It all started this past winter solstice when Jeff's youngest daughter told us that she was going to be a dentist. Actually, what she said was that she guessed she'd have to be a dentist, because everybody knows you can't make a living as an artist. Our heads kind of exploded at that point, so what happened next was a bit of a blur. I vaguely remember sitting her down at the kitchen table and asking her why this sudden about-face -- she'd been talking about wanting to be an artist for the last several years which, for a nine-year-old, is almost a lifetime. I remember treading carefully, lest I inadvertently suggest that being a dentist wasn't perfectly okay, too, if that's what she really wanted. The world needs good dentists, after all. But what the world doesn't need is a grumpy, jaded dentist who's secretly always wanted to be an artist instead. That doesn't end well for anyone.
When my friend Carl McColman says that language is tricky, and that God is bigger than the limits of the human mind, we might imagine our words are just so many rigged-up rubber bands, paper clips and packing tape with which we are, MacGyver-style, trying to capture a wild and mighty wind. Yet our words are our own breath given form by our body and its movements, and where else have we drawn that breath but from the winds themselves? Our speaking is a shaping of the wind within us, released back into the wild to work its way into someone else's body, moving with the ebb and flow of sound waves, pressing in against their eardrums, stirring the tiny hairs of their skin. To talk about language this way is to break out of the metaphor of objects and containers, and to see words as experiences in themselves.
About two minutes in to exploring Steampunk as a counterculture movement, it dawned on me — this isn't historical re-enactment. It isn't about the past. It's about now, and the kind of society we want to live in, and the ways in which we want the world to work. It's playful, with room for both the burlesque and the gentile. Anyone who wants a title, can have a title. Anyone more drawn to the 'punk' aspect can play it that way. It turns out that there's room for anyone who wants in, and you don’t even need a pair of goggles. The surface of Steampunk offers a burgeoning fiction genre, an aesthetic that seems to be catching on all over the place, a music scene — sepiacore and chap hop, and no doubt more to come. There's a growing arts and crafts movement within the community, and there are going to be inventors, I have no doubt. There probably are already. Steampunk is about innovation in every area of human endeavour, and it's about doing good stuff, with a social conscience and a sense of humour.