Archives for category: Steampunk

OK so it’s not Father’s Day, exactly, but it’s a day when I’m posting a little post about my dad, so it kinda is.

In my last post, I wrote about my ongoing “Old Red Chair” series. Well, on a recent visit to my dad’s home in Las Vegas, I was showing him some of my recent work, and one of my experimental photos grabbed his attention. It was this one:

Light coming through abandoned house's window

 

From time to time I’ve been known to manipulate photos in Photoshop more than the usual cropping and adjustment that one normally does. Usually, my diddling is limited to ageing and antiquing Steampunk portraits so they look like “found” objects that have been carelessly left lying behind someone’s great grandma’s dresser for some time. But I’ve also occasionally done more elaborate work, combining different backgrounds and filters to create unique scenes, like these:

Here, I placed the model (flipped) into a photo of an old, abandoned room, and desaturated the whole thing to create what I hoped would be a vaguely melancholy, slightly surreal dream image titled Dreaming in a Never Room and captioned thusly: “When I dreamed, I dreamed I was naked and alone in an old abandoned room. The window was barred, and there was no door, no way in or out. I knew I would never leave. I knew the room wasn’t really there. I curled on the hard wooden chair that was the only furniture, and occupied my eternity drawing mystical signs in the thin dust on the rough floor.”

Pretentious and self-important enough? I think so, yes.

Anyway, back to my dad.

My father has painted for as long as I’ve known him, which is a fairly long time these days. His preferred subject matter tends toward locomotives, snowy scenes of central Illinois, antique military aircraft, and the small town in which he grew up. But something about Dreaming in a Never Room grabbed his imagination, and he promptly produced his own version, in his own medium. He did, however, choose not to populate the room with a model, nude or otherwise.  While he’s remarkably accepting of my own personal proclivities (I sometimes think he prefers my husband’s company to mine…), I think the nude young man on a chair was just a step too far for his comfort. So his Never Room is unoccupied. I also suspect that he did not burden his room with self-conscious dream-talk, since that’s not really his thing, either. I suspect that if you asked him about it, he’d say “It’s a painting of an old red chair in an old empty room.” Well, in fact, I more than suspect it. Here’s what he said about it in the note he included with the photo of the painting he sent me:

E- I really liked that photo, so got right after a small (9×2) painting. Encl. photo. An interesting little project and came out kind of “16th century.” Of course I left out the model, and call the piece “Red Chair (without Naked Guy).”

His vision was obviously a little different from my own: a little warmer (although suggestively autumnal). More real than surreal. But I was seriously pleased that something I’d done had spoken to him in a way that motivated him to produce something in a medium he loves, and so I share it with you here.

jkboriginal

 

 

 

Google helpfully sends me alerts in my email when their multitudinous clever little crawlers stumble over a reference to me or my website. That’s good. What’s not so good is when Google helpfully informs me that my book, Ather & Rhyme, Being a Collection of Beloved, Morally-Improving Faerie Tales & Nursery Rhymes from the Dawn of the Great Age of Steam, with Accompanying Illustrative Photography of the Period, is being offered as a free PDF download by a web service in the Russian Federation. Hence the title of this blog entry is “Aether & Rhyme” in Cyrillic (or a close approximation, courtesy of Google’s translation algorithm). Under the circumstances, a bit of linguistic snarkery is probably defensible.

Here is the site I was helpfully pointed to. I’m omitting the URL because (a) I don’t want to help these evil pirates with their evil piracy and (b) I suspect that the download of the Aether & Rhyme PDF from this site may not be entirely free of unpleasant viral hangers-on. Interestingly, when it first popped up from the link Google helpfully provided, the header and much of the text was displayed in Cyrillic, which auto-adjusted within seconds to display in English. (And while I’m woefully monolingual and not at all in a position to mock anyone’s adeptness at a second language, I do take some huffy umbrage at my delightful little confection of steampunk versions of fairy tales and Mother Goose rhymes being referred to as a manual. Here are some sample stories, so you can decide for yourself. “Manual” indeed!)

Russian website offering free PDF of "Aether & Rhyme" book

The text reads (in case you have to squint at the image to see it):

If you are searching for a book by Evan Butterfield Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes in pdf form, in that case you come on to the right site. We presented the utter option of this ebook in txt, doc, ePub, DjVu, PDF formats. You may read Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes online by Evan Butterfield either downloading. Besides, on our site you may reading the manuals and other art eBooks online, or download them as well. We want draw on attention what our website does not store the eBook itself, but we grant ref to site whereat you may load either read online. So if have must to load pdf by Evan Butterfield Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes, then you have come on to the loyal website. We have Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes doc, txt, DjVu, PDF, ePub formats. We will be happy if you come back to us again and again.

OK so this “loyal website” misspelled “Faerie” (or spelled it correctly, but not the way it is used in the title), and while it offers the “utter option” of a variety of file formats, I hasten to point out that not a one of them is an utterly legitimate copy of my book. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Internet Thievery and Piratical Evildoings looks like.

Anyway, you can imagine my delight.

Now, let’s be clear: it’s not like Aether & Rhyme is a hard-to-find book, so offering a freely downloadable version could somehow be defended as a public service. It’s available for the unconscionable price of 99 cents for a Kindle version (if you’re in the US that looks like this) or $14 for a printed  copy at Amazon:

"Aether & Rhyme" at Amazon.com

And it’s available from a French seller on ebay for about $24.54 (plus more or less $17.60 shipping from Ambonil, France, depending on the exchange rate between the dollar and Euro at any given moment). That seems like a lot to me, but then again the seller assures buyers that it is “Magnifique livre, je le recomande” (“Beautiful book, I recommend it”), for which I say, Merci beaucoup!

"Aether & Rhyme" on Ebay

And of course I promote it on my website:

"Aether & Rhyme" book at www.ebutterfieldphotography.com

But that’s apparently not enough for these particular Russians. Not content with cybernetic mischief-making in the US Presidential election (allegedly, of course, and I promise that’s the last I’ll say about that whole mess), they apparently have so much time on their wicked little hands now that they have nothing better to do than lurk about the Internet searching for random unknown steampunk authors and steal their books. Perhaps in the old Soviet days they would say they were “liberating” Aether & Rhyme and expropriating it for the people. Today they really don’t have the old Leninist go-tos to fall back on anymore, so I’m not sure what the excuse is.

