GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘What Ever Happened to Steampunk?’ by John Brownlee

‘“The elements of steampunk are all about exposing the inner workings of technology,” explains Jake von Slatt, proprietor of the Steampunk Workshop and perhaps the best known of the steampunk designers. “It’s about using design to make the working of technology scrutable through an object’s aesthetic. So many of the objects in today’s world are black boxes, and what happens inside them is totally invisible. So steampunk was all about revealing those inner workings, and empowering people to understand technology again, even if it was only fictitiously.”

In other words, steampunk is a bit of a power fantasy: not of the technologist, but of the maker, the tinkerer, the engineer. The guys who can rebuild an engine from scratch, but who are as powerless to fix the iPhone that they just dropped in the toilet as the rest of us.

The crunchy emo Victorian aesthetic of steampunk also worked against it, argues Beschizza. “The specificity of its look — it was often kitsch and self-referential — limited steampunk’s appeal to people with less esoteric interests,” he says. “And the younger generations of geeky, imaginative, expressive folk coming online in the 2010s interrogate culture more aggressively than earlier generations ever did. Steampunk had to contend with the historical truth of its own ironies, its fetishistic relationship to an age of imperialism, colonialism, and sexual and racial inequality. Like Lovecraft, it didn’t really come out the other side of that interrogation — we absorbed what was good and moved on to new old things.”

And what was good? Divorced of their gear-cog trappings, the best parts of steampunk live on as a wide-scale design and political movement known as Right to Repair. This movement, which is picking up steam among state legislatures (and vehemently opposed by major tech companies like Apple), is ostensibly about combating forced obsolescence and breaking the modern consumer electronic upgrade cycle, through legislation that forces companies to make their products repairable by the end user. In other words, it’s about empowerment and transparency: the right to understand the technology you depend upon.’

[Via]

Woolf: “The attempt to conciliate, or more naturally to outrage, public opinion is equally a waste of energy and sin against art.”

“Even so late as the mid-Victorian days George Eliot was accused of ‘coarseness and immorality’ in her attempt ‘to familiarize the minds of our young women in the middle and higher ranks with matters on which their fathers and brothers would never venture to speak in their presence.’

The effect of those repressions is still clearly to be traced in women’s work, and the effect is wholly to the bad. The problem of art is sufficiently difficult in itself without having to respect the ignorance of young women’s minds or to consider whether the public will think that the standard of moral purity displayed in your work is such as they have a right to expect from your sex. The attempt to conciliate, or more naturally to outrage, public opinion is equally a waste of energy and sin against art. It may have been not only with a view to obtaining impartial criticism that George Eliot and Miss Brontë adopted male pseudonyms but in order to free their own consciousness as they wrote from the tyranny of what was expected from their sex. No more than men, however, could they free themselves from a more fundamental tyranny – the tyranny of sex itself. The effort to free themselves, or rather to enjoy what appears, perhaps erroneously, to be the comparative freedom of the male sex from that tyranny, is another influence which has told disastrously upon the writing of women.”

-Virginia Woolf, Killing the Angel in the House.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, and goodreads.]