Last week an author tweeted that he thought of steampunk as “Fascism for nice people.”  Not surprisingly an awful lot of people took offence at this.  After all people identify themselves as steampunks and don’t enjoy being called fascists.

This is an author of steampunk novels, amongst others, although apparently he has said he doesn’t like them being called steampunk.  His publishers tried to make light of the comment.  They said that he likes to use his twitter feed as a “consciousness dump”.  That misses the fact that we have a law here in the UK which makes illegal the sending of a public electronic message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character contrary to the Communications Act 2003. There are at least three people currently jailed in the UK for this offence.  I would have thought that “consciousness dumping” is therefore a bit risky and they might like to encourage their author to avoid it.

Notwithstanding that incident.  Why might anyone wish to equate steampunk with fascism?   Let’s look at a common definition of fascism:

“Fascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology.[1][2] Fascists seek elevation of their nation based on commitment to an organic national community where its individuals are united together as one people in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry and culture through a totalitarian state that seeks the mass mobilization of a nation through discipline, indoctrination, physical training, and eugenics.[3][4] Fascism seeks to eradicate perceived foreign influences that are deemed to be causing degeneration of the nation or of not fitting into the national culture.” (Wikipedia)

Obviously steampunk is not a nation but is some kind of  international scene or sub culture.  In these days of the internet however it could be argued that we form a kind of nation – a micronation type thing perhaps.  It’s a stretch but we could concede this.

Is steampunk radical? Well it’s hardly mainstream but I am not sure it is radical.

Authoritarian?  Interesting this one.  There may be some people who would like to control steampunk.   An awful lot of my friends are quite the opposite.  We may espouse certain views and encourage folks to join with a particular behavioural code but it is hardly authoritarian.  Indeed there is a very strong movement to encourage freedom of expression and variety. (see my previous blogs which touch upon this subjecy.)  Is that “edict – you will be individual” actually authoritarian?

Ideology – there is no single steampunk ideology.  People have a wide range of different political views etc.  Indeed steampunk’s main forum Brassgoggles forbids discussion of politics (amongst other things) because it always turns ugly.  Hey is that the totalitarianism?   Playing Devil’s advocate though we do have our own “Be Splendid” campaign. (Be splendid in everything you create, how you interact with other people and how you present yourself.)  Could this be our ideology?

So “united as one nation”?  Well we could be working towards this with our  globalised nation.

“Connections of ancestry”  well this is a tough one since we see steampunk and versions of steampunk across the globe.*   Mind you our ancestry could be “the 19th century”.   People use it for their inspiration after all.  Shame the whole world had a 19th century though and all of it seems to be fair game for steampunks.

As for “culture”, well there is a steampunk culture.  It is not really one that is restrictive though since it is a culture of creativity and individual imagination as far as I am concerned but nevertheless a culture.

“Mass mobilization”.  Well we do have conventions and flash mobs etc.  Oh dear our picnic gatherings may actually be fascist rallies.

“Indoctrination”.  I have not seen any of this unless you can call people getting together, dressing as imaginatively and creatively as they wish (indeed celebrating the folks who make leaps of imagination and come up with new ideas around the theme) and encouraging them to have a good time is indoctrination.

“Physical training” – best skip over this one lest I offend many of my steampunk friends.  As for “eugenics” this is now however a proven fact…

Of course we do seek to eradicate foreign influences which lead to the degeneration of the nation.   Foreign influence such as poor behaviour.

I can see where the author was coming from now.   Oh dear he may be right!  If we ignore the anarchic nature of steampunks organisation, the emphasis on creativity, the inclusiveness and the international nature of the scene we really are all fascists.

It is of course preposterous.  I suspect that the author was actually stereotyping the scene as many people have done (see my earlier blog) and there are some commentators who have an axe to grind about politics and steampunk.  The psychologist in me wishes to point out that comments like this consciousness dump usually say far more about the writer than the subject they are commenting on.

Is that it? Does the author feel excluded from involvement in the fun aspects of steampunk and has made the classic “oh they are all evil anyway” leap of understanding?   He did have rather a hard time on a panel at the SFX weekender.  I am more than willing to extend an olive branch and invite him to The Asylum which just happens to be the largest gathering of steampunks in Europe and is well attended from across the globe so he can actually get a first hand understanding of what the culture is really about.

Well that is all for today.  I am off to a fascist rally – OK it’s actually a music festival for a wide range of alternative subcultures, including steampunk, but because we are part of it, it must be fascist…