This just goes to show you how fragile copyright protections are. As in, they really aren’t very protective. I mean, to whom do I address my angry email, or where does my lawyer send his saber-rattling cease-and-desist? These folks just don’t exist anywhere in the real, and yet their tech can pull a PDF from somewhere. Still, it makes me wonder: Did they hack Amazon and convert an AZW3 file? Do they have a warehouse full of underpaid babushkas scanning hardcopies?

In fairness, it appears the Russians are not alone in their nefarious disregard for intellectual property rights. A quick bit of net-sleuthery discloses that indeed others have apparently found my little book impossible to avoid stealing:

pirate

Now, I’m not really a greedy person, and it’s not like these things were flying off the virtual shelf. It doesn’t represent a loss per se. But it does represent theft. It’s taking something that’s not yours and giving it away to other people (that’s really all  you need to know about US copyright law, by the way: if it’s not yours, don’t take it). At least all these PDF sites are including my original cover and (presumably, since I didn’t open any links, being fundamentally afraid of opening the door to trojans and polymorphics and worms and boot infectors and multipartite/FAT/web scripting viruses, and heaven knows what else is out there) my copyright page.

And yes, I understand the value of promotional offers and giveaways. I mean, I’m perfectly happy to give stuff away free. But it seems kind of rude for other people to make that decision for me.  As long as it’s my stuff, then I’d kinda like to be the one to give it away, right? Let me say that first bit again so the whole Internet can hear: I’m perfectly happy to give stuff away free.

All during December and on into this month, in fact, I’m offering the Gentlemen of Steampunk 2017 Calendar on my site as a free download (it’s still being offered, although the year is slowly slipping away). For those who don’t recall, the Gentlemen of Steampunk Calendar is a steampunk-meets-beefcake thing in which scantily-clad attractive male models are shown cavorting about with various bits of neo-Victoriana and fanciful goggles (as well as other complicated-looking props and old rust farm equipment). Here’s a little look-see:

http://www.ebutterfieldphotography.com/2017-gentlemen-of-steampunk-calendar

7-july

http://www.ebutterfieldphotography.com/2017-gentlemen-of-steampunk-calendar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I responded to some feedback from folks who loved handsome steampunk boys but were not thrilled with the fleshly display by creating another version, the Gentlemen of Steampunk 2017 Calendar – Proper Victorian Gentlemen Edition. It was also posted as a free PDF download on my site, and is also still there.

(And yes, I know that was a fairly blatant little exercise in self-promotion. But with all these pirates about, a fella’s gotta do something.)

01-2017

07-2017

10-2017

Anyway, the bottom line is I don’t have any capitalistic deep-seated aversion to content being made free. In a lot of cases, particularly the odd little niche in which I operate, it’s more realistic to view “success” in terms of downloads and usage and clicks and visibility than in dollars. God knows, if I measured my photography’s success purely in revenues generated, it would be a very sad measurement indeed. But if I adjust my expectations and align myself with the hard fact that the sales market for steampunk photographs of pretty people–particularly, I suppose, the sort of dark-and-strange sort of approach I take–is much, much smaller than the universe of people who would be delighted to look at such images, then notoriety becomes a much more achievable measure of success than the 45 cents Amazon occasionally lets me know I’ve earned on a download of Aether & Rhyme.

So no, I don’t hate free per se. And I’m perfectly happy, as I said, to give stuff I’ve created away for nothing.  It would just be nice if I were the one to make that decision, please.

Spasibo and dosvedanya.

 

For I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world and all the wonder that would be.

Steampunk is all about the past; an alternative past, of course, but the past nonetheless. Victoria, and massive steam-driven, gear-whirling complexities; the apotheosis of Science and Engineering, and all the applied wonders they provide, augmented by the burgeoning alchemic technologies. It’s the streets of 19th Century London with an overlay of leather and brass, or the streets of Wild West America with piston-driven, steam-churned equinomatics and smoke-belching multi-barrelled firearms with laser and plasmid enhancements. But it’s all the past.

“What if…?” is a question that echoes throughout steampunkery, and it’s one that echoed around the emptier parts of my brain recently: What if that past existed, but not frozen in time like a bit of clockwork in amber, but living and evolving and changing with the passage of time? What would a steampunk future look like? If, like Alfred, Lord Tennyson in “Locksley Hall” we “dipt into the future,” what would we find?

So with the help of a good deal of spray paint, random plumbing supplies, and a copious quantity of superglue, I took a peek in to the Future of Steampunk. Like all steampunk visions, it’s an idiosyncratic conceit, unique to its creator, and has little or no bearing on anyone else’s vision. I make no claims to have defined the steampunk future for anyone but me. It’s a let’s-pretend timeline that I’ve been slowly constructing through random asides, footnotes, captions, and images in the Gentlemen of Steampunk (and its sequel), and in the steampunk/Mother Goose mash-up, Aether & Rhyme, and in occasional postings on steampunk social media. It’s my world, and welcome to it. Thanks to the models pictured here: Michael Justice, Hollywood Hawk, Richie Olson, Louis Daprile, iFlyRobin, and Morgan McDonnell.

Below, you’ll find some glimpses into the technology and culture of the steamy future, and a few illustrative photographs, both of which derive from a dip into the future currently in progress…

I. VICTORIA RESIN & GOGGLES EVOLVED

Perhaps the foremost technological advance of the past century was the development and subsequent perfection of Victoria resin. Invented in the alchemical laboratory of Professor Redalard Monsuvial (MPE) in 1918 (and named in honour of Victoria II (1901-1934), and not–as myth would have it–for the first Victoria, the resin’s adaptability, hardness, and ubiquity are legendary, and most common household items, industrial tools, and even personal accessories and augments are today comprised at least in part of Monsuvial’s substance. Definitionally, it is an alchemically-manipulated blend of coal-combustion by-products with natural aetheric effluvia that results in a non-metallic, non-Newtonian solid with significantly higher tensility than alloyed steel. In addition to its remarkable strength, Victoria Resin is a thermosetting plastic, and (in its pre-set state) liquefies at a relatively low temperature (660oC/1220oF) for easy casting and forming. Once set, however, Victoria Resin is heat-resistant to well over 1510oC/2750oF, and highly insulative, making it an attractive and appropriate vessel for micro-steamaegines incorporated into modern personal devices and firearms. VR quickly supplanted brass and steel in clockwork mechanisms and gearage devices, and by the mid-20th century its use was commonplace and uniquitous.

Hadther & Gully

Hadther & Gully “Ventura” spectacle augments include traditional alloyed-steel and enhanced brass componentry mounted on a lightweight frame of Victoria resin

DSC_7059C (2)

Above and below, Denbarr Monoculars are manufactured primarily from Victoria resin (with some metallic components). The pembrooke device (below) is also constructed almost entirely from lightweight VR, making wrist-mounted informatics far less burdensome than the originals.

