Filed under: asperger's syndrome, Steampunk, Travel, Writing | Tags: #asylumsteampunk, Asylum Steampunk Festival, Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society, GUESS, Lincoln, Steam Powered Giraffe, The Victorian Steampunk Society, Welcome To The Asylum
I am a little disappointed that my plan to attend the Asylum in Lincoln again this year will not come to fruition. However the simple fact is that I cannot afford it. I am not blaming the ticket prices which are not at all unreasonable, at £36 for a weekend wristband that covers and enables participation in events for four days (and probably Thursday evening) that’s less than a tenner a day for a lot of fun and access to the most amazing Steampunk markets. Of course tickets to Evening Events add to the cost, but with a city full of Steampunks there’s plenty of fun to be had without paying for evening entertainment. I should point out that while tickets for the Steam Powered Giraffe concert are £25 (worth every penny and cheap for the BEST BAND in the Universe) most of the other evening events only cost £12.00 and that’s positively cheap these days! Sadly one also needs to factor in the costs of accommodation, transport, and food and my budget won’t stretch that far.
Of course not going to Asylum provides no block to my Steampunkery. I have written several times in my blog and in the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society Newsletter about how Steampunk accommodates itself to a limited budget. Although the Asylum is out this year, and I’m sure there are others in a similar position, there are still plenty of local opportunities for unexpurgated Steampunkery. Most countries now host a number of Comic Cons and our Glasgow group takes advantage of them. As well as the Cons there are plenty of other events to which our group is actively invited so there are plenty of occasions to enjoy. It’s true that these events are not the same as being surrounded by thousands of fellow Steampunks for a weekend, but they do allow what one might call ‘missionary work’. After each event we attend we receive requests to join GUESS. Although we may only have a handful of members at an event our online group is growing and it’s not always the same members who attend each event.
Perhaps the hardest part of not going to Asylum is reading the posts of all those excited people on ‘Welcome To The Asylum‘ who are preparing to attend. However, on the plus side, this does at least hold out the promise of some wonderful photograph albums to peruse in September. There are so many events I can’t attend like Wild West Con and the Steampunk World’s Fair, but whose photos provide pleasure and inspiration; this year the Asylum will be another of them.
One of the pleasures of the Asylum is watching civilians walking through the markets and gradually becoming Steampunked. That’s the first step for some, hopefully it leads on to crafting one’s own Steampunk creations. Events like the Asylum are a huge boost for one’s Steampunk soul, but life has to go on and so does one’s Steampunkery. Perhaps the true power of Steampunk is not that it can bring thousands of Steampunks together on the Castle Green during Asylum, but that it can provide them with pleasure and purpose throughout the other three hundred and sixty days of the year.
I won’t be at Asylum this year, but I won’t suffer the Asylum Blues, my life steams on regardless. However to those who are going may I wish you all a wonderful time and good weather. If it rains there’s usually cover somewhere, last year as a shower came in I found myself in a tent full of corsets feeling like a character from Father Ted. I hope you have fun and make new discoveries. Take time to appreciate the organisers (The Victorian Steampunk Society) and volunteers too, they do a terrific job. Oh, and please post lots of photos to the Welcome To The Asylum Page, we’d all love to see what you get up to.
Filed under: Uncategorized
I have a stinking cold, I am in bed and I have no intention of getting out of it.My brain is foggy and I ache all over. However I have looked at my Facebook on my phone…not up to turning on the computer. One of my friends has posted a beautiful picture of a state of the Hindu god Shiva which lifted my spirits a little.To be honest, I’m not sure there is a point in my house from which I can’t see a picture of Shiva, but I wasn’t looking
My friend’s posting reminded me that this Saturday will be Mahashivratri as well as my wife Neelam’s birthday.The date of Shivratri is set by the position of the moon and Neelam was also born on Shivratri, so it’s a special day in many ways.I had hoped to mark this year with a full Shivratri fast, but I doubt I’m well enough. I did it once before and it’s the toughest fast I’ve ever done, but worth it for the sense of accomplishment at the end (probably totally the wrong reason, theologically, for doing it!)
