Tag Archives: Steampunk

More on punk

I’ve long considered myself a punk, but I’ve never really been into punk rock. The seeming incompatability of this never bothered me, still doesn’t.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot more since getting involved in steampunk. A handful of us had been holding the torch for “keeping the punk in steampunk” for a number of years, which is finally starting to catch on, I think, but there was always this question: what the hell is punk then? It’s not music. Cyberpunk and steampunk actually seem like really useful lenses with which to understand punk, because they are so completely divorced from the rest of punk culture and certainly from the music.

People always talk shit on anarchists, or punks, for being critical without offering solutions. Laying aside the well documented fact that anarchists have been offering solutions for 150 years now… so what? Why is there anything wrong with saying “everything here is fucked” without trying to lay down some blueprint for what you would put in its place? Maybe rejection of the status quo is enough. As for what we want to put in its place, the answer is simply: “whatever we want.” A bit of foresight is useful, of course (and here I would suggest fiction as a good vehicle), but claiming to know what is good for everyone and everything sure sounds a bit vanguardist to me.

Aragorn! put up a good post about punk and anger a bit ago, cleverly disguised as part of a book review:

Punk rock was the perfect milieu for anger, because within punk rock anger went without question. If you were a punk (in the mid eighties) you were pissed off. You came from some variation of a shitty background and/or were so fucking intelligent that you suffered the mediocrity of public education prison life. When punk dried up (for me) it seemed like I suddenly had to justify my dissatisfaction in a way that I never did in punk. Being pissed off wasn’t considered appropriate behavior, in particular in the let’s change the world crowd. I didn’t understand this at the time and I don’t understand it today. I want to destroy the world because of the horrors that it has turned beautiful people into, because of the pain I see around me, and because of the constraints everywhere. (The desire for) social transformation does not come out of the end of an intellectual process by which I have determined the best approach by which to create the ideal form. I do not use logic to express my motivation. I use anger.

In anarchist circles this punk approach is hard to find. While you can find people dressed in the right clothes (punk, neo-punk, gothic punk, crusty punk, hardcore punk, ad nauseum) and people who come out of the “punk scene” their fashion and music tastes usually come out of a really different set of motivations than their politics. Usually these punk rockers (which I will differentiate from a punk aesthetic or value) take on anarchist politics as an expression of seriousness. “I might look like this (threatening) and use this (anarchist) word to describe my political philosophy but that actually means this (direct democracy, sharing, caring, lots of meetings, etc).” This becomes a cipher, only comprehensible through the process of participation…

I’m almost certainly guilty of this last bit.

I’m also not a very angry person. I can get riled up about injustice, and authority makes me kind of stabby, but I think what drives me is actually more of an aesthetic displeasure with the homogenity of the world. Maybe this is what makes me more of a goth than a punk anyhow. I don’t want to destroy the world, I just want to destroy the status quo. Even the way it oppresses people is trite.

All charges against the pittsburgh twitterers have been dropped!

Thank… well, thank the PR nightmare that was summoned in defense of these two. But Professor Calamity and his comrade have had their charges dropped. (see our original post on the matter for background). But Tortuga House lost the injunction that was preventing the police from looking through all their crap, which is irritating, and there’s still weird vague grand jury threats floating around. From Friends of Tortuga:

In the face of a PR nightmare, Pennsylvania authorities have withdrawn all charges against two members of Tortuga accused of using Twitter to aid protesters at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. At a hearing today, instead of oral arguments regarding a defense motion to unseal the secret 18-page affidavit authorizing the arrests of Elliott Madison and Michael Wallschlager at a motel just outside of Pittsburgh, the prosecution immediately moved to withdraw all charges against the two before the defense had a chance to argue its case. Although clear from the beginning that these charges were absurd based on the State’s very own laws, our housemates were incarcerated for 36 hours, had their van towed and belongings confiscated, and one house member was given $30,000 in straight bail.

