SwTxPCA: NeoVictorianism and Steampunk Writing and Publishing

Julie Ann Taddeo, Cynthia J. Miller, Gordon Marshall (panel chair)

Taddeo and Miller edited one of first sets of collected steampunk criticism.

How they got the book off the ground, selections…

Julie: book was the idea of Ken Dvorak (one of main organizers)
We had already done reality television book (Taddeo and Dvorak).
How people work with the Victorians. Then there were some local events in the DC area. People were using the Victorians.
Great essay by xx and xx “We are the London Victorians.” We find them strange and familiar and are drawn to them. We have our own fantasies about Victorians. Steampunk does the things we wish the Victorians had dealt with.
Cindy made them serious about it.

Cynthia: With co-author had done a piece on Western Steampunk. It was total coincidence that I ran into Ken at PCA. He asked if I wanted in. “Hell, yeah, I do.” I am an anthropologist by training.
And I do put on a corset and goggles.
Since involved with putting the book together, amazed at the tension of the question of “What is steampunk?” Who has the rights to steampunk? There’s nothing at the events on steampunk and who owns, who belongs, … But that is done in academia.
Had such an outpouring of interest from different disciplines and different perspectives.

Julie: Did not want it just about defining steampunk.
People involved= archivists, steampunk bloggers, etc.

Looking at fashion, romance/erotica, sci fi, TV, movies, all the different manifestations of steampunk. That answered the question for us of what is steampunk. Did have a couple of essays that looked at forerunners.

Important to not define steampunk. See what comes out of the conversation. Who is involved in what ways? How does this impact people’s realities?

Book: long-standing relationship with Rowman and Littlefield press. He was eager to work with the three of us on it. That was the easiest part of the whole thing.

Organization: decision to break it up in different ways. Was there a tendency to be too broad? In panels, questions were “but you didn’t cover this.”

NeoVictorians have the literary and film people. But you don’t have that in your book.

–Professor Elemental one was the only one we got a submission. We loved it.

We went looking for people in some areas. But it hasn’t hit the scholarship yet.

I think that steampunk is not a literary movement. It’s so many different things. For me, it is hard to tease them apart.
Abbey Park doesn’t want to make the distinction that “we do steampunk music” and these guys do literature, art, fashion, …

“My thing got short shrift.” or “My thing isn’t in the book.” But that happens.

We always divide collections into themes. It helps organize and make sense. We had a beginning and an end. It flows. It works well together.

We wanted to go for concepts: time, place, making things. On concepts rather than on absolutes.

personal connection—most of our illustrations were done by one of Cynthia J. Miller’s students. She was a first-semester freshman. When I had her, she was drawing on paper. Would draw works of art on her thigh. Took photos. Then would wash them off at the end of the day. Put them on the web. Went viral. Job offers from this.
–Student at the back of class. She made an A. She drew at the back of the class. Agreement: she could keep drawing in class as long as she kept up an A and showed me her art everyday.
Approached her on one drawing at a time for one chapter at a time. It ended up that she had drawings for each chapter and for inter-chapters. 19 year old illustrating virtually almost the whole book.
After she went viral, “she illustrated a scholarly book” but everyone was talking about her thigh art.

Julie: for me started as practical aspect. The last book I did cost me for privileges for images.

Cynthia: the airstream was sent to us in response to the call for art and artists

??? Steampunk addressing things that are not in Victorian. How much Steampunk is about not really knowing Victorians?
They really have the Victorians one. (Corset, my article) Take the tech from Victorians, care about their world.
Some think Victorians weren’t aware of the issues. Feminists at the time were addressing these issues.
Steampunk novels v. social problem issues novels from Victorian.

Widely rejected some of our submissions. They didn’t get it.

Steven Marcus, The Other Victorians
shows that Victorians did other things, but just behind closed doors
been reissued (Freudian analysis is dated)

steampunk vibrators…

If you need welding gloves to hold something, you probably shouldn’t use it for a vibrator.

Liverpool last summer. Invited senior Victorianists. Looked down on these women.
Someone was talking about the Parasol Protectorate. “These women are all too beautiful.” Wondered if she was critiquing Gail Carriger, not the characters. Older. More established. “This is not serious.” This is not a serious use of Victorian resources.

essay on Parasol Protectorate… acknowledges that women are attractive. They were strong. Steampunk. Literature PhD.

“You don’t really do that, do you?” PhD program… We just won’t talk about that, will we? There is in almost every field that nasty, dirty popular culture thing. You aren’t grounded enough in the scholarly literature. There is a reputation that pop culture is lazy. (Anthropologist says they are often lazy.)

studying English literature in the British academy in 19th C… “What are they going to study? Shelley?”

“steamtrunk” thing

Julie… homosexuality on xxx… 20 years ago my chair said I was killing myself.

Cynthia… more and more PhD dissertations on steampunk. More quality scholarship, deeper and broader.