The form of Saivism I follow is fiercely non-dualist. It has no personal God not object of worship. Everything is Shiva and Shiva is our consciousness. Our personal gods like everything else in creation are creations of our own mind. In the Siva Sutras what most people would consider organs for receiving information: eye, nose, skin, ear, are all organs of generation creating the world we experience. The world and our experience of it and of our individuality is entirely made up. Which means, damn it, so is my experience of being ill. When I’m feeling miserable I find comfort in the creation of a personal God, but it’s just a symptom of losing touch with the oneness. This is all made up and so is the reality that the picture of Shiva by my bedroom door is laughing at me (trust me, he really does change expression according to my mood!)
I think I’ll get up, I am feeling much better and the picture of Shiva is looking unbearably smug! Hara Hara Mahadev!
Filed under: asperger's syndrome, Justice, personal development, Politics, Religion, Scotland, Steampunk, Technology | Tags: Brexit, Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society, GUESS, MCSC, Music City Steampunk Consortium, NESS, North East Steampunk Society, Trump
I think it is fair to say we live in strange and troubling times, what with the decision by the English to turn their back on Europe and drag their neighbours also into a new parochial rejection of the outside world, and the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA who appears also to want to turn his back on the world whilst at the same time plundering its resources. I accept this is somewhat of an over simplification, but the political details are not really my concern here, but rather how people respond to them. I think it is fair to say that that feelings are running high not only in The USA and the UK, but in Europe and throughout the Middle East, look further afield to Africa, Asia and Russia and it looks as if the whole world is on the edge of some sort of emotional cataclysm. So what, if anything, has any of this got to do with Steampunk?
I know that Steampunks like other folk hold political opinions, some are guided by political and religious beliefs so why, when countries are bitterly divided within themselves and from their neighbours, are Steampunks from all around the world still bumbling along together cheerfully? The answer is not ‘Gin’…at least not entirely. I would like to postulate that there are several reasons Steampunk is not dragged into the political morass in which the world now wallows. I have to confess at this point that my reasoning is based upon my observations of British Steampunk, it may be that some countries Steampunk differently, however I suspect that what is true for a British Steampunk is as true for others around the world.
Those who know my personal political beliefs to be extremely socialist, republican, and nationalist may find it strange to see me including Scottish Steampunks in the umbrella term ‘British Steampunk’. The truth is that apart from some details of expression there is little to distinguish the attitudes of Scottish Steampunks from their southern neighbours…when in Steampunk mode. And I think that is my first point: Steampunk as a way of thinking occupies a place that is meta to ordinary political thinking. Some Steampunks live in a permanent attitude of Steampunkery, for others Steampunk is more of a cosplay that they put on and off. However as I have said, when in Steampunk mode Steampunks relate to the world differently from other people.
I remember being startled when I realised that in a whole weekend at the Asylum in Lincoln I had heard not one swearword nor a raised voice. There is something about being a Steampunk that induces courteous behaviour. A Steampunk uses politeness like a shield to parry the unpleasantness of the world and wit the blade to return the blow. I will not pretend for one moment that Steampunks do not insult each other, but we do so with wit and humour, perhaps some buffoonery so that there is almost as much enjoyment of defeat as pleasure in victory…when the other side scores a try (or a six) we applaud and enjoy the moment for its own intrinsic artistry. What is saddening about politics at the moment is the depths to which people have sunk in their interactions with each other, people have become nastier, xenphobia, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination and abuse have become commonplace. People have no embarrassment at being caught in a lie. Respect for the rights and opinions of others is no longer considered important or even desirable, there is no place for old fashioned courtesy. Except in Steampunkery where old fashioned courtesy lies at its heart (we do like old fashioned or even an Old Fashioned).
One might expect a strong conservative streak in Steampunk because of its embrace of old fashioned courtesy and dress. However Steampunk cherry picks what it takes from any era and so while embracing the virtues of the past it rejects its vices. Strong women are very evident in Steampunk circles, frequently armed to the teeth with customised Nerf guns and they’re not afraid to use them! Steampunk is undoubtedly trans cultural as can be seen in its Facebook groups, but also at major Steampunk gatherings that attract attendees from all over the world. Our Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society is not only associated with the Music City Steampunk Consortium of Nashville, Tennessee, but has scheduled a jolly day out with the North East Steampunk Society from England (now that is true internationalism!). I haven’t noticed religion entering the Steampunk conversation except as a costume, we have Steampunk monks with goggles and Victorian Bishops with gaiters at one end and goggles at the other. Given the international nature of Steampunk, I assume that it contains folk of all faiths, but they don’t let it come between them or get in the way of the fun.