DSC_6161Ab

Benten, Phermick & Bunsun Labs'

Benten, Phermick & Bunsun Labs’ “Personal Observatorie” spectacle augment is primarily composed of a variety of Victoria resin pieces, including the frame, enclosed recording lensorium, and the observatory-grade telescopular. Some minor couplings are metallic, and the lenses themselves, of course, are glassite.

II. ROYAL ALBERT ORBITAL PLATFORM

In the late 1960s, His Majesty’s Near-Earth Manned Orbit (N.E.M.O.) Programme established the first permanent “space station,” dubbed the Royal Albert Orbital Platform (R.A.O.P.) in honor of Victoria I’s Prince Consort. Access to the R.A.O.P. is a three-stage process: “Nemonauts” (the appellation accorded to participants in the N.E.M.O. programme) are lifted aloft using adapted Aegyptian solar thermi schooners launched from high-altitude dirigibles. (The Aegyptians have used papyrus balloons covered with a sheathing of thin solar-heated metal panels for clean, silent flight for more than a millennium. The “nataro”–or “thermi schooners” as we refer to them–are pleasant commonplace sights in the sky above the Aegyptian imperial capitols of Ramses, Thebes, and Amarna, where they are used to convey travelers and cargo across the vast deserts of the Aegyptian Empire.). The schooners moor with cables trailed by R.A.O.P., and the Nemonauts are brought up to the platform in slender box-shaped elevators that run on the cables. R.A.O.P. orbits the Earth circularly at 330 km (205 mi). At any time, the RAOP, which resembles a short hatbox, may host up to fifteen Nemonauts in its 55 m (180 ft) diameter disc.

Nemonauts can walk on the outer hull of the R.A.O.P. with the use of magnetical boots. They can also travel off the surface of the platform via skiffs, one-man shuttles propelled and maneuvered by focused, high-intensity steam jets. Nemonauts typically wear deep blue shirts with gold piping, and carry a multi-purpose tool. Nemonauts are intensely trained and prepared for occasional excursions into the vacuum of space to conduct Scientific experiments or perform repair and maintenance activities. Nemonauts are also armed with deadly aether-propellant rifles specially designed for orbital use, in the event of uninvited–and unwelcome–visitors.

DSC_7281a

Orbital Group Captain Sir Inslef Margrynton (a direct lineal descendant of the illustrious Commodore Lord Jovial Margrynton, hero of Tinderton, the decisive battle of the brief but bloody Restoration War (1939-1942), which ended the Whitbury Regency and returned Victoria III (the present monarch’s mother) to the throne) is seen here in his official photographic portrait aboard the Royal Albert Orbital Platform. Rising to become one of the Empire’s first Nemonaut officers, Margrynton served on the original design and test team that constructed the platform under the auspices of His Majesty’s Near-Earth Manned Orbital programme, and flew the first manned mission into the upper thermosphere, conclusively demonstrating that human habitation in orbit was possible. In this portrait by the illustrious (and enduring) photographer Luxet Tenebrae, Margrynton is show holding his helmet along with an aether-charged rifle designed specifically for use in the near-vacuum of space. 

DSC_4872AB

Unbeknownst to his commanding officer, Flight Lieutenant Denderly Phipps III ventured out from the comfortable confines of the Royal Albert Orbital Platform and maneuvered his steam-propelled skiff (commonly contracted by seasoned nemonauts as a “spiff,” it was a type of small, open-topped one-man craft designed for short-distance travel in the vacuum, utilizing a highly efficient compressed steam-jet propulsion system developed by Dr Fensworth-Bruel especially for use by the Near Earth Manned Orbital programme) to a point a few kilometers away from the platform. After enjoying a spectacular view of the Earth, its Moon, and the wonders of the heavens, Phipps shut the valve to the steam-jet and allowed his spiff to drift languidly, turning gently in the mysterious particle eddies. It was at that moment that he observed the approach of an object that caused him serious alarm, and he was seized immediately with regret that he had only come armed with his standard-issue maintenance tool and not a more persuasive firearm…

A young man aboard (or apparently not quite aboard, if we are to believe his headgear) the Royal Albert Orbital Platform. As a member of the Near-Earth Manned Orbital programme, he is referred to as a

A young man aboard (or apparently not quite aboard, if we are to believe his headgear) the Royal Albert Orbital Platform. As a member of the Near-Earth Manned Orbital programme, he is referred to as a “Nemonaut.” The wonders of the heavenly firmament abound about, awaiting Man’s next noble steps into the cosmos!

III. MASK-MOUNTED AUGMENTATION DEVICE (MMAD)

The recent fashion trend, particularly amongst young people, is the MMAD (Mask-Mounted Augmentation Device), a more sleekly stylish variation on the traditional goggles and augments that continue to be a life-style accessory staple. It seems that the appeal lies not so much in the identity-concealing nature of the masks, but rather in their flush-to-the-face flatness that, counter-intuitively, actually conceals character less than their bulkier counterparts. Thanks to micronization of technology and Dr Wintner’s work in Neural-Confluent Aengeneering, the MMADs can be needle-pricked into the wearer’s skin, and information exchanged directly with the suboptic vision centres of the brain—eliminating the need for artificial displays. Not everyone, of course, is comfortable exchanging this degree of intimacy with their devices. “I worry,” said Lady Custerfield in a recent telephone-interview, “about the little things, like how clean are those pins that I’m popping into my face? I really can’t be sure, so I prefer the old-fashioned spectacle-augs, myself. I think they’re prettier in any case!”

Underweil's limited-edition

Underweil’s limited-edition “Forebear” MMAD is a VR mask with both aelectrickal and traditional gearwork mechanisms (note the use of recovered 19th century metallics in the main frontal lobular drive)

DSC_7076a

The “Venturi GH” MMAD was Bishopp & Wraithington’s top-line augment at this year’s International Exhibition at Ketteridge, with an innovative suspended isenglass monocular incorporated into the VR mask matrix. Lobal interfaces are set at the mid-temple regions, but the insertion pins branch once introduced subdermally. This permits a sleeker visage and minimal weighty metallics. Also pictured: Chrittensheim’s “Escalator” aetherplasmic carbine, featuring an easily-replaceable aether ampoule and VR-insulated body to prevent unpleasant heat-generation. The Parkridge & Shyoak pembrooke is driven by an incorporated steam engine with minimal off-smoking thanks to a tubular recapture system that recaptures coal particulates suspended in the engine-generated gases and returns them to the integrated firebox for refiring. The P&S pembrooke includes standard wrist-augment functionalities along with a unique “categoriser” aengine.

