On Steampunk, and Why it has Taken Over my Year

Earlier this week my friend André wrote a great blog post about our recent work (go read it here – if you understand Portuguese), which in turn inspired me to update my own blog with my thoughts on the subject. The truth is I haven’t been a very good blogger, mostly because I’ve gotten so caught up in all the other projects I’ve had this year that there was little creative energy for anything else.

I’ve written before about the Clockwork Portugal collective, our webseries, website, and the various other activities we’ve organized this year. But I didn’t really talk about Steampunk or why I care about it, so I’m now going to try to articulate my thoughts on the matter without falling into the usual cliches.

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction, one that is inspired by the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Steam, and by consequence, a lot of Steampunk works have a distinctly Victorian flavor, though there are increasingly more works that take place in other parts of the world, or even in invented worlds. Good Steampunk has all the factors that make up good science fiction – inventive exploration of technology and its social, sociological, environmental and historical impact on society – with the added advantage of being especially relevant to our own contemporary society. Just like André mentioned, Arthur C. Clarke said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, and we are now at a phase where most technology we use in our daily lives might as well be magic, for how little we know about its inner workings. This type of advancement first started in the Industrial Revolution, and humanity still hasn’t fully come to terms with many of the issues that started to surface back then. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that we look into the past and project our present and future into it, creating something entirely new and at the same time very familiar.

As for Clockwork Portugal, it is the brainchild of Joana Lima and me, with André Nóbrega, Rogério Ribeiro and Joana Maltez coming later to the team. Most of our tasks, including writing, editing and brainstorming, are accomplished collectively. I am more directly responsible for the webseries, since I film, edit and do anything else that needs doing by myself (I never had formal training on this and learned it all to do this webseries, so I’m still a beginner). I also did a lot of things for the almanach, including the ads’ design, the cover, correcting the texts and contacting the various authors. This isn’t mentioning all the things that had to be done for the convention itself… But more on that later.

Even though, for me personally, Steampunk comes alive mostly in stories (books, movies and graphic novels), there is an entire subculture around it: music, craftsmen, cosplayers, fashion and games have proliferated into a vibrant, creative and passionate community. We were able to see it in full during the convention we organized, Euro Steam Con, in September.

Since we are mostly unknown and unaffiliated with any institution (and it probably doesn’t help that Portugal is going through a rough financial spot right now), we worked entirely without a budget, out of our own creativity and the goodwill of friends. We even published the Steampunk Almanach on our own, also without a budget (we barely managed to break even from sales). We had food sellers, craftsmen, book and magazine publishers, and lots of authors to discuss various themes and do signings. Needless to say, everything would probably turn out much better if we had had a budget to work with (however small), but given the circumstances, I am very proud of the results.

The journey hasn’t been easy and it takes a lot more hours (days and months, is more like it) than we hoped it would. But it’s definitely rewarding to create something and see people get excited about it and participate in it.

Later this week our team is heading to Lisbon to present our project at Fórum Fantástico, a yearly science-fiction and fantasy event. I’ve been there as a visitor for the last few years, and I’m very excited to be a presenter this year. Hopefully, this project can keep growing and next year it will be even better.

If you want to know more, visit these links (Portuguese-only, sorry!):

Clockwork Portugal

Facebook

Twitter

Diários Steampunk, our webseries

Tumblr

Steampunk Almanach 2012

Goodreads Group

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About Sofia Romualdo

Curator in training. Book addict. Art lover. Geek. Dreamer.

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