Conservatives may not be very evident in Steampunk, but conservation is. Steampunks have a respect for history especially, as the name suggests, for its technology. Nothing sets the Steampunk blood racing more assuredly than polished brass, well oiled pistons, smoothly turning gears, and the ecstatic call of a locomotive whistle. “Ah but,” I hear you say, “Steam engines run on fossil fuels and pump carbon into the air!”…don’t expect a clever argument from me, although I would argue for balance and responsibility. However the Steampunk embrace of steam should be interpreted rather as an embrace of the best of contemporary technology, which in Victorian times was steam. I think we should note that Steampunks are equally enamoured of clockwork. The essential thing about the Steampunk attitude is that technology is employed for the good of society. You may object that Steampunk has its evil villains and mad scientists with their death rays and killer robots, but they only exist as villains in opposition to the positive technological vision of Steampunk…besides they are playing a role (or possibly over playing in the case of Kenneth Brannagh’s Dr. Loveless) we all come together in the bar at the end of the day. In Steampunk science is treated with respect and so is scientific method and evidence, some (many) of our inventions are fanciful, but they can be so because we are aware of the difference between science and superstition and so are free to play with both. More importantly in Steampunk the urge to conservation manifests itself in an abhorrence of waste, or more accurately a love of recycling and up-cycling. Steampunk is not part of a disposable society; where civilians dispose, we reuse and re-purpose.
I think what sets Steampunk apart politically from much of society is that it is cooperative and sharing. In victory there is little inappropriate triumphalism whether in cosplay competitions or a tea duel…okay there may be a little (I’m not sure ‘little’ is entirely the correct word.) triumphalism in tea duelling, but there’s none of the vicious denigration of the losers that has marked the conduct of Trump supporters and Brexiteers, nor the bitter resentment we have seen from the other side. Steampunks are building a better future for all based on the best of the past and that means magnanimity and mutual support. You will rarely find a Steampunk rubbish someone else’s work, but they will be generous with suggestions for improvement. Steampunks help each other, they share their skills and insights, they encourage each other. I think it is safe to say that wherever you observe someone indulging in selfishness, discrimination, misogyny, xenophobia, abuse, or any form of discourtesy the person you are observing is not a Steampunk. Steampunks are building a future on the foundation of the most noble values of the past. To put things more simply: If they ain’t nice, they ain’t Steampunk! Now it’s Time For Gin!
Filed under: Health, personal development, Politics | Tags: 2017, celebrity, death, EHCR, Good Friday Agreement, human rights, terrorism
Two days into Twenty Seventeen and we’ve already had the terrorist shooting in Istanbul and another mass shooting at a new year’s party. We are being told that a terrorist attack on British soil is inevitable. Am I worried? Surprisingly not in the slightest.
When I say I am not worried I mean I’m not worried about a terrorist attack. Statistically we are all in a lot more danger from dying as a result of an air crash or road accident than at the hands of a terrorist. I am far more concerned that our politicians are going to use the supposed threat of a terrorist attack to further curtail our liberties and to spy upon our every day activities. I am concerned that our politicians’ eagerness to reject the European Convention on Human Rights will undermine the Good Friday Agreement and expose us to the possibility of renewed paramilitary violence in the North of Ireland and to bombings on the mainland. I am worried that withdrawing from the ECHR will provide the Westminster government with an opportunity to destroy the limited devolution settlement Scotland now enjoys and anxious that it will lead to a further diminution of employment rights. The threat of Islamic terrorism against targets in the UK is very low on the list of things that concern me. I see the rise of the Right and of post Brexit xenophobia as far more dangerous to the UK than Islamic extremism.