The District Attorney and his spokesperson were at pains to explain why the State would drop all charges against these dangerous twitterists and of course, refused to admit that these charges were unconstitutional and a heavy-handed attempt to scare anarchists and others from protesting in ways unsanctioned by the government. Instead, the prosecution says they decided that pursuing the charges “would be unwise” after consulting other law enforcement agencies and because of other pending investigations. The secret affidavit authorizing the arrests in Pennsylvania is set to become public on Nov. 23rd. We imagine the Pennsylvania State Police will seek an extension to keep this document sealed—perhaps in order to hide the flimsiness of their secret evidence? However, no matter the reason, we will fight to unseal this document and we will not let the State hide behind sealed evidence, obscure innuendo, and other traditional tactics used by secret police.

Though it is a victory that all the charges against our two housemates were dropped in Pennsylvania, we cannot forget that there is still a mysterious grand jury and other “ongoing investigations” out there. While we may be free from criminal proceedings now, we are still under the threat of future charges/indictments. What these might be, when they might happen, and what cause the State has is, of course, secret. Although our only option is to wait and see, we refuse to let them go about their business ruining our lives in peace and quiet and will continue fighting them every step of the way.

For more information and updates, please go to friendsoftortuga.wordpress.com

SteamPunk’s Professor Calamity faces multiple felonies for twittering

Update: Professor Calamity on Democracy Now

SteamPunk Magazine author (and, honestly, the inspiration for SteamPunk Magazine) Professor Calamity is facing two felonies for allegedly running a twitter account. He has been accused of running a twitter feed of police movements during the Pittsburgh G-20 protests, protests for which the police are already being sued.

To add insult to felony charges, they raided his house in NYC for 16 hours, confiscating everything from hammers to computers to SteamPunk Magazine. Their lawyer has already convinced a judge to put a stop on the police searching of their personal possessions, because the raid is absolutely insane.

Okay, Steampunk, here’s your chance to prove you’re a community. Professor Calamity is one of our founding thinkers. Even if he wasn’t, he’s one of us, and he’s facing absolutely batshit bullshit charges and ought to be supported. I’m asking that we make this news, because it ought to be news. This is insane. Below is a report from one of the people who was present during the house raid in Queens:

On October 1st, 2009, at 6:00am, the Joint Terrorism Task Force (a union of local police departments and the FBI), kicked out the front door to our home—an anarchist collective house in Queens, NY, affectionately known as Tortuga. The first crashes of the battering ram were quickly followed by more upstairs, as the police broke in on 3 sleeping people, destroying bedroom doors that were unlocked.

Three more people, awoken by the most unpleasant means of bounding footsteps, splintering wood, and shouting voices, waited in the basement—their turn at drawn guns and blinding lights came quickly.

We put our hands out where they could see them. They ordered us out of bed. They wouldn’t let us dress, but they did put a random assortment of clothes on some people. We were handcuffed, and although the upstairs and downstairs groups were kept separate initially, we were soon all together, sitting in the living room, positioned like dolls on the couches and chairs. We were in handcuffs for several hours, and we were helpless as our little bird, a Finch we had rescued and were rehabilitating, flew out the open door to certain death, after his cage had been battered by the cops in their zeal to open the upstairs bedroom doors by force. We shouted at them, but they stood there and watched.

And they stood and watched us for hours and hours and hours. 16 hours to be precise, 16 hours of the NYPD and FBI traipsing through our house, confiscating our lives in a fishing expedition related to the G20 protests of September 24th and 25th. The search warrant, when we were finally allowed to read it, mentioned violation of federal rioting laws and was vague enough to allow the entire house to be searched. They kept repeating that we were not arrested, that we were free to go. But being free meant being watched by the FBI, monitored while using the bathroom, not allowed to make phone calls for hours or to observe them ransacking our rooms. Being free meant they took two of us away on bullshit summonses, and even though this was our house, where we lived, if we left, we could not re-enter.

Three of us stayed to the bitter end. Three of us stayed to watch the hazmat team come in to investigate a child’s chemistry set, to see them search the garage on an additional warrant, to sign vouchers for all the things they confiscated as “evidence”—Curious George plush toys, artwork, correspondence with political prisoner Daniel McGowan, birth certificates, passports, the entire video archive of a local media collective, tax records, books, computers, storage devices, cell phones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs, flags, banners, posters, photographs and more than can be recounted here.

The apparent impetus for this raid came over a week ago, when two members of our household were arrested, once again at gunpoint, in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. They are accused of being devious masterminds, of “directing” the rollicking G-20 protests, of using technology such as Twitter to “hinder apprehension” of protesters. The two were held on bail, one fetching the ridiculous amount of $30,000 cash, and released 36 hours later after the bond was posted. As of this moment, no additional charges have been levied against the two, nor against any other housemates in the aftermath of the raid.