??? If the book had been published by other press? What about Macfarland? Not published by a university press?

Cynthia: Published with a bunch of different publishers. Part of the reason I don’t go to university press, is I don’t want to be told what to do. Scarecrow (now Rowman & Littlefield), MacFarland are more author-centric. Open to dialogue. If I am going to put a year or two into a project, I want to have in charge.

Julie: working with Rowman & Littlefield again. Other book I did with Ashgate. Felt that they took advantage. Not supportive. Terrible at marketing. Want to reach audience.

Cynthia: editor at UP can tell you to drop a contributor. I don’t want to have to drop a contributor because the publisher doesn’t like their chapter. That’s my reputation too. There’s a wide range of how that is handled across publishers. McMillan I was working with a 2% royalty and copy editors from India (as opposed to 6-8% other places).

How was Rowman and Littlefield? editing?

Everyone got their work in on time. They were enthusiastic. They revised on their own. They were very focused on getting this right.

Scarecrow would catch things that got past both of us. Very quick.

Julie: Cynthia said we should get it in 6 months early.

Cynthia: The copy editing was done and queries were back within 3 weeks. We got our proofs within 6 weeks. Had 4 weeks to go over the proofs. Book was out within another 3 weeks. A year total.

Julie: 4 years at Ashgate.

Cynthia: Really nice presentation for a book. Presentation was great. Not old news by the time it comes out.

???Steampunk isn’t another academic field. No one buys Peter Lang books. (Cost is too high.) You are selling them to a much broader audience.

Much more dynamic, extra-academic project. accessible to academics and also to anyone who is interested?

Cynthia: We had this discussion a lot. Publishers’ people said x to turn a profit. My last book had a $90 price tag. I knew no one was going to read it. My work just went by the toilet. Steven was able to get it down to $60. As sales started to look good, even at that. As sales got better, he went in and said “This needs to become a paperback.”

Usually what happens with a paperback, they’ll do print on demand. He asked for upfront several hundred chapters.

Now it is accessible. We can go to the city fair and the concerts and people are able to afford it.

You want people in the community to be able to read it.

??? Often the stuff you do the most work with the community, those tend to cost the most. We write to get promoted, to get tenure. But then the cost is limiting.

Cynthia: Book is out as an ebook.

Julie: Fb books and other people bloggers, etc, circulated the CFP. Also circulated the book’s publication.

??? Person in audience: Mentioned steampunk community? haven’t read steampunk fiction but friends have steampunk fans?
–seems they are the same people who were Renaissance and SCA are interested in steampunk.

Friends who do steampunk in San Diego… We’re going to carousel at mall to take pictures. You can only take pictures in the mall in costume. Mall policy was costumes only on Halloween, only have permissions. –Becoming this whole class race thing in the modern thing.

Cynthia: Mall is not public space. It’s a private space. They own that. Faux public.

Social experience right now odd things happening because of odd people.

Massachusetts. Walden has xx every year. They take over the whole town. They take over the green. Steampunk makers and artisans and musicians and partner with museums. Local people think of it as the steampunk take-over. The numbers thing. Us and them division. Still gets people’s antenna up.

The minute you know someone who participates, it’s no big deal.

Friend who got on the carousel: M-F designs kitchens for Sears. Middle class white people got thrown out for having nice clothing.

Steampunkers wear their clothes other times.

Communicative act. For you it says one thing. Can’t control how the receivers understand it.

Parallel with SCA. I know a lot of folks in steampunk community who have moved away from SCA because it is exclusionary and judgmental. “Your buttons aren’t accurate.” discrimination against it.

In steampunk there isn’t judgment that I didn’t exactly replicate historically. They find that freeing. It’s not re-enactment. It’s a vision of the contemporary and the past.
Gordon: I read all the books. Gibson’s. Difference Engine. Didn’t like it. Didn’t like the way it treated women. Often comes down to … very few people like the whole Elvis. My father loved young Elvis. The 60’s special stuff my dad would turn it off. Deflino’s book, turns her into a prostitute. Gibson’s wasn’t accurate on anything else. But does look at negative for women.

Cynthia: culture. Culture isn’t static. I’d like to think that this book is just the tip of the iceberg.

???Another issue here, film version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… Are any of these people going to say steampunk? Point that the progenitors are not thinking of initiating a movement.

Gordon: making a sci fi film. But the problem … the progenitors are not Wells, Verne… Difference Engine is not intended to invent the genre. People created the genre from that book.

They don’t know they are doing steampunk, but we describe it as steampunk afterwards. Because of that, we judge the early steampunk writers by the later steampunk genre great works.

… Sensational study of the poor used as a base. Used as source texts.

Genre is a confusing thing.

a name, a small group, beat writers. Disassociated themselves from beat writing.