I have to admit that I can see no logical reason for fearing death. Death is inevitable and no amount of fear will prevent it, only an idiot fears it. On the other hand it is equally stupid to unnecessarily seek death, except possibly in the face of debilitating illness. The upset of bereavement makes a degree of sense, it is natural to be upset when we lose someone we love. However death is inevitable and we will inevitably lose people we love, everyone we know will eventually give up this physical body and move on to something else. There is little point in speculating what comes next because we can’t know until we get there, assuming there is anywhere to get to. If all that awaits us is oblivion then there is certainly no logical cause for fear.
Last year was marked by the deaths of many much loved celebrities as well as many less widely known benefactors of humanity in various fields, some of whom may have contributed more to the world in practical than even David Bowie. There is a meme on social media at the moment showing Bruce Forsyth saying “I made it, you bastards!” referring to the perception that Twenty Sixteen had been massacring entertainers; and, of course, there is the ever popular meme, “Breaking News: Keith Richard found alive!” The fact is that every year actors, musicians, academics, writers, politicians, and many other people well known in various fields will die and this year will be no exception. While our beloved celebrities are dying there will be many ordinary people dying from illness, war, the effects of the UK Government’s austerity measures, unjust sanctioning of the sick and disabled, road accidents, natural disasters and many other causes and most of us won’t even notice. No one life is worth more than any other, nor any less. Every life should be celebrated and every death marked with respect.
Many of us will die this year. Perhaps some of us by violence, hopefully not. The inevitability of our deaths is not cause for anxiety, nor upset. That we must die is an excellent reason for enjoying our lives to the utmost while we have them. We are all as capable of joy as we are of sadness, so why not choose to have fun? Our joy is not caused by our circumstances, but by how we relate to them. I don’t have any plans to die this year, but I’m not going to worry about the possibility which will be there every year until it isn’t (or I am not). My plan for this year is to live every second to the fullest, anything else is a waste of a precious gift. As for everyone else’s lives, I intend to celebrate them whether they are alive or not. Now I shall retire for the night and probably celebrate Leonard Cohen or Elvis perhaps. So many lives then and now and each (even the worst) carries a gift that deserves to be celebrated.
Filed under: Politics, Religion, Travel, Writing | Tags: Cain: At The Edge Of The Universe, NaNoWriMo
I stayed for a week helping Simeon understand the frieze. Once we’d identified Earth and Keppler the cartographers started looking for clues to the frieze from among their charts. I returned to Obamapolis and Eva, leaving behind a project that might last for generations.
I returned to troubleshooting for Bennie’s trying not to allow the Valley of the Kings to haunt my dreams. I had expressed my views, it was not for me to try and deny anyone the right to make their own choices. After one trip I got home to find Eva excited.
“What’s wrong, what happened?” I asked anxiously.
“You did it!” She exclaimed. “You bought the Roddenberry! You’ve just got to have the confirmation witnessed at the Mayor’s office.”
The Mayor was as surprised as anyone. He asked me what I intended to do with Roddenberry. I hadn’t really thought about it, so I asked him how long we had to wait before we continued the ongoing colonisation program.
“Well S-7 is established, but there’s no need to push on yet. However with funding we could launch an expedition. Unfortunately we couldn’t authorise public money until there is a demonstrable need to find a new colony and that won’t be for generations.” He mused.
“What if an expedition was privately funded?” I asked.
“It would depend on how many colonists there were. Theoretically anyone could voluntarily participate on a privately financed expedition.”
I decided then to speak to the Astronomical and Exploration Institute to see whether there were any strong candidates for colonisation. But first I thought I’d better mention my intentions to Eva rather than surprise her with a plan for a new adventure in which she had no hand in designing. As I spoke of my ideas for the Roddenberry I noticed the grey in her hair and asked her if she regretted our lack of children. She smiled.
“It might have been nice.” She said, “But I think in all honesty we’ve been too busy to bring up a family. Besides we have had a good time without children to distract us.” She sat and looked at me for a while before saying, “I may be too old now to have children, but if you do want them, my eggs were frozen before the expedition began. If they’re still viable we could still have children.”
The next day she told me that one of her laboratory assistants – born a decade after our arrival – was willing to carry Eva’s child for her. Becoming parents would delay the start of any expedition, but if the eggs were yet viable they might not be after another long voyage and we could not set out with a young baby. In the end we decided to go ahead and if successful use the extra years to prepare an expedition to Epsilon Ten the nearest viable planet which would require minimal terraforming.
We were successful and I more or less ceased my wandering in the wilds, having discovered again how much entertainment a child can provide. Not one, but two. A couple of years later we used Eva’s laboratory to fertilise a second egg and so by the time our expedition was ready we had a seven year old boy, Vladimir Cane and the sweetest five year old daughter, Anya. The only colonial ship we would take was the Roddenberry, who seemed quite excited at the prospect – I really do feel machines can feel excitement although some would think that ridiculous. We secured the services of the Britannia as our escort. DC had retired, but vouched for the ability of the young Captain, Sean O’Rourke. In the Valley of the Kings the archaeologists were still at work deep within the mountain tunnels and in his stasis pod my Grandfather still slept.
The new colonists seemed so young as they boarded the Roddenberry. Young and optimistic. All the children of settlers and all wanting to move on and carve out a new life for themselves. Their families saw them off with many tears because we all knew this would be the last time they would meet. We left knowing that we no longer play a role in the development of S-7 and in the events of the settlements. I left with some anxiety because I was leaving my Grandfather asleep and for all their research the archaeologists had never explained his presence. However we have to each make our own choices, the archaeologists and government had chosen not to seal the stasis pod in concrete and I chose not to remain. As in the past I would remain out of stasis, but Eva and the children along with the other colonists would spend most of the flight in stasis. Before she entered stasis she said to me that she was looking forward to setting up a new home on E-10.
“I’m sorry,” I asked,” What did you say?”
“I’m looking forward to E-10. Why what did you think I said?”
I laughed, “For a moment there I thought you said ‘Eden’!”
“Perhaps it will be a new Eden…good name for a colony.” She observed.
“If it hadn’t been used already,” I replied.
“Our own paradise.” Eva smiled. She kissed me and climbed into the pod.
“My paradise is wherever you are.” I said as I closed the lid.
So a new Eva and a new Eden, but we would not – I hoped – be walking with God in the garden.
Filed under: Politics, Religion, Technology, Travel, Writing | Tags: Cain: At The Edge Of The Universe, NaNoWriMo
The techies replaced the lid immediately. Everyone looked surprised, but such was my vehemence even the archaeologists didn’t try and stop me. Later Eva asked me what had happened and I told her. For now I merely told them that the giant in the box was was the creator of the Shoggoths and that it was not safe for any of us to allow him to wake. Despite my misgivings the archaeologists were determined to conduct an exhaustive examination of the site. Eva and I went back to Obamapolis when it was time to collect more supplies and equipment for a prolonged stay.
Back in the Capital everyone was agog for news about the site. Because it was impossible to get a comms signal in the ‘Valley of the Kings’ as the archaeologists had nicknamed the site the reports from the site were intermittent as each one meant a substantial walk before the broadcaster could start transmitting. I was leaving the studios after being interviewed when I encountered the Bishop. As he questioned me about the site I thought I might be able to enlist his help in getting the dig closed, so I mentioned to him that the site told the story of the creation of Humankind and offered to show him. He accepted and I would have added his name to the other dignitaries who were to visit, but I invited him instead to come back with me and the supplies.
A couple of days later before I left I received a price for Roddenberry a twelve digit number. I agreed the price, and gave a list of the things I thought should be included.
Shepherd Cain was as excited as a young boy. I spent the journey telling him the bare bones of my story with one exception, but it was a big one. Needless to say he asked all the usual questions and I answered many, others I told him would have to wait until we reached the Valley of the Kings.
As the Bishop and I made our way on foot or more accurately I, on foot and he, on a mule. The construction workers we had brought with us were beginning to make the track navigable for All Terrain Vehicles. As we headed towards the ridge we were followed by the noise of saws and bulldozers as the path was widened. It occurred to me that if the archaeologists weren’t going to lave well alone they might be glad of a quick exit.
When I took Simeon Cane into the now well lit tunnels to the ‘tomb’ he was fascinated by the reliefs on the walls. We looked into some of the smaller rooms where one of the team – not an archaeologist – but a zoologist – told us that what we had thought were stone tables seemed to be dissecting or embalming tables as evidenced by a drain with space for a portable receptacle. That an alien scientist was lying in stasis in the middle of his laboratory was a thought that gave me no comfort whatsoever.
In the tomb the lifting gear was still attached to the closed box. Simeon asked what it was, I replied,
“All in good time. First I want you to look at the frieze.” I conducted him around the frieze from the picture of Earth with a man and a woman standing on it, past the various events many of which appeared to be accounts of terraforming at a level we could only dream of. However it was possible that many of the planets we were able to adapt for settlement had once been terraformed by the occupant of the box. We came to the statue of the bearded giant with the man and woman on one side and the Shoggoth, the hybrid Shoggoth/Man and a man emerging from cauldron.
“Is that you?” Asked Simeon peering closely.
“It would appear so.” I replied “And these are my mother and father.” I pointed to the other figures.
“And this?” asked Simeon, indicating the huge central figure.
“The creator of Adam and Eve, you probably call him God or by some name. I call him Grandfather. He’s the one who genetically manipulated my curse, he is the creator of the Shoggoth and who knows what other creatures. Some of the things on these friezes are probably the fruits of his experiments.”
“Are you telling me he existed, a mere creature?” Demanded the Bishop.
“Oh not a ‘mere creature’. If he was seen as a god it’s because to all intents and purposes he was one. Not the only one, but powerful beyond human comprehension” I replied.
“It’s impossible!” He declared, “Its blasphemy! How dare you? How could you? God is omnipotent, universal!”
“Not this one.” I said, bluntly.
“No you’re wrong, you must be wrong!”
I looked him in the eye and asked,
“Whatever did you think ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves’ meant?” I continued, “God created man in the image in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.”
Tears were running down his face as he sank to his knees. I felt sorry for him.
“Simeon, look at me!”
He raised his face and I spoke to him again. “There is nothing wrong with your faith, but this is not your God. Yes we gave rise to the myths from which your faith grew, but your faith evolved. If you look at the old religions of the Old Gods they were brutal and thrived on violence and blood, but like the believers the religions evolved…to an extent anyway. As you rose above the old barbarism you created a god in your own image, a reflection of the perfection to which you aspired. Unfortunately you poured your new wine into old skins” I pointed to the box, “My Grandfather –lying in this stasis chamber – is the old skin. Don’t pour your faith into him. The best thing you can do is to convince people to fill this chamber with concrete so that he can never spread his cruelty again through the universe!”
Even as I spoke I understood that what I condemned as cruelty was not; it was curiosity and a need for affection. The Old Gods had left when they no longer had the adulation of their creatures. Who knew where they had gone – the McGuinness twins believed they had returned whence they came somewhere in deep space. A more worrying question was why was my Grandfather here, in stasis.
I could tell from the expression on Simeon’s face that he was not going to help me have the chamber sealed and so I said to him,
“Whatever we do we need to understand why he is here. Perhaps there is a clue somewhere among all these carvings. You need to understand what will happen should he awaken.”
He was still kneeling looking dazed and so I added,
“This is too much to take in so quickly, I am sorry.”
Eventually he managed to compose himself. We sat quietly, alone. The others had mysteriously left us alone – humans can be sensitive. At last he asked,
“May I see him?”
I operated the hoist so that the Bishop could look at the origin of his religion. He looked at the face of the Old God and then at the statue, back to the sleeper. I closed the box.
We sat in silence my arm around his shoulders. We sat in silence for a long time and I wondered if perhaps I had been too cruel in exposing him to all this.
“Perhaps you should.” I said, “Think of him, not as God, but more like a prophet. At the very least you now know that there is substance to the stories people have dismissed as mere myths.”
“I’m not sure that’s a comfort.” He gave a sad smile. The smile broadened. “This may shake up the faith, but it’s going to hit the followers of Dawkinism even harder.” He began to laugh, “God is real, we found his body!”
I worried that he might turn hysterical, but he calmed down and after a few moments said, “We’re all going have to rethink everything we know.”
“From Earth via Keppler and every colony, the scientists have been following a God in whom most of them didn’t believe.” I added.
It’s going to be all right, isn’t it?” He asked.
“It usually is in the end,” I assured him,” But I’d still be inclined not to wake him. Certainly not before you understand all these,” I waved towards the frieze, “And examined every inch of these tunnels!”