Dr. Mike Perschon on the freedom of steampunk

June 14, 2019 | Arts & Culture, Society

People get into steampunk for different reasons. There are people who are attracted to the fashion or the literature, and then there are the makers who are all about tinkering and crafting. But they’re generally attracted to it for the same reason – it’s the romanticism of the pre-digital world. There’s something magical about a time when you didn’t need a degree in computer science to understand how an everyday object works. You could tinker and mess around with stuff and make it your own.

A lot of steampunk fans are – or were – part of other scenes, like goth and ren faire, or the Comic-Con world. But they got into steampunk because it’s a little less constrained. There aren’t as many rules about the aesthetic or your persona. If you’re goth, you’re limited to mostly black. If you want to go to Comic-Con and cosplay as Spider-Man, you have to look like Spider-Man.

But steampunk says do whatever the hell you want. You want to be a nobleman? Be a nobleman. You want to be a person who works at the airship docks? Go ahead and be that. You come up with your own thing. When I meet people at cons and they're dressed up I say, “What's your deal?” And they tell me everything about their steampunk outfit. It’s never just an outfit. There’s always a story attached. One guy showed me his backpack for going to the Earth's core. It had all these gadgets on it that did different things – he’d created an entire story around this character and this outfit.

There’s narrative icing on every aspect of steampunk, and so much joy in the creativity that goes into it.

– Dr. Mike Perschon, Assistant Professor, English

Mike recently published Steampunk FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the World of Goggles Airships and Time Travel, available through most major book retailers. He is also a guest of honour at the upcoming Pure Speculation Festival.

June 14 is International Steampunk Day

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