A little more complicated because contemporary and going on. Steampunk is going mainstream. Justin Bieber using steampunk imagery in his Christmas video. Once academics start looking at it, it’s dead.

Nicky Menaff? also created imagery in music video.

Bieber’s stuff didn’t work with the song.

song said, “I’m dead. Bring me alive.” that worked more or less for steampunk…

Go on etsy and get some expensive jewelry.

Is there an online presence? Is that the issue? Critique. Reviews get on internet. Everyone gets a say, even when Gibson or Jeeter wrote their books in the 80s, no one wrote about that. The community reacts now. People are able to speak on any topic. People use the tools at hand to make comments.

Punk aspect of it. Political message to it. I think that is one of the great things about it. Can reach all these people.

Cynthia: Justin Bieber… immersion… steampunk. Steampunk is now like SCA and enactors. Spirit of ownership. “You’re not allowed to use this. This is my community.” part of me instantly bristles and says, “What gives you the right?” Who gets the ownership of the idea?

Gordon: constant connection to cyberpunk. Terrible video, but no international outcome. Our vision of cyberpunk comes from film.

Steampunk is constantly compared to cyberpunk. But there isn’t the same thing. There is a distinct difference. Cyberpunk is almost entirely literary. Steampunk is literary.

paranormal steampunk, romance steampunk, steampunk erotica

Julie: elitism, that last essay, which I thought was going to be my least favorite, how do you decide what is steampunk and put it in a museum? Steampunkers attended and said they didn’t do well. Museum is supposed to be for the masses, but when it is art in the museum, it becomes elitist.

Gordon: museum steampunk pieces should be in the art gallery… In England. Should it be tied directly to the 19th Century?

Julie: what were the late Victorianists were doing? art? functional?

Gordon: worked at Ford Museum. Collected old things. Put them in period area. But can’t put the modern products into the period.

They aren’t in the permanent collection.

??? evolving, museum, modern collections… 19th Century. That was the debate that was had. It’s contemporary art. But people were arguing that it was 19th century…. Just because historical retro- doesn’t make it historical.

Cynthia: steampunk practitioners would say this is not art. What I make is not art. It’s functional or it’s lifestyle. Something about steampunk which says it shouldn’t be institutionalized at all. Should be living and evolving. But they can’t go into the mall.

How do you educate people about steampunk? If you can’t put it in public spaces, can’t put it in museums or art galleries, how do you educate? Then only the events.

audience member: You assume they want to get out there.

Cynthia: Folks want to integrate it as another lifestyle option. Not just a day at the zoo.

If you don’t want to be institutionalized, but want to be better understood, you have to find some way to present/educate?

audience: Spain, for mixing, steampunk… just be understood. Sustained by themselves without any leaders. Gothic movement or punk music were directly classified to music groups. Steampunk doesn’t have music representatives. They want to be understood, not a very exclusive group, but they want people that give something to them. No tourists at the college. They want people who will take them seriously and say, “That’s what I want to do.”

2 or 3 years ago, biggest public festival in world, Germany in May…
when they did promo video, they said “don’t know what steampunk is”

George Orwell, Animal Farm, …

Gordon: street in Tokyo, style of anime cosplay lives…
the place in Copenhagen where they put all the hippies…
rockabilly doesn’t hit the way other things do. We’ve already assimilated. Slicked back hair, white tee shirt…

woman last year from Texas talking about pinup… had tattoos everywhere with pinup, body, hair, to show pinups…

Julie: Steampunk is playful. DIY is part of steampunk.

Cynthia: Bruce Rosenbaum is New England’s steampunk maker. Thriving business.

Gordon: what other culture would do this? People buy stuff they will never show in public. There are people who make their living doing this.

In Banyer’s book, one of the Makers says, “I can’t tear apart my iPod; that doesn’t mean I’m an idiot.”

poser label: if you buy your stuff, rather than making, …

???audience member: steampunk is essentially the perfect kind of critique. But to move to the next phase, a serious critique of capitalism. One of the things required to live in steampunk is $$$.

another audience member: Dickens is too expensive. Larger sizes aren’t there.

Gordon: all these things are expensive. Leather is expensive. … Deviantart isn’t always the size. But it’s the quality.

Christina: governing of all the steampunk student. Have 3-4 day retreat. Recharge. saw a punk CD. On the CD, it says, “Don’t buy this CD. Steal it.” At the steampunk event, folks were teaching you how to make the things.

Gordon: They didn’t jack up the price. Radioactive watch parts. …

There are some people—and this is why DIY issue needs to be dealt with—I want to make things. Over emphasis on DIY… maybe.

Julie: essays in the book, compared tinkerer to Steve Jobs.

what attracted us to steampunk, was how fun it was
yeah it’s political and involves action, but they are having so much fun

I wish I was steampunk. But I admire the movement.

aud: real fantastical movement.
people in their 40s. 6 months on their weekends. glitter in tubes. fairies.

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