DSC_5755a

The mandibular MMAD patented by Academy Arts provides the wearer with enhanced vocalisation and auditory recording augments. Paired with optional headphones, it permits subvocal communication across substantial distances. The subdermal pins lock to the masseter and orbicularis oris muscles, with an internally “swallowed” wire-anchored pin that autonomously seeks and attaches to the vocal chords. Also shown, Benten, Phermick & Bunsun Labs’ “Personal Observatorie” spectacle augment.

Sir Christopher Felding-Vendenner and Mister Mendacity Crick, displaying a mutual Affection.

Sir Christopher Felding-Vendenner and Mister Mendacity Crick, display a mutual Affection in an unguarded moment.

The Steampunk universe, which is kaleidoscopically creative in its applied manifestations, is nonetheless consistently embedded in the 19th century. That 19th century (predominantly occurring in the former British Empire or the American West) was not, as they say, gay-friendly. And while Steampunk enthusiasts are a generally accepting sort, and while convenient exceptions are carved to a variety of firmly-held Victorian views on gender, orientation, race, and economic class, those firmly-held Victorian views are nonetheless an inescapable part of the period that inspires the neo-Victorian (or alt-Victorian) subculture.

Here’s the thing: steadfast Steampunks are sticklers for temporal congruity in fabrics and fabrications, and even fantastical constructs (elaborately multi-lensed clockwork goggles; firearms that resemble handheld cannons; aether-driven mechanical versions of modern electronics) are held to a fairly strict expectation of period-appropriateness. (Woe be unto the sad individual who glues some random gears on a hat or tosses on a corset and calls it steampunk! It’s so much more than a mere conflation of its memes.)

So if we’re going to play that way, then we need to at least be conscious that we are ignoring some exceedingly unpleasant aspects of our chosen alternative reality’s reality. And that reality goes back a bit.**

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE DISCUSSION NOW TURNS TO TOPICS AND IMAGES THAT SOME MAY FIND DISTRESSING. IF YOU ARE DISTRESSED BY TOPICS RELATED TO, SAY, THE PECULIAR INTERESTS OF OSCAR WILDE, OR IMAGES OF MALE AFFECTIONAL BEHAVIOR, OR BLOCK-QUOTES OF 16TH CENTURY LAW, YOU ARE URGED TO CLICK HERE, FOR SOME CUTE CAT PICTURES.

Henry VIII, noted paragon of sexual virtue, signed the Statute of 1533 which made sodomy punishable by death.

An Acte for the punishment of the vice of Buggerie (25 Hen. 8 c. 6). Forasmuch as there is not yet sufficient and condign punishment appointed and limited by the due course of the Laws of this Realm for the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind or beast: It may therefore please the King’s Highness with the assent of the Lords Spiritual and the Commons of this present parliament assembled, that it may be enacted by the authority of the same, that the same offence be from henceforth ajudged Felony and that … the offenders being herof convict by verdict confession or outlawry shall suffer such pains of death and losses and penalties of their good chattels debts lands tenements and hereditaments as felons do according to the Common Laws of this Realme. And that no person offending in any such offence shall be admitted to his Clergy…

The Statute was repealed by his daughter, Queen Mary (there were, apparently, limits to her bloodiness), but re-enacted by his daughter, Elizabeth I, when she came to the throne. In 1540, the first man killed, Walter Hungerford (1st Baron Hungerford of Heytesbury), ironically shared the day’s festivities with Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s chief minister and the primary advocate of the Statute of 1533 (Cromwell was executed for treason, not “Buggerie,” although both executions may well have been more politically- than criminally-motivated). The last men hanged under the Statute, James Pratt and John Smith in 1835, were immortalized by Charles Dickens in “A Visit to Newgate” (Sketches by Boz, 1836).

It is interesting that over the course of 300 years, fewer than ten men were convicted and executed under the Statute. The relatively low number of victims was primarily a function of economics, as was passionately pointed out by Pratt and Smith’s defender, the magistrate Hesney Wedgewood:

There is a shocking inequality in this law in its operation upon the rich and the poor. It is the only crime where there is no injury done to any individual and in consequence it requires a very small expense to commit it in so private a manner and to take such precautions as shall render conviction impossible. It is also the only capital crime that is committed by rich men but owing to the circumstances I have mentioned they are never convicted.

Section 61 of the Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861 graciously eliminated the death penalty for sodomy, but Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment of 1885 included both public and private activity between men (lesbians, apparently, were invisible to the Victorians).

11. Outrages on Decency. Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of or procures (a) or attempts (b) to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency (c) with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour.

It was under this section that Oscar Wilde was convicted to two years’ hard labor for his affair with Bosie. (Wilde was only one of the estimated 49,000 men convicted under Section 11, a number that included the father of computer science, Alan Turing, whose resulting suicide likely delayed modern technology by thirty years. (If we’d had personal computers in the 1960s, imagine what we’d be doing now! Then thank Victorian and subsequent homophobia for our inability to teleport.)

Which—having completed our  brief frolic and detour through the merrie history of British moral jurisprudence—returns us to Steampunk, and Those Aspects of Victoriana We Would Prefer to Ignore. I guess my point is that if we’re going to go all alt-hist, we should also consider the social and political aspects that should morph and change when steamtech is added to the mix of Verne and Babbage and dirigibles and goggles and squids.

Some time ago, I introduced the Gentlemen of Steampunk, my humble effort to provide equal-opportunity prurience in a photographic genre focused almost uniformly on scantily-clad women in goggles. The response has been largely positive, as I discussed here, although sales of the associated products (a book and a calendar) have been disappointing. But I soldier on, intrepid little ‘punker that I am, and a second volume of GoS is forthcoming.

But I’ve also been exploring the Wilde side of Steampunk a bit, and pushing the Gentlemen into previously-unexplored areas of same-sex fluffy-soft-erotica: things like the photos below. These images, which basically portray little more than a very Victorian, steampunky, PG-rated vision of what two ‘punky Nineteenth Century men in love might have been doing in private sometime after 1861 in the alternative steam-driven, aether-powered world in my head. It’s an enlightened, mature world that celebrates diversity and egalitarianism, invention and innovation and technology and practical magic; a world in which the gaslit streets glisten with rainbow puddles of alchemical by-products, and the darkly pungent air is thick with soot, and smoke, and probably some things better left unnamed.

