An Introductionary Guide to Steampunk

 

Multimedia eLearning essay by: David Anthony Johanson  © All Rights

Steampunk is a wonderfully curious subculture — percolating with creative optimism, healthy playfulness — an inventive postmodern science fiction genre, which blends Victorian era, 19th Century alternative history with contemporary technology.

Goggles are a popular accessory for Steampunk practitioners.

Goggles are a popular accessory for Steampunk practitioners

A sub-genre of science fiction — Steampunk appears as if caught in some strange time warp. The practitioners of this loosely knit community of post-industrialist feature Victorian era clothing along with accessories such as goggles, intricate antique jewelry incorporating watch gears and a wide spectrum of retro-futuristic attachments.

Steampunk has remained under the radar of mainstream media, which is surprising since it’s one of the fastest growing cultural trends in recent memory! Now reaching the tipping point, this curious lifestyle movement is beginning to influence mainstream media, major retail and fashion labels.

Hand crafted, often one of a kind Steampunk jewelry is sold by vendors at the festival.

Hand crafted, often one-of-a-kind Steampunk jewelry is sold by vendors at the festival.

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Hand crafted, repurposed products, which uses wood, glass, and metal (especially brass) are associated with the Steampunk movement. Manufactured plastic materials are rejected and viewed with contempt at Steampunk social gatherings.

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Steampunk Etymology   

Steam_punk_Fairhaven_BPP_2013_w 10Although SP is a postmodern hybrid genre, Victorian era writers associated with its original inspiration are: H G Wells, Jules Verne and Mary Shelly. These 19th Century, vanguard novelist inspired future generations of science fiction writers, which throughout the 20th Century created new genres of their own.

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Steampunk is not directly associated with the British Royal Monarchy of Queen Victoria (ruled from 1837 until 1901). The Victorian era is a convenient time reference for what symbolizes the advancements made during the Industrial Revolution. Steam_punk_Fairhaven_BPP_2013_w 8

This era had the greatest technological developments of the 19th Century, including: massive agricultural output, wide distribution of railway systems, steam turbine engines (for world commerce and travel.), development and wide scale utilization of electrical power, telecommunications including ( telegraph, telephone and wireless radio) and the automobile’s internal combustion engine.

Steam_punk_Fairhaven_BPP_2013_w 11Regarding western social economics, the Victorian era sees for the first time, a middle class emerges, which establishes an expanding consumer based society. Food production increase due to new agricultural technology and distribution, therefore allowing a rapid growth of population within the western world. Trade unions are allowed to flourish leading to greater protection for workers, including women and children. Human rights in general make huge advancements as slavery is eliminated in most of Europe and North America.

The actual term Steampunk derives from the science fiction genre — cyberpunk, which emerged in the early 1980s. In 1987, science fiction author K. W. Jeter, sent a letter to science fiction magazine Locus — using the term, ‘steam-punks’, he coined the phrase for a newly developing science fiction genre, which was inspired by Victorian fantasies.                    

Steampunk vendor shows off his hand crafted wares.

Steampunk vendor shows off his hand crafted wares.

Finding Steampunk Festival Events

When I first attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, I marveled at its charming neighborhood of Farhaven — a historic district with Victorian and Edwardian style brick architecture. A couple of summers ago I returned to Fairhaven in mid-July to go sightseeing. To my delight the first Fairhaven Steampunk Festival was in full swing and provided the photos used for this article.

Historic Fairhaven District has many fine examples of late 19th century architecture, including this multilevel wooden stairway

The Historic Fairhaven District has many fine examples of late 19th century architecture, including this multilevel wooden stairway

Beautifly proportioned brick buildings make for an ideal backdrop for a steampunk fesitival.

Beautifully proportioned brick buildings make for an ideal backdrop for a Steampunk festival.

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STEAMPUNK Personas

Scientist —

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Aristocrat —

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Adventure / Travelor —

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Steampunk Umbrellas —

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Steampunk Hats —

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Steampunk Cinema & Television

A partial list of films which have Steampunk elements or themes

Metropolis – Fritz Lang Director (1927)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Starring Kirk Douglas (1954)

Wild, Wild, West – CBS Television Series (1965-69)

City of Lost Children – Starring Ron Perlman (1995) 

Wild, Wild, West – Starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline & Salma Hayek (1999)

The league of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Starring Sean Connery (2003)

Steamboy – Japan’s most expensive animated film ever made, 10 year production (2004)

Golden Compass -Starring Nicole Kidman (2007 Film)

Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game Of Shadow – Starring Robert Downey Jr. (2011)

 

Learn More About Steampunk By Clicking On These Links

The Nine Novels That Defined Steampunk | The Steampunk Workshop

What is Steampunk? | Steampunk.com

HowStuffWorks “How Steampunk Works”

What is Steampunk? History and Culture that Define Steampunk

A History of Steampunk, Part 1 – Definitions | Jay Kristoff – Literary Giant

Steampunk – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Why Defining Steampunk Is Worthwhile « Steampunk R&D

What Is Steampunk?