As anarchists, we are under no illusions about what the State is capable of. We are not the first anarchists to have our house raided, and unfortunately as long as the State remains, we will not be the last. We are, along with other targeted individuals like David Japenga, the outlets for the impotent rage the authorities feel when they lose control, as they did during the G-20 in Pittsburgh. We, that beautiful we, that include Tortuga House and all who find affinity with us, refuse the rigid forms the authorities try and cram a world bursting with infinite possibilities into—He is not a leader, she did not act alone, they are not being directed. Repression is a strategy that the state uses to put us on the defensive, to divert our energies from being a proactive force and instead deal with the terms it has set. We will not lie and say this has not left us reeling, but as time and our dizziness pass, we know that friends surround us. Our resolve is strengthened by this solidarity, and we will not be deterred by this state aggression.

We wish to thank all of our friends and comrades who have stood by us in these difficult few days. Our lawyer filed an injunction on the raid the next morning (October 2nd) that was surprisingly granted- it forbids the authorities from fishing through our belongings until we head back to court on the 16th. In the weeks and months to come we will do our best to share developments as they occur. If you want to keep in touch or find out how you can help please email us at: tortugadefense@gmail.com.

SteamPunk Magazine #5!

So about six months ago, I stepped down as editor of SteamPunk Magazine, and my friend Allegra Hawksmoor stepped up. I’d left her with a big jumbled mess of contributions and such, but she got everything organized and has put out a fabulous issue of SteamPunk Magazine, Issue #5. It’s got all kinds of fun stuff, include DIY casting and DIY welding, a fiction story that explores the use of “they” as a singular pronoun (sure to cause some controversy), and wonderful essays, etc. Plus, you can continue to read John Reppion‘s Doppler and the Madness Engine. I’m happy to say that I’ve stayed on as layout editor, which was probably my favorite part of the whole thing. So yeah, you can download it for free, or of course you can buy it.

MAKE Magazine Steampunk Issue Reviews

The latest issue of MAKE Magazine is out, and it’s steampunk themed. (As I mentioned earlier.) Anyhow, just got a chance to peek through it. Aside from having my friend Jake Von Slatt on the cover, and featuring my co-conspirator Libby Bulloff posing in the interior, they have great reviews of two of my projects, SteamPunk Magazine and A SteamPunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse:

If there is truly a punk arm of steampunk, it resides in the collective of writers, artists, musicians, and makers that create SteamPunk Magazine … These guys have fashioned themselves up as the chaoticians of the steampunk world.


With the real meltdown of the global economy and a climate crisis, this book might be more practical than even its authors intended … Tongue-in-cheek sci-fi silliness? Anarchist wish fulfillment? Real-world survival guide? I don’t know, but I’m stashing a copy in the emergency preparedness kit just in case.

And that, dear reviewer, is exactly why I made the thing.

Love The Machine, Hate The Factory

Cory Doctorow has written an excellent essay on steampunk for the next issue of MAKE Magazine, which is also always awesome. This next issue is particularly exciting to me, because it is being edited by Gareth Branwyn, who was responsible for getting all us steampunks together last year at the Maker’s Faire in the bay. Oh, and it’s steampunk themed. And for once, hearing that something is steampunk themed doesn’t make me cringe.

I’m also just kinda excited, cause the name of the essay is Love The Machine, Hate The Factory, which is a phrase I came up with. And we sell patches of it over at tangledwilderness.org. Just sayin.

The Red & Black Ball!

Last night I attended the Red & Black Ball, a neo-victorian/surrealist/steampunk/anarchist bit of wonderfulness organized by the good folks of 2640. Almost everyone came in proper colors and in a wide array of finery, mostly DIY. It was hard for me, of course… black I’ve got plenty of, but red? My accordion is red, but I wasn’t playing. But what I’m getting at is that there were people of all ages and there was a seance and there was live, classical orchestral music being played by punks.

The world I want to live in has live classical music being played by punks, in case anyone was wondering. I wish that the event was a regular thing. After being into it for some years now, I finally understand why I love steampunk.