‘Vintage Tomorrows’ Documents Steampunk and Its Changes


Vintage Tomorrows is a documentary featuring one of the most imaginative sub cultures within the geek community: Steampunk.

Director Byrd McDonald Still 1. Courtesy of Magical and Practical

Most people at comic conventions or Renaissance faires have seen Steampunk. People outside the geek community have experienced sort sort of Steampunk in the form of corsets and goggles. For everyone whose curiosity has been the sparked, the very questions begins with ‘What is that? What is Steampunk’?

Steampunk is a sub-culture of imagination and interpretation. The core ideas are to take Victorian era fashion and ideals and add the invention of steam. This has grown to encompass various interpretations on this theme to create astonishing fashions, gadgets, stories, and various other media. This i very simple, dry explanation that explains really nothing at all. There is no one source material, there is no one inspiration, nor is there one influence. Steampunk is a collection of inspirations manifested from a base of “what if?” What if women in the Victorian era not only the right to vote but also held offices of high command? What if dirigibles held steady with steam and gas were able to travel around the world? What if this restrained society of manners was visited by nightmarish creatures from the sea? What a robot was present for every facet in history? What if Victorian fashion had a corset made of steel?

Vintage Tomorrows is one of the few documentaries that begins an attempt true to the style of Victorian era. Around a dinner table, a question begins and the conversation flourished around the subject. This is a conversation shared between prominent public figures in the Steampunk community. Some of the people present were familiar and a personal delight to see : China Mievelle (author of  Perdido Street Station), Gail Carriger (author of The Parasol Protectorate series) and Cherie Priest (author of Boneshaker).

Steampunk Dinner at the Dahlia Lounge in Vintage Tomorrows. Courtesy of Magical and Practical.

The documentary begins with an introduction to what the sub culture is. Then it branches out to how it has changed people, how it has created a community, how it has inspired creativity and curiosity. There  was also a refreshing and  honest discussion of the “dark side” of  idealizing the Victorian era. The time was also rampant with colonization. Many acknowledged that this dark aspect may not be welcoming for those of diverse skin tones and different socio-economic backgrounds. As a person of both and a fan of steampunk this was a surprise turn of discussion. Since steampunk is ever flowing and changing,there are people of different backgrounds partaking and changing this. There are multicultural steampunk anthologies cropping up further thinning the connection to this historical aspect. Once again, it breeds a fascinating branch of “what if” and flows on.

Steampunk’s visual calling cards, the corsets and goggles, are also explored in the documentary. This segues into the heart of the movement and focal point of the film: the makers. Steampunk has allowed craftsmen, artists, seamstress, and other facets of the creative community to flex their mental muscles. A favorite adage that is repeated throughout this film is that “the past is used to look forward.” Discarded objects can be re-imagined into flame throwers. Pieces of vintage clothing can house gears and sprockets. If it can be imagined, it can be created. This is the powerful beating energy of the community.

Andy 'Playarazzi' Pischalnikoff in Vintage Tomorrows. Courtesy of Magical and Practical.

The crowning jewel is the insane behemoth of a Victorian contraption named the Neverwas. This vehicle was premiered at a Burning Man festival years ago drawing the eyes of the public. The stories and memories connected to the Neverwas, encourage the community of steampunk. Neverwas in burning man is what steampunk is to the general society. The SUV cultures draws in people who desire a sense of being in a community. Once the basics are obtained, they emerge changed and onto different paths of their lives.

What is most appreciative about the film is that it adds more depth to an explanation of goggles and corsets. These people around the dinner table share their thoughts, their dreams, their aspirations. These are people of high intellect, imagination, creativity, and wit. Yet they are welcoming, encouraging and supportive of those who wish to read, listen, watch, or create something steampunk. It is a proud and definitive piece of work that helps to spread the steampunk aesthetic abound.

For anyone who is curious about the sub-culture of steampunk, Vintage Tomorrows is a great starting place.

Check out their website and join the newsletter for more information.

Shannon O'Hare in Vintage Tomorrows. Courtesy of Magical and Practical.


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