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I wasn't sure I was going to post this review, because this was not a good book. But world, you deserve to know exactly what I thought about this book.

also mild spoilers (but I will keep it to a minimum, and they will mostly be general, and also you won't read this book so that's okay)

I had no plans to read The Windup Girl. I am not even going to pretend towards any sense of bipartisanship or willingness to go in to it with an open mind. From the outset, I was confident that I would be really annoyed by The Windup Girl, and I only read it because I found out it was the Swancon Bookclub book and was so astounded that I needed to make sure I was correct.

Wow was I correct!

Usually when I read a book, I take notes so I can remember things later, so nobody can take offense at my reading and tell me I'm wrong. I had so many issues with this book I didn't even need to take notes, I can open it to any page and point to a problem I have with it. Okay, any double page.

more details! )
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posted by [personal profile] yiduiqie at 04:28pm on 27/04/2011 under ,
Steampunk Style and Substance

I had so many issues with this panel, I wrote like three pages of notes. And there are so many frowny faces in my notes, which is not a good sign.

I wasn't totally sure what this panel was going to be about in advance, the write up wasn't super clear to me. In the end it was kind of a definition of steampunk, though less a definition and more the sketching out of a vague shape, which was cool.

Someone on the panel clearly had issues with computer technology. I have lots of quotes in my notes that steampunk is all about the "beauty of machinery that looks like machinery" and that the point of steampunk is that it lets you play with machinery that never existed, which I would totally dispute (eta: err, that that is the point, not that it can let you play with it). It was also described as 'stuff you can control' (in contrast to computers), which, again, I totally disagree.

There was an attempt at era definition of other things, diesel punk at 30s-40s and atompunk at 50s.

The discussion was mostly very white, very Victorian England. It was suggested that steampunk captures a deeper sense of Victorian England's society, capturing the imagination (though somehow not the real culture). Someone described it as "goth with colour" which makes me hmmmm. And also again obviously very Euro-centric. Apparently a lot of steampunk machinery is impossible (which I would also dispute), and apparently airships are the dragons of steampunk.

Descriptions of what counts as steampunk really bothered me, and this is why I think Towards a Steampunk without Steam by Amal el-Mohtar should be essential reading for anyone who is vaguely in to the whole steampunk thing. "Steampunkish" is often more steampunky than steampunk aesthetically, apparently, and when giving examples City of Ember was cited, as "it isn't an alternate Victorian England but it still counts." Such a description is, in its way, why we move towards a steampunk without steam. An alternate Victorian England shouldn't be the measure by which we count all steampunk things, we shouldn't be able to say something like that! Steampunk is not just stuff that comes out of Victorian England alternative universes, though people in the comments of el-Mohtar's post do try to suggest that.

What makes something steampunk is apparently the fascination with the devices, which I do kind of agree with, but it's also apparently velvet and structured garments (which, no), and finding another era exciting. "The injustices were just that more unjust" is a description which was given which makes me want to draw frowny faces over everything, because I feel like it's this sort of attitude, this nostalgia for some sort of past period, which erases current issues. I would contend that this is also another type of othering.

Someone on the panel mentioned how it (steampunk I guess?) doesn't mention imperialism/colonialism/how it's western-oriented, and Jeremy (I know who said it because my notes say 'jeremy :(') suggests that it is a "lazy attack" to say that steampunk glorifies colonialism/imperialism, as "most stories explore that." I have SUCH ISSUES with this assertion; although our community of 'steampunkers who critique' is growing, I think that it is a tiny subset of the steampunking community. Most steampunk texts make very little effort at interrogating the glorification of colonialism and imperialism and the erasure of us non-Europeans, and perhaps now is a good time to mention Jha's brand new article at Age of Steam, on Steampunk Postcoloniality, wherein people in the comments are totally doing some excellent erasing but Jha is totally awesome.

There was a little discussion of multiculturalism in steampunk, but when a panel spends most of its time talking about the aesthetics of Victorian England, I'm not really feeling convinced that multiculturalism is a big part, you know?

I suppose this is where we should be asking (in our panels at Swancon, and maybe at other Australian cons), is defining steampunk a sign that we're falling behind? Should we be looking at futurism or even something else?

Because I'm concious that this is all crit, here are some links on multiculturalism (and other things) in steampunk (you'll note how few they are):

and also my very favourite, Art by James Ng, which I would suggest you cannot deny that is Chinese Steampunk and it is amazing.
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Swancon is over! And I had a good time!

I wasn't sure I was going to go, until Emilly talked me in to it; now I am so glad I went. I had such a great weekend, met lots of new people and caught up with beloved friends. I networked/checked out stuff on both a work and a writery level, and had great adventures!

