Today is the very first day of Steampunk Hands Around the World and I think that the best way to start is to interview the creator of the project: Kevin Steil.
Kevin Steil is the creator and editor of Airship Ambassador, the steampunk news and information resource website. He has been a guest and speaker at several steampunk conventions, presenting interviews, and panel discussions about the community, books, movies, and more. He has participated in "Vintage Tomorrows", a book by futurist Brian David Johnson and cultural historian James Carrott, as well as the documentary film by Byrd MacDonald.
Kevin is also the Executive Director and Curator of The Steampunk Museum.
—Why is steampunk important to you?
On a personal level, I greatly enjoy the visual aesthetic, the creativity of an elegant art form, starting with seeing Disney's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea movie when I was young. There is a richness, a substance to it all. Objects and design are not just functional, they are works of art just as they are.
Further, I love the stories - the future that never was, where technology happened earlier, and so did more enlightened thinking about people and culture. So many of our stories show the possibilities of what could be accomplished, and that one person *can* make a difference.
Steampunk, in its many forms, enables me to be inspired, to be creative, and to express that and more in ways that make me feel comfortably unique. Every story, art work and song, and even the philosophies and fashions, help question what is, and why, to better inform and educate my perspective and reasoning and try to bring about a better what-will-be.
One last comment about the importance of steampunk is that I have learned so much about so many things these last several years. There are some amazing individuals all around the world who are fascinating for what they believed and did in the 1800s; and who never made it into our school history books. It was an age of exploration and discovery, and it is truly amazing what individuals, communities and cultures achieved with the tools they had at hand. The world at that time was more amazing and interesting than any movie interpretation could show and far more substantial than any stereotype might convey.
—Why is the steampunk community important to you?
Our global community is just amazing in its diversity on all levels. Each person brings their own view and expression of steampunk to the table. The influences of regional culture and heritage add extra texture and meaning. There are so many amazing people in our community and so much that we can learn from each other. It might be a single tool tip, or a suggestion of what to read, see or do, or it might be a full blown introduction to something brand new that is insanely spectacular. At the very least, we can learn more about people, and ourselves, and hopefully make some new friends along the way.
—Why do you create Steampunk Hands Around the World?
It is meant to be a celebration of all those things mentioned above - the people, the knowledge, the creativity, the wonder, and especially the friendships. There are so many stunning and magnificent examples of our global community that it seems like a bottomless well of motivation and insight. There is something new to celebrate and enjoy every day.
Some people want to limit their involvement and expression within the steampunk community, and that is fine for them, but I want to revel in each new incredible item from anywhere in the world and in turn, keep expanding my thoughts of what could be possible.
Steampunks are some of the most astoundingly creative people I have ever met, and THAT is something we should all celebrate together!
—Why are you so active in the community, creating what you do?
The simplest answer, I suppose, is that it all feeds my soul. On one hand, it is fun, and interesting, but on the other, what I do plays on my personal strengths and things I like to do. I want to know everything and in turn, I want to share everything. A perpetual student and teacher, investigator and news source. Essentially, it makes me happy to be involved and do what I do, and hopefully, other people are enjoying the fruits of my endeavours, too.
It is addictive, really. As I learn about something, the more I want to learn even more. Knowing something is an enjoyable goal in itself, but for me, it is even more fun to share that knowledge with everyone. Also, being involved spurs my own creative thinking, and it becomes a self sustaining loop - one idea leads to another and another and then twenty and then a hundred ... creativity doesn't stop. It's like water, finding a way through or over or around. Even when it seems stopped, it keeps growing in size and potential, until at last, the obstacle surrenders and creativity can be fully expressed.
—What benefits do you see others and yourself gaining from being part of the community? How has steampunk affected, changed, enhanced your view of the world, the people in it, and your place in all of that?
The biggest benefit for me has been learning. It is not just the history, and how-to tips, but rather, and more importantly, about people, and myself, how we are the same and different and somehow make it all work together. Everyone comes with their own set of issues, experiences and limitations, as well as our strengths, and I've seen in our community how all of that becomes a source of strength and self-confidence. Everyone one of us is strange and unusual in some way, but generally steampunks embrace that kind of variety and make something wonderful from it.
Over the years, I have seen just about every gender identity, sexual orientation, relationship grouping, fandom-obsession, geekery, nerdity, and you-name-it first hand, up close, in person, and realize that all of those labels and identifiers create not just a person with a face and a name, but a friend, and a friendship worth exploring. I have benefited in countless ways seeing the world and experiences from another person's perspective, and from that working to change or adapt to be a better person, live a better life, and help create a better world.
And all of that helps with all the people I meet who are not yet part of the steampunk community. Family, friends, co-workers, strangers - what I have learned from steampunks and the community is something I can use in the rest of my life to better understand people and interact with them better.
Also, with the help of technology, the world has indeed become a smaller place. We can talk to other steampunks who are literally on the other side of the world, instantly and easily, via text, audio or video. Distance is not a boundary and we can be an immediate part of someone's life no matter how far apart we are. This also means that we become connected to each other's world.
—Let’s talk a few words about The Steampunk Museum. What is it; and, what do you want to create?
Given my innate desire to know everything and then share it with everyone, everywhere, The Steampunk Museum is my effort to document all of the remarkable people, events and artifacts of our global community. Even though the community is relatively young, we already have a significant history which is worth remembering and preserving for the steampunks yet to come.
Steampunk might be the future that never was, but our community's actions and contributions now really will create the community of tomorrow. A future steampunk is going to look back one day and wonder what things were like for us, right now, and of course, wish they were here. The Steampunk Museum is meant to be a resource to help inform and educate them. It's not just about recording names and pictures, it's about capturing the people and our experiences.
With that grand and lofty goal, I know I cannot possibly do it all myself and look to other in our community to help out in any way they can. We have a whole growing and evolving community to document, and hopefully along the way, we can share with others just how much fun we are having.
Like all my other ideas, the Museum started out as this tiny idea and has kept growing in so many different ways. It is just an online digital museum now, but one day, I would like to see it become a physical museum, a place of celebration and pride for steampunks everywhere.
—If you could package it as a gift and give it to others, what is your personal best, happiest, favourite moment in your involvement in steampunk?
Oh, gosh, so many great memories to choose from. It would have to be the sense of family and a family reunion that I feel when I attend a steampunk event, either online or in person. There are the people I know and can catch up with over a meal, the people I email frequently but only see once a year. And then there are all the people I don't know yet, who are just one "Hello" away from a great conversation and friendship.
That would be my gift to other steampunks - a connection to everyone else in our community, and an unending celebration of that connection. When we join our hands together in that friendship, we are going to reach right around the whole world.
Emilie P. Bush interviews Kevin Steil
and talks about The Steampunk Museum
Next day: Marcus Rauchfuß aka Traveler (creator of EuroSteamCon).