Springingtiger's Blog


I Won’t Sing The Asylum Blues.

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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.



The Glasses For It

 February is Steampunk Hands Around the World month hosted by the Airship Ambassador. The theme this year is Making Life Better. I have chosen the category ‘Personal Issues’ because Steampunk has added so much to my personal enjoyment of life.

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You should come along, you’ve got the glasses for it!” said my friend Brian as he informed me that the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society was going to participate in the Glasgow (Scotland) Style Mile Winter Parade. I hadn’t heard of the Style Mile and the existence of Steampunk as a thing had escaped me. A little explanation left me wondering how it had escaped me. I had the glasses, I also had a long association with waistcoats, cravats, bow-ties, hats and other sartorial eccentricities. I was at school when William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton were ‘The Doctor’. My school reading tended to be HG Wells, Kipling, H. Rider Haggard and Michael Moorcock as well as The Eagle and the Rover and Wizard. I loved the cartoons of Charles Addams and Heath Robinson. The school film club brought us films like The Time Machine, 2000 Leagues Under The Sea and Journey To The Centre of the Earth. However Steampunk had never impinged upon my consciousness.

I had accidentally retired early when I was made redundant at the age of sixty. I had time on my hands and so I wrapped a top hat in holly, put on my naval greatcoat, picked up my carved Indian walking stick and joined GUESS on the parade. I was unprepared for just how much fun I would have and how much entertainment we would give the public just by walking among them. I was easily persuaded to attend RaiCon a few weeks later, I had never considered going to a Comic Con previously and I had a marvellous time. Cosplay is another concept that had largely escaped my notice, but what a lovely welcoming group of young (well compared to me) people they are and they seemed delighted to have a bunch of Steampunks wandering around the Con.

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The Society’s annual general meeting came around and inevitably I went along and left at its end, the ‘Chief Engineer’ (Club Secretary) of the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society. No longer just a pensioner, but a pensioner with a purpose (besides my writing that is). As a representative of Steampunkery and of the Society I threw myself into Steampunk. I had been up until that point an E Bay virgin, but building a Steampunk wardrobe for every occasion can prove costly and I was on a small pension. I not only learned to use E Bay, but became a frequenter of charity shops and antique shops. I was forced to become creative and gradually more adventurous. I began by camouflaging with cogs, burn holes in a used Morning Coat. It was not too long before I had sewn myself a leather coachman’s hat from a bag of scraps bought online. I learned, as I went round charity shops, to look at things differently; I learned to see things not as they were, but as what they could be. Sometimes I bought things merely because they looked as if they could become something amazing even if I could not yet see it. I have even been on a workshop to learn how to use a sewing machine!

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I went online seeking ideas and inspiration on You Tube, Facebook and Google Plus, there are so many of us in cyberspace! Steampunks are very helpful and encouraging and some I call my friends even though we may not yet have met, and some I have. I was amazed to discover how large a community we are and how widely dispersed around the world. I was delighted to discover that many are ̶ like myself ̶ on the autism spectrum, finding in Steampunk an ideal outlet for their imaginations. I find Steampunk is a wonderful vehicle for communicating with the world and building a web of relationships. I now edit a quarterly (ish) online newsletter for the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society. From the last issue we have started to produce it in association with the Music City Steampunk Consortium of Nashville, Tennessee and hope to have increased participation from them as time goes on.

dscf2236There is something magical and inspiring about the internationalism of Steampunk. I went alone to the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln last year and had no problem communicating with complete strangers from all around the world. Those who understand Aspergers will appreciate how important that is. However I did not feel as if I were among strangers, I felt very much at home (in the evenings I was staying with my brother outside Lincoln which probably helped too).

There is so much to discover in Steampunk, culture, fashion, art, music, literature, amazing events. My days are never dull despite retirement. Also it opens the door to so many other new interests. In Glasgow we have the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, the world’s oldest operating music hall and I have become a volunteer in its struggle to preserve a unique cultural institution. I used to study medieval history when I was younger, now I find myself looking at the history of the Georgians, Victorians and Edwardians to inform my Steampunkery and of late I’ve been looking at the American West in the Nineteenth Century in a way I never did before (Bass Reeves…wow!)

Here I am in my sixties, on the Spectrum, with a whole new and exciting life open to me. I had expected, once the work dried up, to spend my time at home reading and writing and growing old. Now I’m like a child in some sort of brass and copper built Disneyland with a new wonder around every corner, a new adventure over the brow of every hill. Someday I may die by chronological inevitability, but I doubt if I shall ever grow old!

