Good-Bye, Steampunk: Closing a Subculture Chapter

Before I throw more Amsterdam pictures at you (yes, of course there’s more) I thought I might do something else for a change.

Steampunk is something that didn’t feature for quite some time on this blog. If you’ve been here for a while now you might now that this wasn’t always the case.

Steampunk Boson by Ari Baker
My illustration for the Steampunk edition of Kurz & Geek

There was a time when – had I had something like it – my Instagram or Twitter bio would have had the word STEAMPUNK as a denominator written in them quite prominently.

There was a time when I checked everything about it’s steampunky-ness, when this was my main aesthetic goal. I was so excited for every new film, music video, book that came out referencing or straight-out being Steampunk.

There was a time when I was quite active in the Steampunk community, arranging and going to meets, writing in forums, illustrating for Steampunk projects, even throwing a one-shot LARP and publishing a podcast regularly for a big German Steampunk blog.

Aetherdeck by Ari Baker
I illustrated a whole card deck with characters from Steampunk novels

There was a time but there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then. I have trouble saying good-bye for good to projects, concepts, people and, well, subcultures I used to feel like I belonged to.
When I got into Steampunk the genre hadn’t arrived at the mainstream yet, and I mean that in an entirely un-hipsterish way. Everything was fairly new and unprofessional back then, and it was even acceptable to just put some gears onto things and call them Steampunk. There weren’t as many shows and anime and games making use of the genre but in a way it felt far more adventurous.
But this feeling can wear thin, and stretch, and feel unflattering and bad just like a t-shirt you used to love and thought you looked great in and now you stand in front of your mirror asking yourself why you feel just plain wrong in it and how you could ever thing this was complimenting your skintone.

And that’s exactly what happened. Together with a few interpersonal problems, exhausting projects and other issues in the subculture this was what started making me detest the whole thing. As if the mention of the word alone left a stale taste in my mouth.

Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy the aesthetic. I do know now that what I really love about it would be closer to Clockpunk or Stitchpunk, but I still like gears and grime and industrial revolution revolutions. The things that continue to go on my nerves are best summed up in this beautiful work of art by Terrible Writing Advice:

… and the people who come with them. While there are lovely people in the German community I had my fair share of run-ins with individuals I just couldn’t click with. And that’s okay but in the end this was what made me sever my ties with the Subculture. I had a hard time admitting it at first but when someone from the blog I recorded for years ago asked me to contribute to the 10-year anniversary celebratory podcast I faced it and actually said

No. I’m not in there anymore. I’m out.

And it’s fine.

I have no clue why this was such a big step for me but now that it’s done it feels like a good break-up, as if I got rid of something that was toxic for me (and by that I really mean for me, if you are in the community, if you enjoy it, for all that is good and magical, DO!), I feel lighter and shinier and brighter for it. I wouldn’t miss the time that I really enjoyed Steampunk and it brought me joy and good things, but I’m better now without it. I decluttered my feeds, left all groups on Facebook, and it feels good.

Did you ever mentally unsubscribe from a subculture, community or something else you had been dedicated to or engaged in for a long time? How did it go for you?

Have a wonderful week, and expect more Amsterdam pictures soon.

7 thoughts on “Good-Bye, Steampunk: Closing a Subculture Chapter

  1. I’m doing it right now, step by step. I feel like I’m doing it for years now, but it’s like waves – going back and forth. I guess, I’m noch ready yet – it still hurts.


  2. I totally see your point there. Over the years I slowly unsubscribed from the Tolkien Community. Just some weeks ago I looked at some of the old convention photographs from the early 2000s and remembered the good old times very fondly (including my very first self-made costume). But then in the later 2000s came RingCon and so on, where I never went and didn’t have much interest in, and so I sort of slunk out of the community.

    I still hope that one day I will manage to finally write my long-planned gaslight fantasy pulp noir story. Hopefully the characters will have more than just one character trait and nobody is wearing gears and goggles as a fashion accessoire ;)

    1. I think looking back fondly is an important skill, instead of just seeing the bad things. And as far as I know you Im pretty sure your gaslight fantasy pulp noir story will be pretty awesome. ^^

  3. I once saw myself as goth and I really tried hard to reach my goals when it came to “being a goth”… but back then I didn’t knew much about myself. I was also very lonely in this or in anything actually…. Anyway I definitely don’t see me as a goth anymore. I do love the gothic aesthetic, but that’s it. I don’t feel like I know anything about it anymore and I definitely don’t feel like wearing those outfits I was trying so hard to create back then…… Even though my personal aesthetic and style now can be a bit “gothic” sometimes, I don’t like using the label “goth” anymore on myself and I must admit that I feel very happy about it. I feel like after I let it go, I am becoming closer to who I am!!
    Also I have been trying to fit into subcultures since I was 14 years old… and I’m getting pretty tired of trying to fit into others view on how to act and look. Anyway I wish you luck and happyness with all of your decisions… also those where you have to say goodbye to some things. Hugs! <3

    1. Aww, thanks for sharing! I’m tired of trying to fit in somewhere, too, and while I long for a community I don’t think I necessarily need a specific subculture for that. I’m more on the track of a general aesthetic/lifestyle direction, I guess. ❤

      1. Yeah! I also think that even though I also sometimes long for a community, I believe that I get so much more from talking to individuals and get to know them better, than to try and fit into a whole subculture..:)

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