Tuesday, September 30, 2008

MTV on Steampunk vs. The User's Guide

MTV News on Steampunk

In typical MTV fashion, this makes my teeth itch, but I suppose it's a decent 30,000 ft. view from a pop culture perspective.

For a deeper understanding, see The User's Guide to Steampunk by Bruce Sterling. A few key points below:

This dress-up costume play and these subcultural frolics will amuse and content 90 percent of the people involved in steampunk.

However, you may possibly be one of those troublesome 10 percent guys, not just in the scene but creating a scene. Frankly, the heaviest guys in the steampunk scene are not really all that into "steam." Instead, they are into punk. Specifically, punk's do-it-yourself aspects and its determination to take the means of production away from big, mind-deadening companies who want to package and sell shrink-wrapped cultural product...

Steampunk's key lessons are not about the past. They are about the instability and obsolescence of our own times...

We are a technological society. When we trifle, in our sly, Gothic, grave-robbing fashion, with archaic and eclipsed technologies, we are secretly preparing ourselves for the death of our own tech. Steampunk is popular now because people are unconsciously realizing that the way that we live has already died. We are sleepwalking. We are ruled by rapacious, dogmatic, heavily-armed fossil-moguls who rob us and force us to live like corpses. Steampunk is a pretty way of coping with this truth.

The hero of the funeral is already dead. He has no idea what is happening. A funeral is theater for the living.

Steampunk is funereal theater. It's a pageant. A pageant selectively pumps some life into the parts of the past that can excite us, such as the dandified gear of aristocrats, peculiar brass gadgets, rather stilted personal relationships and elaborate and slightly kinky underwear. Pageants repress the aspects of the past that are dark, gloomy, ugly, foul, shameful and catastrophic. But when you raise the dead, they bring their baggage.

There's not a lot we can do about the past; but we should never despair of it, because, as Czeslaw Milosz wisely said, the past takes its meaning from whatever we do right now...

The past is a kind of future that has already happened.

[Thanks Toybreaker!]

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