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Steampunkery and Politics

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Steampunk Superhero’s Cosplay

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.

fb_img_1464539054462.jpgThose 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.

DSCF2074I 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).

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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 india94-070and 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!



Newsletter Time Again


Now blogging must be put to simmer gently on a backburner. My writing focus for the next couple of weeks must be upon the editing of the second edition of the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society Newsletter.

What may readers expect this time? Hopefully there will be reports from the Society’s Officers (as yet zero received). There are TWO workshops, one on Steampunk goggle customisation from the Sky Captain, the other a fascinator by Ambika of Sundara Run. A review of what members have been up to over the quarter from Comic Con and acting as extras in July through to MCM in September via  another ‘Walking Workshop’. There will also be a report on the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln. There are also articles from Karen McKay and Iain Cameron and we have been promised a page of Steampunk humour (no I don’t know what that means either!).
I have a GUESS leaflet signed by all the members of Steam Powered Giraffe to be given away as a prize along with a voucher to spend at our favorite Steampunk stall, but a prize for what? You will have to wait and see or, to put it another way, wait until I’ve set the competition!
I hope the newsletter will be released by the end of October before NaNoWriMo begins in November. So no time to chat, I’d better get on with it!



GUESS Who Was At Rai Con Winter? 

The answer of course, is  GUESS: the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society. The great thing about Rai Con for provincial Steampunks is that it is another opportunity to dress up and raise the profile of Steampunk in Scotland. This Rai Con like the one in spring GUESS hosted a Steampunk Cosplay competition.

I know Rai Con isn’t as big as the MCM Comic Con, but I actually prefer it. It doesn’t have anywhere made as many vendors, nor does it attract such big names, but it has a more intimate and friendly atmosphere. The other thing  I like about Rai Con in common with the Glasgow Comic Con, also held in the Royal Concert Hall, is that it is so much easier to navigate. At MCM we missed things…most things because we didn’t know what was on where. It didn’t stop us having fun, but we might have had more. 

Rai Con is aimed primarily at Manga and Anime fans, many of whom come dressed as characters from their favourite Anime. What makes any Con memorable is above all the cosplayers, both for each other and everyone else. The program is very much aimed at promoting Cosplayand I went to two good panels: Mitch Gardiner on body painting and Nonas talking about wigs. 

Also on the schedule was our Steampunk competition sponsored by Victoriana for the Voluptuous Vixen who had a stall at Rai Con. I had the privilege of judging the competition and it was not easy because there were some great cosplays and outfits to judge. The last winner Mitch Gardiner reprised her ‘Rabbit’ from Steam Powered Giraffe, Iain Cameron another GUESS member’s outfit  featured his own craft work and custom paint work. I was torn, but in the end the prize went to ‘Steampunk’ Sally from Night Before Christmas whose cosplay had taken months of sewing and also featured body paint. However Steampunk is not only cosplay, but is also about a state of mind, a different way of relating to the world. Our two first prize winners so far have been cosplayers so this time we awarded a special prize to someone who is enthusiastically Steampunk and probably deserves a prize for fitting ridiculous numbers of goggles on a bowler hat, two and a half…well two pairs and a Steampunk monocle: Robert Alerdice. If anyone needs a stovepipe hat it’s Robert! 
Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society would like to thank the organisers of Rai Con for inviting us to hold the competition as part of a great event, Victoriana for the Voluptuous  Vixen for providing the prizes, the contestants and all those who came to watch. Next time it will be bigger and better just keep an eye on the Rai ConVVVIXEN, and GUESS Facebook pages.



The Steamimg Web

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When I started this piece I had thought to produce some sort of guide to internet sites for Steampunks. I have to admit to a gross naivete. I dare say someone might collate such a guide, but it’s not going to be me! I had to start again from scratch and I have despaired of ever completing it.

There is a question often asked and answered with as many variant replies as there are questioners seeking an answer. I will not presume to provide a definition, but I am interested in what Steampunk is in societal terms. Is it a movement?

