk to each other about our cultures anymore.

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The West Was Lost, by Beth Aileen Lameman and Myron A. Lameman: A Review

By Guest Contributor Ay-leen The Peacemaker, cross-posted from Beyond Victoriana

Native steampunk has been presented in many different ways and, like the comic Finder (which had been reviewed here a couple of weeks ago), The West Was Lost is another drawn tale that speaks in layers and plays with the concept of linear storytelling.

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Caribbean Steampunk on a Distant World: A Review of Tobias Buckell’s CRYSTAL RAIN

by Guest Contributor Ay-leen the Peacemaker, originally published at Beyond Victoriana

In the wake of the Steampunk Kurfluffle that started with Charles Stross’ complaint against steampunk, Tobias Buckell wrote an interesting response about fantasy’s tendency to romanticize the past and mentioned his own work:

But ultimately, I share Stross’s discomfort, which is why my steampunk plays have often been about adopting the style and nodding to the history. Crystal Rain, what I called a Caribbean steampunk novel, is about Caribbean peoples and the reconstituted Mexica (Azteca in the book) of old with a Victorian level of technology, using the clothing/symbols of steampunk, but making their artificiers black.

Sadly, Crystal Rain, written in 2006, seems to have come out just before all the hotness, as it rarely gets mentioned as a steampunk novel whenever these celebrations happen.

So, now that my curiosity was piqued, I had to go out and get the book to see for myself how he handles steampunk before “the hotness.”

What’s so refreshing about Crystal Rain, besides the setting, is its clear positioning as a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel. The book takes place in the multicultural, multiracial country of Nanagada, a land outside of our known history. Little touches hint that Nanagada is a society rebuilding itself from a cataclysmic disaster that occurred centuries ago. A mysterious object called the Spindle drifts in the sky. Barren areas exist that sicken the men who attempt to cross them. The Preservationists work to restore some of the lost technologies from “the old fathers” from long ago under the authority of the new governess Dihana and engineers have just started taking advantage of steam technology. Over the mountain range beyond Nanagada, however, lives the society of Azteca, a fearsome rival. Equipped with air ships and goaded to war by their gods called the Teotl, the Azteca are preparing for invasion with Nanagada in its sights. Continue reading

Overcoming the Noble Savage & the Sexy Squaw: Native Steampunk

By Guest Contributor Monique Poirier, cross-posted from Beyond Victoriana

I’m not one for preambles, so let’s get down to brass tacks here. I’m Monique Poirier. I’m a member of the Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe. I’m a Steampunk.

When I got into Steampunk several years ago, it didn’t really occur to me to even try to incorporate my cultural identity into my Steampunk presentation; my first Steampunk outfit (worn to Templecon 2009) was cobbled together from my existent goth attire, stuff from the renfaire costume trunk, and a duct-tape corset.

Then I read Jha’s articles at Tor.com. Then I started reading Beyond Victoriana. It was powwow season… and everything just -clicked-. When I attended The Steampunk World’s Fair in May 2010, I made an active effort to incorporate my ethnic identity more visibly in my Steampunk attire.

That’s where things get complicated.

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Dark Victorian Fairytale Science Fiction: An Interview with Psyche Corporation

By Guest Contributor Ay-leen the Peacemaker, cross-posted from Beyond Victoriana

In exploring the range of music that has been classified under the steampunk umbrella, Psyche Corporation would be on the more Gothic side of the spectrum.  The one-woman musical singer behind the band, Psyche Chimère possesses a versatile voice, and her music ranges as far as the imaginative topics she sings about. At turns Psyche Corporation moves from evocative and theatrical, as with“Part of Her Design” or “Beast”; to the darkwave dance beats of “Institute” or “The Crime”; to whimsical but edgy storytelling like in “The Ceiling” and “Wonderland.” (You can listen to her music on her MySpace, Reverbnation, or last.fm).

Psyche Corporation’s music, however, has struck a chord with the steampunk community, and she has performed at steampunk events around the country, including The Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey, Dorian’s Parlor in Philadelphia, the Steampunk Salon run by the Brooklyn Indie Mart, and in conjunction with Steampunk Canada & the Toronto Steampunk Society for Canada’s Fan Expo. Psyche Corporation’s next steampunk performance will be at The Anachronism at Webster Hall in New York City on November 21st.

Just in time for Halloween, however, Psyche Chimère stopped by the blog to talk about her darkly-tinged music and her career as a musician in the steampunk community.

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Les Sapeurs: Gentlemen Of The Congo

By Guest Contributor Eccentric Yoruba, cross-posted from Beyond Victoriana

Dandyism and the Black Man

A dandy is a man who places extreme importance on physical appearance and refined language. It is very possible that dandies have existed for as long as time itself. According to Charles Baudelaire, 19th century French poet and dandy himself, a dandy can also be described as someone who elevates aesthetics to a religion.

In the late 18th and early 19th century Britain, being a dandy was not only about looking good but also about men from the middle class being self-made and striving to emulate an aristocratic lifestyle.  The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of literature’s greatest dandies; famous historical dandies include Oscar Wilde and Lord Byron.

These days the practice of dandyism also includes a nostalgic longing for ideals such as that of the perfect gentleman. The dandy almost always required an audience and was admired for his style and impeccable manners by the general public.

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