LAST CHANCE TO AVOID DISTRESS! CLICK HERE, FOR PICTURES OF A CUTE CAT DOING ADORABLE CAT THINGS.

DSC_2462abcDSC_2743a2

DSC_2492abDSC_2465abD

DSC_2531abC


* “The love that dare not speak its name” is a line from the poem, “Two Loves,” by Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas . Bosie was many things. Most famously, he was–for a time–Oscar Wilde’s young lover (he was 21 when he met the 37-year old Wilde). Douglas’ father, theMarquess of Queensbury, forced Wilde to bring a libel suit, which opened the door to the author’s conviction and imprisonment for sodomy. Bosie had a stormy relationship with Wilde, after whose death he converted to Catholicism, married a woman, and became a famous antisemite and homophobe. He was also a fairly dismal poet, as one might expect. However, he did contribute the “dare not speak its name” phrase to the gay lexicon, so there’s that. Ironically, the “Two Loves” poem was used against Wilde in his sodomy trial, as evidence of the sort of Uranian mindset of those with whom he trafficked. Anyway, for whatever charms he held for Wilde, Bosie was a bit of an ass, and so that’s all we’ll say about him here.

**I mentioned previously that the Victorian period includes such unpleasantnesses as slavery, the subjugation of women, racism generally, the commercial exploitation of children, strict economic and social divisions, unequal political power vested in a hereditary ruling class, brutal colonialism—a whole murky stew of institutionalized oppression and narrowmindedness from which the modern sensibility recoils, and which the Steampunk oeuvre sidesteps as deftly as ever did Miss Bendaline Marsicamp turn out a delicate L’été en Quadrille at a country ball, her décolleté exposing shoulders gleaming with joyous exertion, cooled by the graceful flutterie of her ivory eventail au chinois. But I digress. As a gay white male of a certain age,  I have my own special favorite persecution, and it is upon that which we focus here.

Ever since I started the whole “Steampunk Beefcake” thing (handsome, fit young gentlemen in an assortment of neo-Victorian fantasy costumes and proppage) I’ve been hearing one comment fairly consistently: You should do a calendar.

So I did a calendar, and I’m shamelessly promoting it here. So before I go on to opine about the calendar-making process, the desirability of calendars, and the appropriateness of objectifying men’s bodies for the purpose of keeping track of what month it is, let me get this out of the way:

The calendar looks like this on the outside:

2015 Gentlemen of Steampunk calendar

and like this on the inside:

Gentlemen of Steampunk calendar interiorand you can Preview the whole interior HERE, which is also (conveniently) where you can purchase it at a reasonable price as well.

Thank you for your patience.

So I finally took the advice I was being given from numerous interested parties, and decided to make a calendar. Thing is, I have virtually zero interest in hawking calendars (OK so it would be hard to notice that, given the preceding blog-column inches, but keep reading before you scoff) at cons (see how a couple of words really modify what I’m saying?). I truly admire the dedicated craftspeople and artists who take up vendor space at sci-fi and steampunk conventions, sitting patiently at tables and discussing their work with buyers, potential buyers, possible later buyers, people who just want to chat about their own stuff, and people who say rude and unpleasant things when they really should just keep their criticisms to theirownselves.

The vendors at cons are amazing folks who do creative things and then lay them out for sale to passers-by. I am not amazing: my inherent shyness (no, really), coupled with a skin whose thickness may be accurately measured only by the finest micronometric devices, combined with a tendency to be viciously snarky and sharply defensive when praised with any perceptibly less than utterly ardent fervor, makes me a poor candidate to be taken out in public generally, much less planted at a tabletop and expected to sell people calendars (or books, such as the related Gentlemen of Steampunk biographies or the “wickedly clever” fairy tales of Aether & Rhyme, the digital versions of both being currently on sale for a mere 99 cents at Amazon). I think I would be very bad at it, and the whole affair would doubtless end in tears.

For that reason, I needed to find someone who would do the selling for me. There are, you will not be surprised to learn, a number of online companies that have set themselves up to do just that. I explored a number of them, and actually tried setting up calendars at three: CafePress, Zazzle, and Lulu. All three offer similar build-and-storefront services, but in the end, I found that Lulu’s was the easiest for me to work in: clean, simple, and largely intuitive, with a WYSIWYG interface. The choices of calendar templates was a bit limited, and the cover template isn’t exactly what I’d envision, but it’s free to use and the revenue structure is reasonable, with a base price on which users can build margin and discount structures. Your mileage may vary, but it works for me.

Anyway, so I built the Gentlemen of Steampunk 2015 Calendar, using the best images from the book along with some new photos destined to appear in the sequel. I posted cheery notices on my personal and professional Facebook pages, and posted on some special-interest steampunk pages as well. Thusfar, that has been the extent of my aggressive marketing campaign, and the numbers support the enormous effort I’ve put in: 1. (Actually, that “1” is a lie, because it was the proof copy I ordered myself. The actual number of legitimate sales has been somewhat south of that.)

Gentlemen of Steampunk calendar

A physical copy of the Gentlemen of Steampunk 2015 calendar, and the envelope it came to my home in.

So, boys and girls, here we find Your Humble Blogger, sitting on the very cusp of the new year, the fresh annus mirabilis laid out before him ripe with opportunity and straining at its seams with refulgent potential and undiscovered delectations, and he–he is ready to number its each passing sublime and inflorescent day, because he, dammit, has a calendar!

And, somehow, so can you.

The current photo book project I’m working on is a follow-up to the beefcakey Gentlemen of Steampunk:

Aether & Rhyme:

Being a Unique Collection of Morally-Improving Tales, Nursery Rhymes & Fragments from the Great Age of Steam

– with Photography by the Illustrious Mister Luxet Tenebrae, and Instructive Commentaries by Lord Professor Anton R.M. Feldspar

“Aether & Rhyme” is a collection of highly child-inappropriate neo-Victorian steampunkish kidlit. It’s a version of the classic Mother Goose oeuvre that’s simultaneously laden with a sort of faux arch-moralizing suitable to the mid-19th century and a dark and disturbing steam-tech aesthetic, nestled comfortably in the pretense of being a loving backward look at a the culture of a past epoch now subject to analysis and critique (included in amusingly critical academic footnotes by the ridiculously august L.P. Anthony R. M. Feldspar) and of course including the odd and poorly-preserved photographic work of Luxet Tenebrae.