I am a member of quite a few Steampunk groups on Facebook, but they have no formal relationship with each other so we are certainly not a movement like the Socialist International, nor an organisation like FIFA, but we are connected and we are international. So what is Steampunk?wp-image-135174496jpg.jpeg

Within Steampunk there are many organised (or more usually semi organised) groups. Many of them are, one might say, evangelical in intent; for example it is one of the goals of the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society ‘To promote the appreciation of the Steampunk cultural movement.’ Some groups exist primarily to organise events like the Victorian Steampunk Society who bring us The Asylum in Lincoln, and there are pages for Steampunk events all round the world. There is an incredible amount of overlap as I have discovered when clicking on various people tagged in pictures, many of whom I discover follow the same groups as I. I suspect that just as the internet has no central control yet connects people all over the world, Steampunk is a cultural web of like minded people. I was going to say eccentrics, however there are so many of us I am not sure eccentric is the correct term.

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Me with SPG (my life is complete!)

The GUESS Aims describe Steampunk as a cultural movement, but is it? I know there are people writing ‘Steampunk literature’, and comics. There are many Steampunk musical performers like Steam Powered Giraffe, The Cog is Dead, Abney Park, Before Victoria, Steampunk Stompers, Alice’s Night Circus; the list is too long for me to include it all, but when you listen you find that within Steampunk the music includes every genre from Jazz to punk rock and folk to cabaret. Perhaps there is no Steampunk music as such, but rather Steampunk is a sensibility that informs the music and also the literature, the poetry, painting that appears under the umbrella Steampunk.

To appreciate Steampunk we have to approach it with the mind of Sherlock Holmes and discover for ourselves the connections between its many parts. For example one might begin with one Facebook group like ‘Welcome To The Asylum‘ click on any name that is tagged into a photo and then check out the groups they follow. Of course if that feels too intrusive one could just search Facebook or any social network under the tag Steampunk to be presented with a plethora of groups to investigate. Were I to list all the wonderful groups I have discovered like White Rose Yorkshire Steampunks I’d be here forever there are so many, so have fun!

As for the question ‘What is Steampunk?’ I am more convinced than ever that it is dscf2243something I shall never be able to answer to everyone’s satisfaction, I shall be pleased if someday I can answer it to mine own.



MCM 2016

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Oh isn’t it big! I have never been to the big Comic Cons in the USA, but I am not sure they would impress me any more that MCM in terms of size. I was impressed at how quickly the entry queue at the SECC moved. We did not have to queue for long before we were in the 20160924_133240Comic Con. It was then that its shortcomings became apparent.

There didn’t appear to be any sort of program to tell people what was happening. I don’t 20160924_114634know whether there were any panels and if there were when they were. There was a meet and greet, I only know because I found it as I wandered about and I only know who was there by the signs at the tables, On a positive note there was a food court, over priced as at every event, but big and varied.

In the end I spent the whole day wandering around the stalls, taking some photographs, being photographed and introducing enquirers to the existence of the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society. I gather we had a dozen applications to be added to our Facebook Group from the weekend, which is gratifying. Unlike some of the smaller Cons there were a couple of Steampunk stalls, sadly Victoriana for the Voluptuous Vixen wasn’t there, but those that were were fairly reasonably priced. Of course as MCM is serving a wide range of genres it couldn’t hope to be as satisfying for me as a dedicated Steampunk Festival or Bazaar. Sadly most of the dedicated Steampunk events tend to be South of the Border so we have to grab what we 20160924_133338can up here. It was nice to find quite a few Steampunks wandering around several from South of the Border. Had the other GUESS members who took photographs uploaded them to our page they’d be illustrating this, in the meantime I’ll just use the few I took.20160924_144704

I was disappointed that the Rebel Con alternative Masquerade had to be cancelled because of the bad weather, particularly as it was the only thing that was happening whose time and location I knew in advance. It appears that the reason for the Rebel Con was removed by the accommodation of those who wanted to perform in the official masquerade…I never found out when or where that was!

It may sound as if I didn’t enjoy the event, but that would be wrong. I had a wonderful time. I just love the imagination and work that the cosplayers put into their Cosplays; creating outfits and accessories, intricate face painting, building EVA armour 20160924_122532and prosthetics, some had actually used metal…heavy, and learning moves, speeches and songs. It always makes me smile when confronted with a camera they drop into poses associated with their characters and then stroll off being 20160924_162415Iron Man, Batman, Sailor Moon or whoever they are cosplaying.

We were interviewed by BBC Scotland who were including participants’ comments in their piece about MCM on Sunday’s Good Morning Scotland. The item filled the last half hour of the program and focused very much on cosplay and included a fair amount about Steampunk with several references to the Asylum. All in all a very gratifying weekend, I think next year I shall go on both days.

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