—Hi, Jaymee and Joyce. Welcome to MundoSteampunk.Net and welcome to Spain.
Jaymee: Hi from California!
—First of all, a few words about you. Who are you and why do you decided to create this anthology?
Joyce: I am Joyce Chng. I write science fiction and fantasy. Also a fair bit of Young Adult. I am Singaporean-Chinese. Why I decided to create this anthology? Because it is about time we see steampunk that speaks to us, that is relevant to us, and originates from the same region we are born in.
Jaymee: Jaymee Goh, at your leisure. I am a fictioneer, poetess, and academic of science fiction and fantasy—I’m best known for my blog Silver Goggles, which explores steampunk from a postcolonial perspective. Since entering the steampunk sphere in 2009, I’ve been working towards pushing a vision of steampunk that isn’t tied to Victorian England, but rather explores histories and technologies from all over the world, and the consequences thereof. In 2010, I published my first steampunk story, “Between Islands”, which explores how technology and industry would have evolved in Penang island (where my parents are from, a state of Malaysia, my home country) had the British not colonized it. But I can only speak to a piece of my own country’s history, and wanted to give the chance to other Southeast Asians to explore the same. Hence The SEA Is Ours.
Joyce: Steampunk has always been very Victorian English – the vision of a powerful British Empire comes through in steampunk, especially with the fascination in corsets, gears and Anglophilia. However, for countries that have been colonized by Britain and other so-called world powers, the experience of power is different, in that colonies end up with the consequences of colonization. Colonization removes indigenous heritage, histories and languages. Then again, there are people who were born after colonization and experiencing the legacy. Many of us are hybrids and for many, still in the process of searching for their identities or trying to negotiate through the discomfort of being in two worlds. I think the new vision is important, simply because it gives marginalized people a voice.
Jaymee: I have to disagree, having been involved in steampunk for the last several years! This isn’t a new vision—ever since the zeitgeist began, there has always been non-Victorian takes on steampunk. It’s not talked about often, but it’s definitely been around. Can you call something that’s been around for years “new”? I think not! Ay-leen the Peacemaker and I have been presenting alternative visions of steampunk since 2010. And we keep doing it, because it’s imperative that we fight against the tendency to assume that history begins with European colonization across the world, or that nothing happens in the world without Europe. I push something a bit more radical than multiculturalism, which is polycentrism, where a plurality of voices is emphasized in the building of our shared world. On a scale larger than Joyce’s important point about the negotiation of identity in colonized spaces, it is very important to re-consider how history has been presented to us: how we think about history determines how we think about the present, which in turn affects how we imagine the future. To re-imagine history is to set a vision for the future. Re-thinking the past sets a course for the future that is more self-aware, more truthful, and thus more able to address the injustices of the world. The world is multicultural, and fiction is most powerful when it draws from reality; the best steampunk stories always rely on being true to history, or histories, as it may be.
—Steampunk World, Ácronos. Vol. 3 or The SEA is Ours... These books made me think about those problems that are still present in our century. Your viewpoint of Steampunk is very useful to think about it, right?
Joyce: Yes, indeed. I guess we wanted readers to question what steampunk is. It is not just cosmetic and superficial decoration of body and self – but it’s something deeper too. Also it’s not just gears and airships.
Jaymee: If it were not useful, we would not advance it. Consider that in many ways, our technological changes mirror the changes of the 19th century: advancements changing how people think about tools, affecting daily life in due process. The rise of the factory led to the exploitation of the worker, still a pressing problem today; the mechanization of manufacturing dropping the costs of goods, affecting how we think about class divisions, now intensified through globalization; the digital information age of today changing how we conceive of our identities and find out about the rest of the world mirrors the rise of print culture, literacy, and nation-building processes—these are problems which we address through steampunk. The gears, the fashion, the art is all very pretty, and we must all have our trivial pursuits, but there is so much more to the world!
—When I talk about it with other steampunks (Internet, social networks, conventions, panels…), they often say this is not steampunk. Sometimes, talking about Spanish steampunk make people laugh. “It is impossible. Steampunk outside the British Empire… It cannot be steampunk.” What do you think about it?
Joyce: That to me is just plain rude and awful. How can steampunk be just White and British Empire? To be honest, many steampunks are stuck in this horrible rut and are unable to see out of it.
Jaymee: They are wrong and thus irrelevant. The British Empire is not the centre of the world any more than China can legitimately claim the title of the Middle Kingdom these days. If these people want to keep their steampunk British, when they have no obligation to, that is their problem, and I wish them joy of their narrow vision! But for the rest of us, we must be like the Cheshire Cat, and believe in six impossible things before breakfast each day.
—So, what do you think about the actual situation of the community? How do you feel it?
Joyce: I think the community has to accept that steampunk is not just an aesthetic but also something more nuanced than that.
Jaymee: Steampunk, being an aesthetic that appeals to different kinds of people in different ways, has many, many communities. Some are wonderful, others less welcoming. My problem with most of them is the desire to seek validation through the mainstreaming and commercialization of steampunk. On the one hand, it leads to more steampunk merchandizing to buy and consume, and legitimizes it as a fun hobby to have; on the other hand, it short-changes the artists in the community who find themselves part of a competitive market that is always clamouring for the next novelty item.
—The SEA is Ours has not been released yet. There is a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo, right? How can we help, and how can we buy it?
Joyce: Signal boost, talk about it, tell people. Donate!
Jaymee: You can actually place an order for the book itself through our IndieGoGo campaign. It’s a nicer alternative to the evil that is Amazon, and donating to the IGG is better because the money actually goes to paying the people involved. Plus, you get fun perks, like more ebooks! The short URL is <http://igg.me/at/TheSEAisOurs> We have a reward tier for international shipping of the paperback book, if the ebooks were not enough for you. If you are a bookseller, you should contact our distributor, IPG, for further details. I understand that Mundo Steampunk has the review copy and you are enjoying it—reviews of the book that encourage people to buy it are very wonderful! (We are also looking forward to what you have to say about it!) Encouraging people to Like our Facebook Page, sharing our tweets about the book, are all very welcome. We are both very active on Twitter and welcome the chance to chat with people from all over the world.
—Thanks you both for your attention. And thanks a lot for this wonderful anthology.
Jaymee: And thank you, Josué, for having us!