Altogether there will be 18 stories and poems in the collection. Having created all the bits, I’m now in the process of integrating the photos with the stories and poems and assembling the thing.  But because neither self-control nor patience are among my many excellent virtues, I thought I’d offer up a little sneak-peek of a few short snippets from here and there, out of context and still in draft.

So, little ones, here are some stories for you tonight, to lull you gently into a disturbed and nightmarish steamy slumber…

FOREWORD

The title of this collection, as most readers will recognize, comes from the introductory poem in the famous collection of children’s stories and verse,  Old Shellduck’s Tales, which was to be found in any nursery worthy of the name back in the bygone days when the first Victoria was building the foundations of today’s Empire on the great spinning gears and oily pistons of the early Age of Steam:

Come my sweet child, it’s your bed-story time;

For tales of  magic, and aethers, and rhyme.

We’ll summon the plasms that brighten your dream

And drift you away on soft vapours of steam….

The tales and poems collected here—presented both in full and as fragments—are gathered from that original Shellduck’s. …

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

…It wasn’t long after she’d entered the Deepdark Wood before a Wolf hopped out onto the path before her.

“Hello, little girl,” smiled the Wolf, hungrily. “And where are you going, all by yourself in the dangerous Deepdark Wood?”

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

“Why, I’m going to visit my Grandmother, who is feeling poorly, in her little cottage down the path,” replied Little Red Riding Hood politely. “However, Mister Wolf, my mother has told me quite particularly not to speak to Wolves here in the Deepdark Wood, for they are more than likely to want to eat me.”

The Wolf smiled broadly. “Why, my dear,” he said in a low and reassuring murmur, “I am no Wolf! I am but a poor fellow-traveler upon the path, and as human as you or your sweet grandmother!”

Little Red Riding Hood was very surprised to hear this.

“Why, sir, please pardon my mistake! For your wolfen fur confused me.”

“The wolfen fur,” smiled the Wolf,  stepping closer to the girl, “is but a coat that keeps me warm against the chill air of the Deep Dark Wood.” And then the Wolf very cleverly stepped out of his fur, as if it were, in fact, only a coat, which you and I know it was not.

(c) EButterfield Photography

… Now, when Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother made the little red cloak of the finest velvet, she included a clever pocket on the inside. And Little Red Riding Hood’s mother, when she gave the girl the basket, knowing as she did the various Dangers that lurked in the Deepdark Wood, had slipped into the cunning little pocket a Drogget’s Demi-Automanual Ventillator Vapour Rifle, equipped with a full clip of 50 milli-meter Percussive Bore Engined-Bullettes.  And Little Red Riding Hood, in addition being a promising seamstress, and whose skills on the pianoforte were quite advanced for her age, was a dab hand with midscale armaments….

(c) EButterfield Photography

 

THE TALE OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

One fine day, once upon a time not so very long ago, three little City pigs—having grown tired of the constant tick-tick-tick of the bright brass gears that turned and hummed and clicked all day and night beneath the streets and in the walls; and the gloomy fog of steam and coal smoke that shadowed the city’s sky in twilight even at noon; and the strange-behaving rainbow pools of effluent aethers and plasms that splashed their pants and made them sneeze little feathers.

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

So they scavenged fallen bricks from Trottingbridge, and wood from the scaffolds around Old Saint Merks, and thatch from behind the gardener’s shed in Gallowspark in front of the Great Court-house. They even crept into unlocked kitchen doors and took a few nice pieces of furniture from a few nice homes—for everyone, they said, has more furniture than they really need.

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

They gathered all these up in a little cart, and headed out along the Rotinn Road past the wide ring of factaries and ‘works, over the Estuary, and beyond the tiny houses of the Outer Lecturbs where the Carders and Liners Enginers live; through the villages and cultivated lands of the great houses, past the farms with their steam-cows and pneumatic horses, and finally found themselves in the pleasant Countryside.

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

 Finally, long after the Rotinn Road had dwindled to little more than a path through the Deepdark Wood, they came to tiny sunlit clearing….

Just then the Wolf spied the tiny pipette that secretly connected the pigs’ house to a mainpipe of the Great Trigenerative Empowerment Combine, and a clever thought occurred to him. While the three pigs danced and sang in their parlor, enjoying the warmth of their steam-powered furnace and the unflickering golden light produced by their steam-powered generator, the Wolf crept himself around behind the cottage and followed the pipette back to the connecting spigot in the woods. With a chuckle—for the Wolf knew exactly what he was about—he quickly turned the valve as high, high, high as it would go.

  THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT’S FATHER

 “‘Now, my dears,” said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, “you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor…’” [from The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter]

Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and Peter were just the tiniest of bunnies on that long-ago morning, when their Father, Mr. Rabbit, said to Mrs. Rabbit, “My dear, this morning I believe I will go out into the world and see what I can find to feed our little family.”

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

“I shall go down the lane and into the fields, for I may find there all manner of things to eat ready at hand upon the ground.” And so Mr. Rabbit, being just a little vain, put on his best waistcoat and cravat—for rabbits, you know, are always very careful about looking their best whenever they go out into the world—and he kissed Mrs. Rabbit sweetly on the cheek, and patted Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and Peter on their four little bunny heads, and off he hopped— lippety–lippety, not very fast, and looking all around—out the door and down the lane.

Mr. Rabbit had not gone too far when he came across a pair of old forgotten brass goggles lying in the dust by the side of the road. “Why these,” he said to himself, “will look very fine upon my little pink nose, and perhaps will help me better see the seeds and vegetables that lie upon the ground in the fields.”…

THE FROG-PRINCE

…“Frog-prince, show yourself to me, and I shall release you gladly!” cried the Princess, who thought her days would be much brighter in the Prince’s kingdom.

From the rotting underbrush along the edge of the pond there emerged a truly hideous frog. The Princess could barely contain her disgust, but put out her hand for him to hop up on. She raised the ugly, foul-smelling, slime-covered creature to her lips, and gathering all her courage, kissed it tenderly upon its ghastly mouth.

Instantly there was before her a young man, in a prince’s raiment. He would normally have been considered a handsome young man indeed, except that his skin retained a distinctly greenish tinge, and his eyes bulged alarmingly from his head. Strangest of all, the pupils of his eyes seemed to be made of brassen clockworks, for they ticked and whirred and clicked as he looked around him….

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

 OLD MOTHER HUBBARD or THE AETHERICALLY-ANIMATED  CORPSE!

(c) EBUTTERFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
To fetch Doctor Ventris an aether.
But when she got there she’d let in too much air
And the floor disappeared from beneath her. …

 (Thanks to my models, Natalie Campbell, Andrew Diego, Jeremiah Hein, Pynkee, Andre Chambers, Dove Meir, and Scott Russo. “Aethers & Rhyme” will be available on Amazon in Sept. 2014.)

