What is Steampunk

Gaslight Gathering

San Diego’s Steampunk Tradition


Everybody asks “What is Steampunk?” and outside of a copy/paste answer that still manages to confuse the interested and upset the elite, the only way to truly find out is to experience it yourself.

In San Diego we have a vision all our own with a talented Maker Community, Punk & Folk & Americana bands, vintage Victorian dresses, dapper gentlemen, penny farthing riders, mad scientists, and incomparable feminist heroes. At first glance you may think they’re your average Comic-Con attendees hopping into a “Cosplay” waiting in the hot sun for a celebrity autograph, but after you peel back the superficial layer of their dated clothing and clockwork accoutrements you realize these are the celebrities in a world unknown.

Photo Crdit: Varner Photography


Most of you know the Maker Movement, what it stands for on its own and what it hopes to achieve through its teachings of science and technology through innovation and invention. Now close your eyes, take that idea and strip away your notions of modern technology, cut the budget to zero dollars, replace the things we buy for making with the remnants of your unwanted garage sale items, and try to build a Victorian submarine with just your wits and a glue gun. The first time you try it, it’s maddening. The second time you try it, it’s a personal challenge. When you come back for a third try, you’re addicted to the idea of ingenious upcycling and before you know it you’re the center of attention at a Steampunk Symposium and the belle of the ball at the Maker Festival.

Photo Credit: Rae Wolf Designs


But the artistry and intrigue of Steampunk doesn’t stop there, as it has proudly spawned it’s own music and entertainment scene. “Chap-Hop” takes the beats of hip hop and rap, fuses with Shakespearean timing in tongue-in-cheek presentation as it explains the life of Steampunk and the wondrous worlds we wish to see in literature. Folk singers combine maker minimalism into walking 2 people bands that never need a stage as they take to the streets to entertain at arms length. Mad Scientists disguise themselves as magicians, using the art of reality to bend your mind with deception and vaudevillian humor. College professors become rock stars in top hats on podcasts as they explain the history of the world through the lens of a Neo-Victorian dream and present you a future that is all yours to make.

 

Photo Credit: Jerrold Ridenour


As you can see, Steampunk is a vast and expanding universe of limitless wonder and infinite creation. It allows us to become Vernian Astronauts, Victorian Fashionistas, Deep Sea Explorers, and writers of the unknown. It turns us from hobbyists to artists as we sweat through hours of creation to provide a glimpse into how our minds see the remnants of what was and to create the future of what we wish to be. To become Steampunk is to embrace ingenuity while representing the humbling lessons of history.

To be a part of Steampunk is as easy as attending your first Gaslight Gathering in San Diego. Every year these dreaming wanderers come together for Mother’s Day in the warmth of the California spring air to celebrate uniqueness. Fathers become children again as they don robotic armor. Mothers delight in the pamper of a weekend dedicated to their whimsical want to feel like an aristocrat sipping tea under the shade of a parasol. Children become explorers of the mind as they fashion bolts and brass under the tutelage of Iron Tailors, while Couriers of knowledge from the past tell tales of what could have been. When the day ends, these adventurers take to the night and convocate over cocktails and craft beers while Gentleman Rhymers and acoustic freestylers fill the air with music unheard until now.

In a matter of two and half days you could find a lifestyle that wears you just as well as you wear it, surrounded by a community that becomes friends and turns into a family known as Steampunk.