I do not actually remember how I got to know Stephanie! We have, however, frequently exchanged words about being Malaysian, and being Malaysian-Chinese. We both vied for a spot in Crossed Genres’ Eastern issue (she won with The Last Rickshaw!) and now we both have stories in Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories! She hails from Melbourne’s SFF scene, which I know pretty much nothing about, so I will let her talk about it.
Stephanie! How did you get into steampunk?
Jaymee! I just kind of fell into it. I’ve always been into SFF, and I love alternate realities, and science and technology, and steampunk appealed to me as a way of combining all of my favourite things, so I started dabbling in it. Then I think I found your blog and it sucked me all the way in to steampunk.
What is steampunk like over there in Australia? Is it big? Is it small? Growing? Is it a literary trends, are there gatherings for me? Tell us o stranger from an arcane land!
Let me tell you, it is HARD WORK being an antipodean, way distant from everyone else, and needing to get people to proof and say whether my story is too Aussie to be understood. HARD WORK INDEED.
Steampunk is growing in Australia. There are a lot of readers and writers, and as a community we are definitely growing, if the number of panels being run at cons (and the number of people attending) is
anything to go by. There’s nothing separate happening, mostly it’s just a handful of panels at Swancon and Continuum, but I think we’re moving towards maybe a specialised gathering or two.
I think within the SFF community it’s gaining greater traction, but I’m not super sure it’s growing at all outside the community.
However there is not a lot of Australian steampunk set in Australia, and that’s something I’d like to see change.
The Aussie steampunk scene sounds very literary-based! Is there a cosplay contingent, or a Maker community at all?
Ickle tiny cosplay contingent, mostly made up of literary types. There is a bit of a maker community but it’s not very big (it’s very pretty though!). Steampunk itself in Australia is still basically nascent!
What was your first impression of steampunk?
The potential! There is so much room for exploration and experimentation in steampunk. I think steampunk that spends all its time focusing on recreating and glamourising Victoriana is frittering away the opportunities for interrogating issues and creating awesome things. Yeah we can do these things with every-day SFF, but the conceits behind steampunk give us the opportunity to make more of it, and to play with different things, and to play with real world history and politics without resorting to blue people.
How do you do steampunk?
The South-East Asian way. Lots of water, lots of makan, Chinese airships coming down the straits and exploring opportunities on the peninsula. I want to use steampunk to interrogate our colonial past at
the same time as creating beautiful visuals.
I also want to start writing about a steampunk Australia. As with writing a steampunk S.E.A., it’s not just Victoriana and bustles. Can you imagine an age of steam in a country like Australia? I want a steampunk Australia to look at the issues of colonization and Terra Nullius, and to take into account the fact that we could never have done steam. I think of it as sand punk. And it’s awesome.
Do you feel the Australian steampunk scene leans towards reproducing the same Eurocentrism that North American steampunk currently does? As in romanticizing the Victorian era, re-imagining some fake time of innocence and exploration, or does the discourse among your literary type point to a different vision of steampunk for Australia’s growing scene?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I think that Australia’s non-SFF literary history (and even our SFF-history) predisposes us towards Eurocentrism anyway, so I don’t think it’s surprising that there’s a
lean there. But there’s definitely a growth into a different vision for steampunk, one that landscape-wise and theme-wise, is very clearly Australian.