Like the Victorians it celebrates, Steampunk is all about the stuff. Elaborate period-accurate costumes built with period-accurate materials, tools, and techniques. Elaborate armaments and mysteriously complex scientific instrumentry;  jewelry and hats and gloves and gauntlets festooned with bits of brass this-and-that; even phone cases and computers dressed up in aged oak and rusted metal. Many of these pieces are jaw-droppingly intricate and beautiful, and I am in awe of their makers. Me, I’m a photographer (or at least I call myself one), and I traffic not so much in the art of making fine, tangible objets d’steampunque as in creating visual images that evoke a sometimes not-entirely-appealing alternate Steampunk reality, peopled by slightly unhinged but often brilliant and well-intentioned (albeit suffering from the effects of overexposure to the vapours, noxious effluvia, alchemical by-products, and general miasma of the Steam Age au Butterfield).

Not that I haven’t tried my hand, on occasion, at making appropriately steamy props and paraphernalia for my photography. The nice thing about making props for photography (or taking things other people have made and augmenting and embellishing them–what we call in publishing a “derivative use”) versus making props for practical cosplay, is that the results don’t have to stand up to a lot of use, and really only have to photograph well from a few angles. So superglue and velcro and one-sided decoration and anything else that feeds an illusion is perfectly fine. Things that someone is going to wear for long periods of time, or carry around at a con, well, people who make those things are Artists.

Anyway, here are some things I’ve made and used as props and costumes in photographs:

gauntlets and jewelry

Leather gauntlets for a “Roman Soldier” costume, augmented with gears, chains, a compass, and a working pocket watch, plus a couple of pieces of jewelry

Little Red Riding Hood's gun

Repainted tot assault rifle modified with gears, hardware, clock parts, drawer pulls, and a doorchain

binoculars

Modified opera glasses

pistol

Handgun constructed from a fishing reel, empty acetylene tank, painted plumbing pieces, and assorted watch parts and a vacuum tube

goggles

Goggles with gears and watch parts on eyepiece

breather

Capt. Nemo’s breathing apparatus, from augmented swimming goggles, watch parts, old knobs and drawer pulls, and a snorkel, Photoshopped.

 

box and ring

Box augmented with radio parts, vacuum tubes, wooden blocks, and hardware

autoinjector

“Auto-injector” using a syringe and antique hand-drill

 

shoe

Steampunk Cinderella’s slipper: a shoe augmented with gears and jewelry chain.

cryptology box

Cryptological device, using radio parts, medicine bottles, gears, watch parts, and wooden blocks

hatter hat

Mad Hatter’s Hat: top hat augmented with geared decoration and tag with context-appropriate printing

gloves

Elbow-length fingerless gloves augmented with a decorated toy telescope, gears, watch parts, and chain

cane

Collapsible hiking stick painted and augmented with gears and hardware

wrist light

Personal Illumination Device: stick-on LED light painted and augmented with gears, watch parts, and chain

 

All of these items worked quite nicely in photographs as props. But here’s another thing I made, that I’m even more pleased about:

Gentlemen of Steampunk

This is a collection of original steampunk “beefcake” photographs featuring male models in neo-Victorian costume reflecting male models who forgot to put on their shirts that morning. Now available in both print and digital formats on Amazon (click the image to go check it out).

 

To read more about the process of making this book, read my post, Good for the Gander.

 

“There was a time, surely, back in the now long-forgotten ante-vapourian ages before we, Illuminated and Inspired as we are today by the Rays that gleam from the intricate brazen gearworks of Modern Aengineering; by the myriad Mechanical Technologies that, driven by the kindly Vapourate Spirits, bring Goodness and Brightness to our days; and by the glowing emanations of the Practical Chemistries ruled by the Three Actinic Sisters of aetheric, plasmic, and alchemic philosciences; a time in the distant, dark, and lumbering days when we toiled simply to live and our minds went wanting, when antiquated and bestial notions of national tribalism, class imperative, and religioracial sanctity ruled our culture and our hearts. But today, such small-minded animalistic ideas are both offensive and irrelevant to the Enlightened Man in Her Serene Majesty’s radically locomotive Empire of Light!”

— from Radical Education Society. On the Current Serious Need for Specific & Immediate Reformations to the Anachronistic State and Principles of the Empire’s Primeval Universities, [Pamphlet] Drogan, Lord W. G. E., and Canfenser-Martin, T. R., Ph.Eng, Authors.

Google “steampunk photography” and you will not find, at least not with any immediacy, images that are not Caucasian. Oh there is diversity out there, but it must be searched for a bit. Just as Lord Drogan and Mr Canfenser-Martin called for a short, sharp end to the cultural myopicism that many of the established universities clung to throughout the early days of the New Empire, it’s also good to reflect a bit of diversity in our steampunkishness. Thanks to a couple of models I worked with last week, then, for these images, which also continue to address the comparative dearth of steampunk beefcake,too:

Steampunk Jamaal 249

 

Good Morrow Sir

Shirtless male model in Steampunk gear

 

(Models:  Jamaal Lewis and Shayim Todman)

Here’s an interesting notion: Say we’re looking back at a different 19th century, one in which steam-driven machinery achieved unheard-of technological leaps; where Babbage’s Difference Engine did not lose its funding, but–spurred by an open-handed Treasury and Lady Ada Lovelace’s unfettered programming imagination– launched the Computer Age a hundred and fifty years ahead of schedule; and where alchemy, mysterious invisible plasmas, and a weird sort of rational magic all made the world a very different place. That, of course, is a pretty standard Steampunk vision. Or at least it’s mine.

For just a moment, though, let’s go beyond the steamy science and gear-driven tech (and the fetching goggles) and think about that culture from a different perspective. What, for instance, might depictions of children’s fairy tales or classic works of  literature look like in such an alternate Victorian society? How would dark and mechanical steampunk tropes and stereotypes leak into that world?

