Entering the Steampunk World at 55
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“Wonder of wonders” took on a whole new meaning for me this past weekend. From the lovely to the creative to the bizarre to the downright disgusting, my journey into the world of Steampunk can be summed up in just one word: extravamagigorical.
Accompanied by Avengelina Grinsworthy, Courtland Thrift, and an as-yet un-named Airship Mechanic, I – the Fairy Cog Mother – travelled (albeit not by airship to our dismay; rather, by Toyota) to Piscataway, New Jersey, to attend the 2012 Steampunk World’s Fair. Covering the space and time of two hotels, a large parking lot, and ample “picnic/grazing” areas, the SPWF brought together a superfluity of the gifted, the spectacular, and the oddball, and just enough “regular folk” to balance it all out. And by regular folk I mean me. The kind that dresses up for the fun of being a different person for a day – who revels in the cleverness of event creators who provide musicians, artists extraordinaire, dancers, jugglers, pirates, an Emperor, dandies, corset designers, jewelers, and all manner of punkery you can imagine over the ages.
And all ages were well represented, to my surprise. Expecting to see multitudes of college geeks, gawkers, and ghost-lovers, I was enchanted at the range of decades. Families, toting goggle-trimmed tots with newsboy caps and vest pocket chains, were easy to find. Over 30, 40, 50? Easier still. Steampunk has a following I had not realized, and clearly fills a creative void that people want and need to feed their personal inner itches.Certainly there were ample youthful examples of Steampunk, mostly clad in corsets smaller than my right thigh, and many in freakish design, or dressed as fantastical futuristic flora & fauna, but the majority of people were just lovely. And one might call them pedestrian in many ways.
I was so impressed with the costume creatives I saw, and there is no way I saw it all – I could not have captured every image if I tried, since a facet of Steampunk is time travel and I would never really know if I’d already seen it or not – or if it is still to come! What a wonderful thing to relive.
There were moments of angst for me – a twisting of my inner “this is wrong” – when I was standing with three college students watching a futuristic burlesque (amazing that women taking off their clothing would still be happening in a post-apocalyptic society – I had hoped we learned a lesson there). But, the human body and the automaton that Steampunk embraces are born of the past and infused with the future, so it made sense. I left the room, sensibilities in tact. The vaudeville acts, the sideshows, the Goblin Market – creepy and dark and terrifying, but also thrilling – forcing this older-attitude brain to ponder the points.
It’s about creating art. Art is subjective and personal. For all these artists in the Steampunk world, you see the passion, belief, and fervor in their performances. Did I ever expect to sit through a very loud alternative rock group called Igor’s Egg – complete with electronic violin? No. I loved it! I sought them out twice and sat through two shows. I was transported into this world of steam…and dreams…and excitement. It was truly addicting, no alcohol added (absinthe optional).
I fussed and frou-froued myself silly trying to “be cool” like all the other Steampunkers in attendance. It mattered not – my choices were my choices and that’s as it should be. That’s what Steampunks do – let you be who you are, no matter how it looks or sounds or smells (well, maybe not smells…). Suffice it to say that my journey into the world of Steam was high-tea and sparkles, literary and mischievous, daring and dashing. It touched me somehow - I felt accepted without asking. I was called beautiful and lovely, and people stopped to take my picture. This just doesn't happen in my day-to-day world! And my Steampunk attire was centuries away from remarkable. But it just didn't matter.
In my continual effort to stay young, Steampunk works really well. I love the Victorian era and always loved history, literature, mysteries, the BBC, science fiction, and great music and art. I love theatre and fantasy. I love people who express themselves well, through their words or clothing or design. I love the people in the “old people” scooters who “steamed them up” to look like time machines. Creative! I love the woman who makes corsets for all sizes – and tells you “You look squishy” so you can get a smaller size! Blessed! I love the guy with the camera, hidden within an incredibly-intricate turn-of-the-century-looking case! Amazing! I love the college students selling their pottery. Talented! I love the women with bustles reminiscent of butterflies and boldly expressing a post-world view, too. Beautiful!
The Steampunk World’s Fair 2012. This was my weekend. I am really still there – looking through my pictures every few moments, waiting for someone to comment on my Facebook posts. I am so grateful for the entry to this world – thankful to my daughter for introducing it to me – and I invite you to peruse ways you can express yourself without being worried about what other people think all the time. With Steampunk, you can be beautiful in Edwardian-inspired fashions, a kimono, or simply don a Bowler for a start. You can show your style or your ‘stash (and the moustache's I saw were inspired). You can be a Military Officer, an Adventurer, a futuristic Sky Pirate, a dapper Dan, a cyborg, or any "thing" you want.
Mostly, you come as you are – or go as you were – I’m not sure anymore. What year is this, anyway? Oh, I remember. It’s the year of change. Make it the year you commit to trying a new thing, it doesn't have to be Steampunk. Go to a Renaissance Festival, Comic or television/movie Convention, or attend a conference focusing on something you have always loved.
If people take issue, tell them the Emperor of the Red Fork made you do it and that you must obey – resistance is futile! If that doesn't work, take the advice of this Fairy Cog Mother: experience as much of the huge world as you can - even if that world is imaginary. Don't grow statically old - do it with steam!