Black Steampunk / Negra Vaporpunko

I have no investment in steampunk as a lifestyle/subculture or as a literary/artistic genre, but I do think it is a significant phenomenon and symptomatic of our time. It is the futurism of the past, and that it should surface as a recognizable phenomenon and be named in the present is probably not accidental. (Of course there were manifestations of steampunk long before it became a category, but I’m referring to its emergence as a conscious movement.) Why now the futurism of the past?

The fantasy future of unlimited possibilities coexists, even as it did a century ago, with the fantasy of a terminal disaster much closer to realization. The contours of futurism have already been mapped out. Not only do we live in an alleged postmodern age, but we live in a combinatorial age, and a retrospective age. Our society has already reached the peak of real abstraction. We look backwards toward origins, reevaluating the past, the present, and the path taken in between.

Steampunk matters, I think, because the tangible origins of science fiction, of futurism, and of what has been constructed throughout the twentieth century, is really the nineteenth century. Science and technology as well as the projective imagination reached a critical point in that century, and so, rather than with foraging, pastoral, agricultural, feudal, mercantile, or emergent industrial society, the future originates in the nineteenth century.

Steampunk, with its odd mixture of futurism and the quaint and outdated Victorian aesthetic, combines and naturally merges with the parallel genre of alternate history, which itself could be considered the fantasy counterpart of the historical novel, which has also taken on a new flavor in recent decades. And this retrospective consciousness is also a reflexive consciousness. We are already aware of fundamentally changed assumptions in contrast to those of the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, so when we look back more than a century, we are not just trying to recreate a bygone era but to be aware of its presuppositions, and from there postulate alternate histories.

(This retrospective consciousness enters into historical Jewish fiction as well, which is where Esperanto now shows up as one of those utopian possibilities of a long-lost era. But Esperanto and Volapük show up outside of Jewish preoccupations as well.)

Of course, any subculture can end up as yet another thoughtless, escapist refuge. There is no novelty left in subcultures, though of course creativity can be found anywhere. Still, this awareness of the ability to manipulate cultural codes has many twists. And so there is not only steampunk, but there is black steampunk, as there is already Afrofuturism, another conceptual category constructed many decades after its manifestations appeared in practice.

Which brings me to black steampunk. Maybe, in the spirit of retro, it should be called Negro steampunk. In any case, here are some manifestations of said orientation.

Beyond Victoriana

State of Black Sci-Fi 2012: Why I love Steampunk!
Balogun, 23 Jan 2012

The State of Black SF 2012: Why I love Steampunk 
Valjeanne’s Blog, January 24, 2012

Guest Post: Steampunk/Alt History Week
Living in Color
by Tanita Davis
SFWA Blog, December 23, 2010

The Intersection of Race and Steampunk: Colonialism’s After-Effects & Other Stories, from a Steampunk of Colour’s Perspective
By jha
Racialicious (blog), June 24, 2009

Do Goggles Block the Sun? Steampunk in Africa
Clay and Susan Griffith
Tor.com, Oct. 28, 2010

Steampunk Webcomic Set in Africa
By Manny, Steampunk Costume, June 11, 2010

Africa: "Steampunk Values." Bushpunk Slums
Bombasticelement.org, November 22, 2010

African Empires
By G. D. Falksen
Steampunk Fashion, June 30, 2009

Steampunk Author Balogun Oyabode Abeegunde Writes Harriet Tubman as an Extraordinary Gentlewoman!
Alicia McCalla, December 5, 2011

Interview with the African American Steampunk Author of "Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman"
Yahoo group discussion, Dec. 6, 2011

Steampunk: What it is, why I came to like it, and why I think it’ll stick around
The Clockwork Century, August 8, 2009

Books: Yet Another Ramble About Steampunk Romance
The Fancy Reader, Dec. 12, 2011

African steampunk merchandise

Esperantistoj, iam mi tradukos miajn cerbumaĵojn pri vaporpunko al Esperanto. La temo rilatas al Esperanto pro la apero de Esperanto en historiaj kaj ukroniaj fikciaĵoj, kaj pro la fakto ke Esperanto estas samtempa kun la vaporpunka erao. Legu miajn antaŭan afiŝojn pri vaporpunko kaj ukronio.

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