Well ponder no more, inquisitive seeker of steampunk symbology! Here’s a random selection of possibilities:

Belle and the Beast

“Beauty & the Beast” (La Belle et la Bête)

Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland

The Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland”

Rapunzel

In “Rapunzel,” the Prince climbs to Rapunzel’s rescue

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

“I have done the deed.” (“Macbeth” Act II, scene ii)

Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven"

“Nevermore.” (Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”)

Prince Charming and Cinderella

Prince Charming tries the steampunk slipper on a scullery maid whose clothes mysteriously disappeared sometime earlier, in “Cinderella”

(Special Thanks to my models, Jeremiah Hein and Natalie Campbell, and Michael Graham as the Mad Hatter)

I’ve talked quite a bit about my obsession with steampunk, which I think is a healthy and constructive artistic outlet for my pent-up English major’s frustrations with having spent seven perfectly good years wandering the hedgerows and dark back-alleys of 19th century English-language literature. Little Dorrit coughed up blood on my shirtcuff, and Jude whined obscurely in my garret; Heathcliff stood naked in the rain, howling on my moors (or maybe that was King Lear;  different period I know, but it was a long time ago and these things start to blend together); Whitman sang and celebrated himself in my shower, while Emerson strode, a long-legged eyeball, across my desk; Ahab stabbed at me straight from hell’s heart, the mermaids did not sing to me, and the fog was everywhere: fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. There’s something about that century, or at least the second two-thirds of it, launching from the ascension of its titular Queen, reaching its zenith in the Crystal Palace and a century of confident and sunny Empire, and sliding on into the next century’s early years as its complicated construct of diplomatic niceties intended to tame the world led it directly and inexorably to its end 1918, its future buried in the bloody mud of silent French and Belgian farms.

Dearie me, that was a paragraph, now wasn’t it. Somebody’s showing off for sure.

Speaking of showing off, let’s return, then, to steampunk and the point of this (as will be revealed shortly) extremely cleverly-titled blog. So steampunk is a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, it’s dark and strange and swaddled in brass and steam and alchemy and not a little madness, levened by a touch of whimsy, and all made possible by an orderly, enlightened, and progressive culture of science and invention, presided over by a serene Victoria. At the same time, I’m concerned about the inevitable social stratification (even with the new influx of scientific and engineering nobility), or the air made unbreathable by a thousand thousand engines (that fog isn’t just a “marine layer” rolling in from the fresh and sparkly sea, and those goggles are for seeing through the coal dust as much as for discerning aetherial composites and magnifying tiny gears). I can’t help but think of the coal miners across the globe, toiling in the dangerous, acrid dark to power the engines if Empire, or the masses of unemployed laborers thrown out of their livelihoods by the phenomenal explosion of industrialization. So it’s not all shiny goggles and silk vests and lacy corsets and fancy fascinators.

Oh that’s right: corsets. Back to business.

It has come to my attention, the more time I spend in the glorious and wonderful subculture of steampunkery, that there’s a significant thread of something not altogether modern about the neo-Victorian mindset. Specifically, in the world of steampunk photography, it has quickly become obvious to me that the preferred aesthetic is comprised of upper-class white men with fantastical firearms and busty upper-class white women in corsets and not much else. (In point of fact, actual Victorian women, while perhaps overly susceptible to the vapours, women’s complaints, and occasional fits of dithering over whether or not the incident with the handkerchief in the hedgerow really meant something or simply meant something (oh yes, I’m looking at you, Jane Austen, with your misplaced billets-doux and ambiguous hankies) rarely went out and about having forgotten their skirts.) Google “steampunk” and sort by “Images” and you’ll see what I mean.

In short, much of steampunk art that depicts persons tends to depict persons in a thoroughly stereotypical, traditional gender-roled, male-centered manner. Now, while this may be in keeping with the general notion within steampunk of the need for–within the context of the fantastical alt-hist that’s been created–verisimilitude to the point of obsessiveness (steampunk crafters have told me the specific season of the specific year their clothing represents, and are sticklers for eschewing fabrics and sewing techniques dating after 1890). That only goes so far, though, as I am personally keenly aware: my more Wildean inclinations would, if we’re being strictly versimilitudinous to the Victorians, land me in hard labor for the next ten years, so let’s not get carried away. The simple fact is that steampunk is artifice, a history that is being created and told and spun out by steampunkers all the time. I bloviated on about my vision in the first two paragraphs here; others will have very different stories to tell. But all of it magically blends together into a subculture of Steampunk, and we have control of that subculture.

Here’s the thing: I am second to none in my admiration for a woman in a corset (well, OK, maybe second to some). But something in that cheesecake, pinup aesthetic has always struck me a little…not right. Now, I am not opposed to depictions of strong, brilliant, adventurous women looking fabulous, but when all the strong, brilliant, adventurous women appear to have cascading bosoms and an aversion to clothing, I have to wonder just a bit about why that is. I think (to get theoretical here for a moment) it’s not dissimilar to the way female superheroes are depicted: in ridiculously restrictive and inefficient costumes that expose a lot of skin (see, e.g., Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Batgirl, Laura Croft), whereas Batman, for instance, is covered from head to toe in more armor than King Arthur. So there’s a cultural thing going on, and it bothered me (just a little bit), and I thought to myself, “Someone ought to do something about this. And then I thought back at myself, “hey, stupid.” So I was going to do something about it.

So, being of a jolly-natured, tradition-disruptive character, I did this:

Muscular shirtless male model in steampunk costume

and this:

Muscular shirtless male model with tools and rope

and this:

Steampunk Jose 440d

And this:

Steampunk Josh 435

 

And also this:

Steampunk Shayim 195a

 

And I’m working on some more. (You’ll be delighted to know that there will be a print and digital photobook,  and possibly a pin-up calendar if purely for irony’s sake). But for now, I wanted to try a little experiment.

I love my fellow steampunkers. Every single one I’ve met, without exception,  has been smart, funny, kind, and creative. I suppose it comes with the territory. But I felt the need to see if I could poke at this thing I saw, so I did. I posted a couple of those images on several of steampunk-related Facebook pages and websites, and the result was exactly in line with my working hypothesis:

I’m no Lady Gaga in the social media sphere, so when anything I post gets over fifty responses it’s a very good day. In this case, a whopping 58 women “Liked” the beefcake-steampunk photo on Facebook; only 7 men did so (and most of them are friends of mine). All the comments from women were positive: “Thank You!” and “Hooray!” and “So refreshing to see something other than a size 00 model wearing a corset and little more. Bring on the steampunk man candy” and so on. On the other hand, there were virtually no positive comments from men. Men had this to say: “Porn.” they said, “sexist,” and bandied about words like spam, exploitive, and unnecessary. One male commenter wrote, apparently without perceiving the irony, “but if they were scantly-clad girls all these women would be bitching about sexism and exploitation…… funny how that works.”

What’s good for the goose is apparently not always good for the gander, but sometimes the goose likes to take a bit of a gander herself, I guess.

 

%d bloggers like this: