Springingtiger's Blog


G.U.E.S.S. Who Went To Rai Con?

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“I always dress like this,” I said, “apart from the goggles, the puttees and the gun”. I was at Rai Con the Anime and Manga convention in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall with the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society and someone asked about our costumes.

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I have never thought of myself as a cosplayer and I suppose I’m not. Most of the amazing costumes on show today were modeled on specific Anime characters whereas the Steampunkers were expressing an ethos. The Steampunk ethos is an alternative world where the technology and dress of the nineteenth century fuses with our age and continues into the future.

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Of course many of the stories of Manga and Anime are set in the same sort of ethos, but the cosplayers captures a specific character rather than just evoking the ethos. However some people manage to do both, capturing a specific character who embodies Steampunk or alternatively Steampunking a specific and recognisable character to provide it with a fresh nuance. In fact it is possible to Steampunk any character, historical or fictional, into an alternative version, that’s is very much what Mark Twain did with the Court of King Arthur. It is creating a possible future or past that could have happened, but didn’t in our dimension; that might happen, but possibly won’t in our time line.

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Too much of modern science fiction is rooted in a vision of a dystopian future. The Steampunk ethos is more positive, we are not compelled to fight against intelligent machines bent on our destruction. Our machines, even the navigational computers on our spaceships owe their character more to Heath Robinson and Jules Verne than to Steve Jobs and Isaac Asimov. Steampunk is rooted in optimism and a celebration of human creativity and innovation. When we fly into space our craft is as often as not Firefly class.

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As I have hinted my usual dress is not too far removed from Steampunkery, it’s the way I am and I’m not the only one. However I was stunned and inspired at the work and craftsmanship of the cosplayers today. I never knew you could make permanent tears with a hot glue gun and attach them with eyelash glue (I didn’t know there was a special glue for eyelashes!). I love the imagination that can take everyday objects and turn them into wondrous things, and take the imagination of animators and cartoonists and recreate it with their tools and sewing machines.

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If we appreciate innovation, creativity and imagination we will not dismiss cosplay as an irrelevant hobby. It is the exercise of creativity upon which our alternative futures will be built. And it is the sort of creative imagination that makes the alternative possible.

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[…] the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society leaflet says ‘goggles are not essential’. I suspect the first thing mention of […]

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