reposted an very good article from steamfashion
into the midlantic_steam
community. I believe that this post about the new costuming trend in fandom (which some are already complaining about) reflects an issue that's been around for a long time. With notations and edits, here's my abridged version of the post:
Rule One: Steampunk fashion is a real-world reproduction of the clothing that is or could be found in steampunk literature. It's that simple. Note the phrase "could be" in that sentence.
Rule Two: When in doubt, dress Victorian and then add. Here's a nice simple baseline. Again, that's baseline, not Scripture.
Rule Three: Steampunk fashion is about creating an [entertaining] outfit [...]. Never feel obliged to take away from the style or appeal of an outfit simply because you fear it will be "not steampunk enough." There is no "steampunk fashion bible", and attempts to create one should be ignored.
Rule Four: There is no "steampunk color." Some people have claimed that steampunk is only brown, or only black, or only white, or only light, or only dark. They are wrong. In reality, Victoria herself may have stuck to black, but the rest of the world didn't. And we're not exactly recreating reality here anyway.
Rule Five: You are allowed to like other genres. If you like a style of fashion that does not fit into steampunk be proud of it. This is not One Fandom to Rule Them All, any more than pulp SF, Trek, anime, B5, fursuiting, Galactica, or Firefly were. It is a way for like-minded individuals to have fun.
Rule Six: Have fun and be yourself. That's what this is about. Don't feel compelled to conform with everyone else. Fandom needs individuals and noncomformists. You didn't join the counterculture just to find a clique within it. Express your vision!
I often feel that there are too many rules, too many pecking orders, too many boundaries in fandom. Perhaps some of them evolved from guidelines intended to help the socially unskilled from being complete jerks. But I think much of it comes from people's natural tendency to find a leader and be part of a movement, safe inside something bigger than they are. But fandom's roots are in dreams, imagination, and fun; and when a leader intentionally or unintentionally suppresses that in service to his or her own vision, it's a mistake.
The very first group I hooked up with, Starfleet
, had ranks imitating its fictional namesake. The idea was that these ranks would reflect a recognition of service to the club and a responsibility for the club's operation. But some of the fans decided that the rank gave them paramilitary power, and that they could make decisions for the other club members. This caused enough trouble that, eventually, Chapter Chairpersons were specifically advised to downplay the "rank" structure in chapter activities.
Conversely, my own first chapter, and the ones that followed it, encouraged personal uniforms of the fan's own design; ran role-playing sessions in which anything that could be shoehorned into the Trek
universe was allowed; and treated 'ranks' as a subject for silly wordplay. (Woe to my first chapter chairperson when she attained the rank of Rear Admiral.) We did massive damage to Paramount canon in those days, but boy, did we enjoy ourselves.
I suspect that the modern preoccupation with the 'right way' to be a fan is partly the Internet's fault; by making it so easy for a fan to find people who agree with their point of view, the 'Net made it less necessary to learn tolerance and even appreciation of the fen who didn't quite. But it also offers more exposure to new and different ideas, and opportunities to have more fun and meet more people, not to mention more places to buy cool costume and accessory stuff, so there's no point in technology-bashing.
Recently, I've had the privilege of visiting some cons willing to relax the boundaries, ditch the unnecessary rules, and throw wrenches into the artificial fan heirarchies. I love this, and I think it's beneficial to nearly every fan. So at the next con you attend, help bring some craziness back; wear a hall costume, cheap or fancy, and wear it your way! Wear a leather miniskirt with your Galactica
uniform; furry ears and tail of a species unknown to real or speculative zoology; an anime costume where the fabric choice and sleeve length are darn well inaccurate, thank you; or, horrors, a steampunk costume in red and silver! Sure, some small-minded person may write something insulting in their blog when they get home.
So what? You're having fun.