August 23, 2009

Victorian Steampunk


Victorian - from Answers.com's online thesaurus:

adjective

    Marked by excessive concern for propriety and good form: bluenosed, genteel, old-maidish, precise, priggish, prim, prissy, proper, prudish, puritanical, strait-laced, stuffy. Idioms: prim and proper. Seeplain/fancy.

noun

A person who is too much concerned with being proper, modest, or righteous: bluenose, Mrs. Grundy, prude, puritan. Informal old maid. See sex/asexual

Victorian Era - from Wikipedia:

The Victorian era of the United Kingdom was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from June 1837 to January 1901.[1] This is the longest reign in British history, and is foreseeably likely to be exceeded only if the present monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) remains on the throne to 2017. The reign was a long period of prosperity for the British people, as profits gained from the overseas British Empire, as well as from industrial improvements at home, allowed a large, educated middle class to develop. Some scholars would extend the beginning of the period—as defined by a variety of sensibilities and political games that have come to be associated with the Victorians—back five years to the passage of the Reform Act 1832.

The first definition was certainly my perception of Victorianism when I was introduced to Caledon. But then the realization set in that most of the things that I loved were part of that era! It was an era that was all about exploration, optimism, excitement about the world and the future. Science was expanding our horizons, the earth was being mapped and explored, new technologies were being developed that created a new middle class, and new wonders were being exhibited every day.
Writers and artists speculated on what sort of future this would all lead to, both the positive and the potential horrors - Welles, Verne, Shelley, Lovecraft and many others.
To me, modern Steampunk really embraces the optimism of the era, the workmanship that went into the fantastical creations that were being patented daily, and the spirit of exploration. It is positive and excited and even a bit naive at times. And there is the opportunity to have some fun with the darker aspects as well, a wink that "yes, we are fully aware where some of this leads".
It is a counterpoint to the dark, negative cynicism of much of the Gothic culture that preceded Steampunk, and provides some balance.
This is why I do not get into an uproar as things in my Victorian community change and grow. This era was not about dusty, musty fussy parlors full of disapproving old biddies tut-tutting everything fun! Certainly there was some of that, but those were Georgian relics :)
The spirit of Victorian Steampunk is exploring both the social and physical world and finding new places and ways of being. All that gorgeous patina of age we value so much was actually very shiny and blingy and new when it was made :)

2 comments:

Rhianon Jameson said...

Well put, madam!

Cathy and Audrey said...

Very nicely said!
Long live the guvnah!