If there is an established fact on the Brazilian fandom, is this: there was never a force so strong, all-encompassing as steampunk in our shores. The flamboyant army of corsets-and-goggles with their mindboggling variety of steam-powered infernal devices has definitely conquered the hearts and minds of the Brazilian fans and writers. After almost four years of activity, Brazilian steampunk can’t be considered just a fad anymore. We’re not in Kansas, Dorothy: we are in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and several other big tropical cities which probably you’ve never heard of — but you will.
In the interview below, Bruno Accioly, one of the masterminds of the Brazilian steampunk movement as well as one of its Founding Fathers, spills the beans (or should we say the cogs?) on the steampunk Lodges (a thing that attracted the attention of a big name of the trade, the former cyberpunk Bruce Sterling, who wrote about them in Wired Magazine) and interesting plans for the near future. There are big things in store for steampunk in Brazil — and in the world.
1) When Conselho steampunk was first signal-boosted by Bruce Sterling on his Wired blog, it was an ambitious nation-wide network of communities back in 2009, with four locations in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, and Minas Gerais. How has the community changed since then?
The Conselho steampunk was founded in June 21, 2008, with only two Lodges — Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo — by me and Raul Cândido Ruiz. Each Lodge represents a unit of the Brazilian federation. Since its foundation, the Conselho steampunk has reached other ten states: Minas Gerais, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Pará, Goiás, Alagoas, and Ceará, and it now has more than 100 affiliated members, and more than 600 enthusiasts registered in Brazil.
We believe that the reason for this growth is related to the philosophy of the model we adopted, through which we offer the infrastructure - sites, @steampunk emails and messenger — to whoever wants to establish a Lodge in her/his state or to whoever wishes to enter a Lodge as a contributor.
Additionally, we built a steampunk social network — www.steambook.com.br — where the enthusiasts are able to create their own theme websites, whether they are effective members of the Conselho steampunk or not.
2) Since Conselho steampunk started, do you think steampunk has become more “mainstream” in Brazil?
I wouldn’t say “mainstream,” but I do believe that this word is more popular now than when we began. The nerd community is already sensitive to steampunk culture, but there’s still a huge contingent of people to reach by this idea, which is a great thing in our opinion, because there is still a lot of space to grow.
3) There has been a couple of Brazilian steampunk anthologies that have come out, including the anthology Vaporpunk in 2010. Do you notice any groups or Brazilian or Portuguese-speaking writers starting to write more steampunk stories?
In literature, we have as of today four steampunk anthologies published in Brazil, some of them acknowledged outside the country: steampunk - Histórias de um Passado Extraordinário (Tor review here), Vapor Punk (Tor review here), Deus Ex Machina - Anjos e Demônios na Era do Vapor, and SteamPink.
Undoubtedly, there is a literary movement in the making, and that reflects the popularization of the genre in Brazil. Both beginning and famous writers are starting to show interest in steampunk and, more and more, we find literary material in Portuguese on the web.
The Conselho steampunk tries to encourage the development of this interest through aoLimiar, a social network of publishers, writers, and readers of Fantastika, which gives room to aspiring authors to publish their works; to renowned writers to publish excerpts of their stories, book teasers and trailers; and publishers use this environment to search and find new talent.
4) You are also very involved in many different types of conventions, both in “real life” and virtual ones. Have more conventions or steampunk-related events increased in Brazil? Elsewhere in the world, many museums and historical societies have embraced steampunk as a way to reach out to the community; do you see the same trends in your country?
A correction: I have the reputation of being a hologram. That’s why I seldom appear in public.
There is definitely a rise in the quantity of events. To each Lodge that is opened in a Brazilian state, the bigger the probability of, in that state, the opening of fixed event schedule, no matter if said events are big or small.
The press is still very focused in steampunk fashion and style, but, little by little, we are starting to see the interest of the media for literature, art, sculpture, and other forms of expression in the genre.
There is still a rather long trail to be blazed until we get the academic acknowledgment about the potential of steampunk as powerhouse of cultural production, popularization of history, and interest for science.
5) About a year ago, you launched SteamCast, a bilingual webcast featuring international guests to talk about steampunk. How has the international community responded to it?
There was a certain impact, and most of the hits came from outside the country. SteamCast is an ambitious project, that consistently needs to reach the interests of all the steampunk community. This ended up making us rethink the original format in order to try and cater to an international audience as well.
We are coordinating a few activities that may turn this particular initiative even more popular and get us in touch in an easier way with enthusiasts and organizations abroad.
6) Are there any steampunk makers, artists, fashion designers, etc that should be given more attention outside of Brazil?
We founded here a group called Liga de Artífices steampunk (League of Steampunk Craftsmen, in a loose translation), where anyone involved in creating steampunk culture — form of expression notwithstanding — may join in.
It seems to me that the Brazilian steampunk literary production is growing steadfastly, and that other forms of expression are starting to mature as well.
There are promising talents like the cosmakers Ann Rose and Diego Leite, and fashionistas like Lili Angelika. Particularly, it seems to me that sculptors Braga Tepi and Jorge Pedro Barbosa Lemes create impressive artworks and deserve international attention.
7) Where do you see steampunk going for your community? Where do you want it to go?
The Conselho steampunk has joined the Sociedade Retrofuturista (Retrofuturistic Society), which will use the same model adopted by us to promote other genres like Dieselpunk and Cyberpunk. We believe that this process is important to an interchange between genres, and to everyone can benefit from the successful format we were lucky enough to develop.
But, regarding steampunk proper, news is promising, and we see the future with no little ambition.
We obviously expect to see a Lodge in each and every state of our country, but we’ve got comments from American and European colleagues about exporting the Conselho steampunk somehow.
Recently there was a foreign interest in, some way, import our expansion model, and that ended up helping us creating an interesting concept that, I believe, may benefit greatly steampunk in Brazil and perhaps all over the world.
Our vision is that forcing the entry of an essentially Brazilian organization in another country is something intrusive and does not really benefit the steampunk movement. That’s why, after a few discussions, we arrived at an enriching solution to expand our influence in a way that may interest other steampunk culture organizations.
We are, today, working towards the foundation of the first Consulate of the Conselho steampunk, whose function will be exactly that interchange of information about the production of steampunk culture in the countries in which we will be present. The role of a Consulate will be of offering information about the Brazilian production locally and transmit to Brazil information about local production. The Consulate will also work as a means of exchange of information about the history of the 19th century of the country in which it will be housed and about Brazilian recent history, which, we believe, will considerably enrich the quality of information available about the history of the period.
This is still a new idea, and we’re establishing the theoretical bases of it all, but the first Consulate will be founded in the nation whose naval technology was responsible for our discovery: Portugal.
8) Where else on the internet can people find more information about Conselho steampunk?
It’s our intention, in 2012, to create an English version of the site and a unification of our internet domains, in order to make it easier for anyone find anything.
Right now, our initiatives can be found at:
- Conselho steampunk
- Sociedade Retrofuturista
- Vapor Marginal magazine (in Portuguese)
- SteamCon events
- Steamgirls steamplay
- Steamboys steamplay
- Steambook: steampunk social network
- aoLimiar: a literature social network (Fantastika)
Fabio Fernandes is a writer living in São Paulo, Brazil. Also a journalist and translator, he is responsible for the Brazilian translations of several prominent SF novels including Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and A Clockwork Orange. His short stories have been published in Brazil, Portugal, Romania, England, and USA, in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded and in T. J. McIntyre’s Southern Fried Weirdness: Reconstruction. There’s another story coming up in The Apex Book of World SF, Vol. II, ed. by Lavie Tidhar, later this year.