Short post tonight, as I’ve spent the day just reading and relaxing (AND FREAKING OUT ABOUT THE STUPID WATERMARKS IN TELESCOPE IMAGES THAT THE GOD DAMN REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA REQUIRE SCREWING UP MY RESEARCH).
As some of you, dear readers, may be aware, I enjoy carousing among the various steampunk hangouts of the internet, and making my own projects from time to time. One of the big bitchfests I see whenever someone posts some new steampunk projects is that it looks like you just glued some fucking cogs onto something. Now, I too find that a pair of plastic Nike sneakers with gold paint and strips of fake leather hanging off to be a bit straining on the imagination’s attempts to picture said artifact as something from an alternative industrial revolution. However, I think that the complaint is actually two complaints, cleverly mashed together into one ugly Harvey-Dentesque complaint. First, there is the complaint that the work is ugly. Now, we all agree that beauty is subjective, etc, etc. but the whole idea in having an aesthetic category like “steampunk” is that the things in that category share common features. And dripping hot glue is not one of those things. I would be glad to see a world free of ugly things! Secondly, there is the complaint that what has been added adds no functionality to the original item (or in the case of scratch-built items, is useless). Also, no complaints from me!
However, I think the complaint is only really fair if it is leveled at both aspects simultaneously. There are plenty of works out there (Jake Von Slatt’s keyboards are a perfect example) of beautiful modification that takes a mundane object and elevates it to a piece of art. And I don’t want to see that kind of work go away. There are also wonderfully clever bits of automata and other lovely bits of technology that are fiendishly clever at what they do, yet still seem a bit cobbled together. I don’t want to see that go away either. Prototyping is important, and often form must follow function.
So, if you find yourself burning with the urge to glue cogs to your hat, stop. Ask yourself: am I doing this to make it beautiful, or am I doing this to make it work better. If the former, it better damn well be beautiful. If the latter, it has to actually do something. Of course, don’t take this as a discouragement to go tinker! Just think of it as a bit of an explanation if people don’t fawn over your latest creation.