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Showing posts by: Nisi Shawl click to see Nisi Shawl's profile
Wed
Oct 5 2011 1:30pm

The Steampunk That Dare Not Speak Its Name

People have always had sex. Even in the Victorian era, a time synonymous these days with prudery and abstinence, sexual acts were committed.

In one of the period’s most infamous cases, popular author Oscar Wilde was tried and jailed for the “gross indecency” of making love with other men. Yet Wilde wasn’t alone in his support of “Uranian” (same-sex) relationships. Poet Alfred Douglas, Wilde’s lover and originator of the phrase “the love that dare not speak its name” (echoed in this post’s title), was also a proponent of the well-known Uranian movement. Since steampunk so often draws on Victoriana, we should find Uranian interests represented in a fair number of steampunk stories, right? Plus, the overtness of sexual markers such as corsets in steampunk, and the tendency of the genre’s authors to imagine modern attitudes into their versions of the past, should make queer steampunk common enough that multiple examples are easy to find. Right? Right?

[Read more....]

Wed
Oct 27 2010 12:01pm

Stupid Things We Say

Steampunk and colonialismIn front of maybe two hundred people, I said you could call steampunk a reactionary literature. I vowed to do my bit to head off the danger by writing a steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo. I told Michael Swanwick he would beg on his knees to read it.

This was last October at the 2009 World Fantasy Convention. I opened my big mouth during the panel “Why Steampunk Now?” while quite visible, seated on a nice, high dais next to Michael, Ann VanderMeer, Liz Gorinsky (gorgeously costumed), and Deborah Biancotti. I’d come to the con because of my two award nominations1, and I’d been stuck on this panel on a topic about which I was anything but an expert. And which actually rather squicked me.

Because while steampunk’s nonliterary components—fashion, art, music—are some of the most diverse scenes around, steampunk books and stories I was familiar with often seemed nostalgic for an imaginary vanished age of whiteness. Almost without exception they glorified British Victorian imperialism. They did this despite the fact that many of the cultural, scientific, and aesthetic elements steampunk celebrates had been appropriated from nations the British Empire conquered, and the related fact that the machinery steampunk focuses on had primarily been maintained by nonwhites.

[Cotton Gin Punk and How to Get Good]