Steampunk Scholar: Defining Steampunk

Steampunk 101 | Tor.com

Get Ready for Mainstream Steampunk | 5 Reasons You’ll Be Talking About Steampunk in 2013 | TIME.com

Steampunk Magazine

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The Day-After 9/11…Ten Years After

Photos and text by: David Johanson Vasquez  © All Rights Reserved

Probably anyone reading this essay will never forget what they were doing on the day of and the following day-after the World Trade Center attack of 9/11.

An early start on a tragic morning—On September 11, 2001,  I got up early at 5:00 a.m. to begin packing for my fiancé and I’s flight from Seattle to Honolulu. After feeding the cats I made a cup of coffee, while listening to the morning news. It took a moment to register that there was a serious event taking place in New York City. I changed the channel… just to make sure there wasn’t some misreporting of what was happening.  In shock, I moved to wake my fiancé—informing her of something really bad was going to the east coast. We held each other while watching the news, then we began making phone calls to family and friends to see if they were watching what had just happened.

My memory accelerated into reverse, towards my first trip to New York City in 1998.  A cousin had taken me on a well planned tour of Lower Manhattan, where we visited the ‘”Twin Towers” to gain a most fantastic view of the City. Now… I kept wondering if my family and friends were okay in Manhattan… what was going on in their lives at this moment? More news reports of other horrible attacks, then a FAA directive announcement to recall and ground all flights in transit immediately. The information was approaching sensory overload. This situation was escalating into something extremely serious, chances were our wedding plans would be forced to hold, perhaps even indefinitely.

The eerie sound of silence—As evening approached, the directive to ground all aircraft began to create an eerie feeling. Our home, which we purchased just a few months before, is located north of Seattle in the city of Everett. Paine Field, a major regional airport is within a couple of miles of our home and Boeing assembles commercial aircraft there, including the Jumbo 747 as well as its 767 airliner, which were used in the terrorist attacks earlier that day.

What was so strange, was the silence of not hearing any aircraft sounds going overhead.  This somber stillness created a feeling straight out of a science fiction movie—in fact I notice a sustained absence of  any sounds; no car noise or people outside talking — as if the world was standing still within a vacuum. I forced myself from thinking… the years when I was a Boeing photographer, if I had photographed one of the 767 aircraft during its production cycle,  which had been used in the terrorist attacks.

Suspended animation — As the afternoon turned into evening, fighter jets appeared in the sky, pacing back and forth like a cat waiting to pounce on its pray. Later as night approached we could hear the steady high altitude drone of bombers and military transport aircraft flying towards Canadian airspace—heading north for an apparent polar route to reach intended deployments; it was obvious now, our nation was going to war.

I stayed up late to see if there would be other information, to let us know if airline flights were to resume. Having slept very little, I got up before light, preparing to depart for our pre-wedding flight to Honolulu.  As dawn arrived there was no definite news as to if flights would be resuming again; so we picked up my stepdaughter Dena, her husband Dave and son to go to the airport.

On the drive to Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, I recall our grandson Jacob asking why was our nation attacked, but none of us had an answer to offer which made sense.  Arriving at the airport was that returning feeling of, stepping into a set of some sci-fi feature, troops and police packing machine guns were on sentry;  just about everyone we saw looked like they were in a daze. One of my best friends I had known since we first met as Boeing photographers, came up and gave us the airline flight status. Rick and his wife Kathy had arrived the day before, to fly out for our wedding, but the 9/11 attacks halted all flights before they could board their plane.

It now was clear, no one would be flying for the foreseeable future, so we had our party of family and friends meet us at a nearby restaurant for a dialogue on an action plan. We decide to try postponing our wedding for one month, then, hopefully all of us would be able to fly out to Hawaii for our planned ceremony.

The resumed flight to paradise — In October we followed through with our wedding plans.  Our ceremony took place outside of Honolulu, on a beach, which was used in a famous kissing scene in the 1953 classic: “From Here to Eternity,” — starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. A month after the 9/11 attacks, we were some of the first travelers to arrive in Hawaii from the mainland.  The hotel’s front desk shared with us — how for the first few days following the attacks, most tourist did not leave their rooms for days… they just wanted to watch any news updates from television.

