So this week, you might have heard from SyFy’s Blastr that steampunk is dead, and let’s face it — when it comes to really knowing what fans of Science Fiction think, you can’t really argue with the same people who cancelled Farscape, Eureka, and Stargate Universe to make room for reality TV and professional wrestling…
…but I digress…
From high profile blogs like Gawker to passionate fan sites like Stellar Four, the death bell tolled for my beloved genre of gears, cogs, and steam. It was all over. Time to dismantle the analytical engine, box up the boater hats, and put your goggles away. Steampunk, a genre created back in the Eighties due to a group of authors that challenged this boundaries of imagination, had officially been ruined, all due to a single music video from a beloved pop star.
My own response to this?
Seriously? Seriously?! Steampunk is dead because of a Justin Bieber video?
I think the guy who’s face truly is next to the definition of steampunk, Jared Axelrod, said it best:
“If having a teen heartrob play your sandbox ‘ruins’ it, then it probably wasn’t your sandbox to begin with.
If you haven’t seen the video, I insist you watch it. I will say this much — it’s a step up from Rebecca Black’s “Friday.”
Pip and I have stepped into the genre just this year, and we came in with our boilers at full with a podcast anthology and a book. We’ve been learning a lot since we dropped that first short story in Tales from the Archives, but one thing I’ve been noticing is a great divide whenever steampunk steps closer to mainstream culture. Whenever steampunk is introduced in mainstream venues, elitists ranging from steampunks who “know how it is properly done” to SMOFs (Secret Masters/Mistresses of Fandom) who have hated the sub-genre now that it is making its presence known at SF conventions everywhere cry “FOUL!” and proclaim that steampunk is dead.
Well, to you nay-saying asshats I say your arguments are completely invalid. Why? Because you — and if you’re looking around the table of geeks and wondering if you’re wondering who the asshat is, congratulations, you’re the wiener — are pointing out why we get persecuted and dismissed by mainstream culture.
Do we want steampunk to go mainstream? Of course we do. Think for a moment about the works in our genre that did so. Harry Potter. The Hunger Games. The variety of comics from Marvel and D.C. Sure, people sneer and call us “geeks” but the same people who persecute us are also tripping over themselves to get to the box office when the films adaptations are released. Steampunk, when you really think about it, is already mainstream as many of us have seen Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or even Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.
Then something like Bieber’s steampunk video hits (and no, I’m not going to call it Bieberpunk, as I have strong issues with doing that…), and suddenly the asshats scream “The skyship is falling!” and pretty much make rest of us look like utter rubes.
But what really torques me is how websites, fans, and those SMOFs who have wanted to see steampunk fail are so quick to proclaim steampunk is dead.
Ben Love said it best on Pip’s Facebook:
“Steampunk survived The Wild, Wild West. It’s going to survive Bieber’s Christmas video.”
Why are we panicking here, and why oh why are we vilifying Bieber? Chances are, one of his “peeps” got wind of this “steampunk thing” and convinced Bieber that this was going to be the look for his Christmas movie-music video tie-in. Or maybe Bieber is a fan of steampunk. Maybe he said “Steam-what?” when the video was pitched to him. We will never know, but the video is what it is — it’s a pop star trying to be trendy. There’s nothing we can really do about it except admire the fact that Bieber was trying something different because he was told “this is the cool thing.”
Yeah, mull that over in your brain for a moment, because there is a good possibility that was how all this went down: Bieber was told steampunk is the “new, cool thing” so let’s make a steampunk video.
As for steampunk being dead, I’m going to lay down a safe bet these asshats haven’t seen Hugo.
This morning, someone on Facebook questioned my classification of Hugo as steampunk, but this film features an automaton, a child genius with a penchant for D.I.Y. projects, a hidden world within a Paris train station, and a filmmaker who — with no prior knowledge or experience with filmmaking — built his own camera and became a pioneer in cinema.
Ladies and gents, that’s steampunk.
Oh, and did I mention this film sports some brilliant performances from Sir Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, Helen McCrory, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Sacha Baron Cohen? And this film marks a break-out performance from Asa Butterfield…a performance that helped him hand the role of Ender in the upcoming Ender’s Game film?
So, asshats, I see your Bieber video and raise you with a mother fucking Scorsese film! Call!
To repeat what Jared had said earlier — Maybe steampunk wasn’t your thing after all, if you think it so fragile a thing that a holiday music video is going to tear it down. Steampunk is not only alive and well, I believe that Hugo has given it a delightful shot in the arm. As the asshats read this and salivate at citing its less-than-impressive numbers at the box office, allow me to read off a few acclaims it has already received within its first month in release:
- National Board of Review: Best Director
- National Board of Review: Best Film
- Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
- IMDB: 8.5 out of 10 stars
If you haven’t seen this steampunked homage to the history of cinema, just go. Stop reading this, book tickets, and go. (I’ll be here when you get back.) Pip and I saw it on a standard screen and are still raving about it the next day; so if you find it in 3D, you are in for an experience. After you watch Hugo, come back here and tell me steampunk is dead. Go on. I dare you.
Suck it, asshats. Steampunk is just getting warmed up.