I spent a huge chunk of time just talking to people. I attended a record four (four!) panels on Friday (four is usually the amount of panels I attend over an entire con), and I was even on a panel at one point! and I purchased a lot of books (and some other things). But most of the time I was sitting in the bar/lounge, chatting with people. It was super awesome. (I do wish, though, that people would feel less entitled to ask certain types of questions; and take the hint when I don't want to talk to them)(interestingly, when I genuinely like the person but it's just an inconvenient time I can outright say 'I'm sorry but I can't talk to you right now, let's talk later' but when I just want to avoid the person I can't bring myself to be so blunt. hmm)

A list of books I purchased:
  • Nightsiders, Sue Isle
  • Love and Romanpunk, Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Eona, Alison Goodman
  • Cold Magic, Kate Elliot
  • Sprawl, ed Alisa Krasnostein <--so excited!
  • and a super old-school illustrated copy of The Dream of the Red Chamber
Also many people complimented me on my hair, which was nice, and I debuted my new jacket which got lots of compliments, which was also nice, except it's also very Chinese so I'm worried it got compliments for the wrong reasons.

I became addicted to Twitter. Maybe there's an actual post in this, but I began regularly checking out the #swancon and #natcon tags on twitter, and I think it was Hespa who said it's such a different experience attending a con whilst using a smart phone. There's so much more to pay attention to! And now I keep checking the hashtag to see if there's anything left that anyone has posted.

A lot of the food I ate was in my room: Emilly and I had walked up to Fresh Provs and supplied ourselves with bread and this really delicious fruit spread and snacks and things, and I mostly ate sandwiches at lunch during the con. This proved a good advance preparation, as there was nothing but wedges and chips that I could eat at the hotel. Incidentally I really enjoyed staying in the con hotel, it's the first year that I did it and I really liked the flexibility it gave me in terms of attending things and veging and running up to my room for my tentacle pillow/my sketch book/to put my shoes on. The hotel itself was not great, there were mobility access issues and the hotel was woefully understaffed. And also single flush toilets everywhere!

Proper Care and Feeding of a Fraggle

Thursday: no actual Swancon things, though I did catch the train down to Murdoch and had dinner with Sheebapants (and gave her my con-bag copy of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms).

Friday: I made it to one session in the Edustream, 'What TV did to me', 'Imagining better presents from worse tomorrows: using SF in sustainability studies' and the panel for the SF Bookclub, wherein they talked about The Windup Girl, which as you all may or may not know I loathe a lot (more on that later). I also ended up on the panel 'Cylons, Bajorans and the 5th Column: Terrorism, Freedom Fighters and Resistance Movements in SF.' There were heaps more panels I had planned to make it to on Friday, but I'm pretty sure I got distracted by sitting around and chatting with people, which was nice anyway.

There was only one panel I wanted to attend on Saturday (Dolls of Desire: Man's unnatural selection of the perfect women' which apparently was really good), but instead of doing that I went on a hunt for a new french-cuffs shirt (success) in Perth's CBD op shops, and then I went ice skating with C. And then for once I actually attended the masquerade, AND I looked fierce, AND I went to a room party! But we don't talk about room parties.

On Sunday I attended one panel on purpose (Steampunk Style and Substance) (several blog posts to follow, I'm not kidding) and one I sort of fell in to (a vid panel), and had lunch with my parents (at Lotus) and trekked out to the wilds of the Armadale line to visit the ex-laws. And then spent a lot of time drinking cocktails and getting hugs in the lounge. Also I had the shakes. Combination not enough sleep/too much caffeine?

Monday I played a lot of blokus and drank some tea, and Vi came to visit so we played some more blokus and she beat me! I managed to miss every panel I'd planned to attend.

After the con finished, I finally made it to Utopia for crispy mushrooms and salty fried (vegan) chicken and for once in my life, I had no one to fight with for the final spicy hou tou mushroom cashews.

I spent Tuesday morning hanging with Emilly at the hotel before my mum came and picked us up and dropped her off at the airport. I progressed up to the parental house, where I started going through boxes of my things, as my parents had requested of me. I have found a massive pile of stuff that I think I could sell at the Swancon auction, and I wish I had realised this earlier. Now my parents are going to have to put up with this stuff for one week less than another twelve months.

A sampling of wares I found in my parents' house:
  • a Star Wars Darth Vader Tie Fighter model kit
  • a Dick Smith Electronic Kit
  • a Buffy figurine with crossbow and bible (in package) (I would sell this for way less than this year's $15 average)
  • hilarious kiddies battery operated 'Old Smokey' train set(AMAZING)

ANYWAY SWANCON: GOOD TIMES. Panel summaries / rants / word rambles tomorrow.


ETA: swancon #2: steampunk style and substance (a panel)


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