The shadow of judgement—The weeks following 9/11, I recall experiencing some undue scrutiny from a few strangers who gave hostile stares at me, due to my “Mediterranean appearance.” Part of my family heritage is Panamanian and the other Swedish; so if someone was judgmental and didn’t know anything about my background  — they might ignorantly try to project they’re suspicious spotlight onto me. We often forget of this misguided act of— “terrorism in the name of religion” — no one has suffered more wrongful deaths and injury than innocent Arab people, from many nations of the world.  The terrorist attacks were carried out by an extremely small group of people… representing their own narrow, hate consuming judgments towards the United States.  Blind-ignorance about our Nation’s true values, misguided the terrorist to believe attacks would succeed in crushing our will and faith. Actually, the 9/11 attacks created the opposite effect of what the Islamic Fascist’s intended goals were— it challenged us as a Nation to become a united people and use our collective-will to counter the terrorist’s misanthropic agenda.

Tour of tower two—In my 1998 tour of the World Trade Center’s tower two, I was first impressed with a beautiful water fountain sculpture at the base of the towers. Looking directly upwards, over a thousand feet towards the blue sky, the vertical lines of the twin towers appeared to merge together.

          

My cousin, Randy and I entered the towers to register for a trip to the Top of the World Observatory… we were clustered together with a group of about 20 people. All of us were going to the top floors, but first, a digital photo was taken of our group. Three uniformed security personnel were focused in on the monitors, studying the biometric photos, which were just taken of our group. Five years before, in 1993 the first terrorist attacks on the twin tower were carried out.  Since those previous attacks, the port authority used digital biometric surveillance in efforts for spotting terrorist attempting reconnaissance for another attack.

A community within itself—Once we de-boarded from a  thousand foot elevator ride to the 107th floor, I was impressed with a feeling of energy created by simultaneous activity and interaction. It was like a community within itself, with so many people of different nationalities speaking a variety of languages. I also recall a splendid collection of art on the walls, gift shops, information kiosk and exhibit displays.  Wonderful aromas of gourmet food wafted through the hallways from the famous “Windows of the World” restaurant, which had until the 2001 attacks, the highest-grossing revenue in the United States.     

A view from top of the world— Stepping onto the 110 floors “Top of the World” observation deck gave a feeling of sensory overload—a stunning, 360 degree panorama view of the surrounding mega metropolis was a powerful encounter. Just the week before, as I flew over New York City’s Manhattan districts, I experience something totally new from flying over an urban center. My impression was the city of New York is literally, a living entity in its own right. The metropolis’ massive size, density and texture appeared to have a unique personality… a consciousness of its own, which I wasn’t expecting to encounter.  Back on the observation deck, it was a photographer’s paradise for incredible aerial views of the City’s iconic architecture.

Twin towers architectural design—Completed in 1973, the twin towers were designed by a Seattle born architectMinoru Yamasaki was a first-generation Japanese American, whose innovative architecture style was used to design—The Pacific Science Center, for “The Century 21 Exposition/1962 Seattle Worlds Fair,” which shares similar design elements with the twin towers. Yamasaki also designed one of Seattle’s most daring pieces of architecture— the Rainier Tower, which is supported by a gravity defying, inverted pedestal! One more connection with the twin towers and Seattle is the architect’s, IBM Building design, which was used as a model for the NYC twin tower design. The twin towers architectural style is gothic modernism which can be seen used in most of Minoru’s designs (please see examples of gothic modernism elements in the photographs below.)

          

Inspiration found from the rising phoenix— It’s nearly 9:00 p.m. PDT on September 10th, as I’m finishing up my writing for the photo essay; “The Day After 9/11 – Ten Years After.”  I just finished watching an unexpected, major fireworks display, from our home’s second story window. It was coming from the town of Mukilteo, which is on Puget Sound, next to the Boeing Plant and Paine Field Airport.  Watching the pyrotechnic display, the words of our national anthem came to mind. In an instant, came an insight for me… a silver lining taken from our nation’s tragic sacrifice—illuminating a message from the darkness, like a powerful roman candle roaring upwards to the heavens as it releases spectacular multicolored content.

Despite a tragic attack, which Francis Scott Key refers to in tribute anthem for our country—  we, as in the spirit of our nation’s flag, are still here, firmly remaining strong and defiant.  Now, as New York City’s Freedom Towers are nearing completion, with their foundation next to the footprint of those former shinning twin towers, the spirit of our Nation is rising from the tragic ashes… to reach towards the heavens, once again.  ~

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