Steampunk Is On the Rise &
Cindy MacLeod Is Leading the Charge
The Steampunk community across the nation is getting ready for the Steampunk Convention season. From Atlanta to New Jersey, from Dearborn to Phoenix and Seattle, a number of conventions carry the country’s Steampunks from winter through to summer. At the same time these conventions transport the fans back through the aether to the time that never was.
Starting off the Steampunk Year is The South’s Steampunk Symposium: AnachroCon, in Atlanta, GA. In its third year, AnachroCon is one of the fastest growing conventions in America, having started with a simple dinner and dance, The Time Traveler’s Ball. This year organizers are expecting a thousand attendees. The event hosts a terrific lineup of nearly fifty guests including scholars, researchers, bands, authors, and craftsman. Events include panels, performances, demonstrations and dances. You can find more on the website, http://www.anachroCon.com
Cindy Macleod is a driving force in Steampunk today. She is the founder of Terminus Steam, the director of Alternate History at Dragon*Con, and an intimate and adviser to many Steampunk luminaries. She shared some of her Steampunk expertise recently with Space Gypsies.
What do you think are the reasons for the meteoric rise of Steampunk?
It’s hard to pinpoint any one reason, but the main one, I think, is that in a world of remakes, reboots, and repetitive, cloned entertainment choices laden with visions of the sanitized future and overlaid with a heap of CGI and FX, the fantastical world of Steampunk stands out as an interesting alternative.
How would you describe Steampunk to anyone who never heard of it?
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that takes some of its inspiration from classic Victorian sci-fi–such as Verne and Wells. Other inspiration comes from the cyberpunk movement of the 1980s. The rest springs from the imagination of the readers, costumers, and builders.
What are the Are there any new trends in Steampunk?
There seem to be lots of mashups, adding zombies and vampires to Steampunk universes. I’ve also seen a lot more ‘immersive’ conventions occurring lately, such as TeslaCon and Wild Wild West Con.
How long have you been involved in Steampunk?
It’s been a while! Back in the late 80s/early 90s, I read some of the works of KW Jeter, Tim Powers, and James Blaylock. It was Jeter who coined the term ‘steampunk.’ I read the steampunk/cyberpunk crossovers of Gibson, Sterling, and Stephenson. It seemed like I didn’t hear anyone mention the term again until Dragon*Con 1996 or possibly 1997, when I saw some costumers wandering around dressed as the crew of an airship. I’d already started doing a bit of neo-Victorian costuming of my own by that time….and the rest is Alternate History.
Would you say that the Steampunk the community is supportive of each other?
As the co-organizer of a Steampunk convention and a fan track director at Dragon*Con, I do get to see a lot. I’d say ‘maybe’. There is definitely some rivalry going on between some of the regional conventions–however, a little friendly competition is a good thing and can foster innovation. I’d like to see *more* national cooperation, though.
Quentin Taritino in Pulp Fiction postulated that everyone can be divided into “”Elvis People” and “Beatles People.” Brendon Small has altered that to saying that fandom breaks into “Renfest People” and “Sci-Fi Convention People.” Where does Steampunk fall in this spectrum?
Squarely in the middle, I’d say. There are some folks involved in Steampunk who are very much Ren Faire enthusiasts or veterans of Society of Creative Anachronism, and there are others who came to it via sci-fi fandom.
It has been said that Steampunk is a democratizing fandom because it is fan driven rather than mass-media driven. Everyone can bring something new to the game and there is no “right” or “wrong.” How valid is that assertion, and can you expand or correct this perception?
I’d definitely agree with that with a few caveats. If your costuming veers too far away from Victorian Era underpinnings, then it might just not be Steampunk. This is true for Role-Playing and writing as well. I will probably think it is cool, though, if it’s done well, but it’s surely not Steampunk.
Recently Dr. Q won the Wizard World Atlanta Comic Convention Costume Contest as Best in Show for Steampunk Captain Marvel. What does that say about the rise of Steampunk in the mainstream?
I’d say that it’s a well-deserved honor for a man who knows how to put together an awesome costume. As for Steampunk in the mainstream, it’s been heading there for a couple of years now.
What is the coolest thing you have seen related to Steampunk?
That is very hard to say, because I have seen a LOT in the last few years….but I did like the Steampunk-esque ‘telescope’ that connected the US to the UK. I believe it was a simulation, but it was fun.
What is your favorite steampunk joke?
Why are there so many “Goth welders” at this convention?
Where can someone experience an amazing Steampunk event in the southeast?
Why, AnachroCon, of course! February 25-27, 2011. Get your pre-registration memberships at http://www.anachrocon.com, and I will see you there!