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The memorial to the town of Africville. It reads "Landed Deeded 1848-1969. Dedicated in loving memory of the first black settlers and all the former residents of the community of Campbell Road, Africville and all the members of the Seaview United Baptist Church.

Africville was one of Canada's oldest black settlements. Founded by Black Loyalists who fled to Nova Scotia after the American Revolutionary War, the area's African-Canadian population grew after the War of 1812 along the Bedford Basin on Campbell Road, which was dubbed "Africville." Africville was never able to officially incorporated as its own town, and existed alongside the city of Halifax.

Africville faced systematic discrimination through lack of positive development and government neglect. Again and again, Africville got the shaft in comparision with the rest of Halifax, which reduced the area into an industrialized slum by the first half of the 20th century:
Throughout its history, Africville was confronted with much racial isolation. The town never received proper roads, health services, water, street lamps or electricity. Simple things all towns received, they did not. The continuing issues and protests for water and sewage, clearly show the relationship between the city of Halifax and the Africvillians. The lack of these services had serious health implications for the lives of the people, and the city's concerns for them was as existent as these facilities they demanded. Contamination of the wells was a serious and ongoing issues, so even the little water they did receive needed to be boiled before use. As the City of Halifax expanded, Africville became a preferred site for all types of undesirable industries and facilities—prison in 1853, a slaughterhouse, even a depository for fecal waste, from nearby Russellville. In 1958 the city decided to move the town garbage dump to the Africville area. While the residents knew they couldn't legally fight this, they illegally salvaged the dump for usable goods. They would get clothes, copper, steel, brass, tin..etc. The dump was the final pin in labelling this area an official slum. In 1870 Africville also received an infectious disease hospital. (source)


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Moses Mendelssohn

Throughout the Middle Ages, Jews who lived in Europe -- called Ashkenazim -- lived entirely separate lives from their Christian neighbors (who occasionally turned into their Christian persecutors). By monarchs' mandates, Jews were forced to live in ghettos (generally the worst part of a city), barred from most professions, and made to pay higher taxes. (One monarch forced Jews to buy rejected porcelain that his factories couldn't sell on all celebratory occasions.) Jews had to wear a yellow patch on their clothing and were frequently forbidden to travel or even leave the ghetto. The blood libel that Jews murdered Christians and used their blood for rituals became common, and entire communities were either forcibly converted or murdered because of it. Some countries expelled all Jews from within their borders, including England. The idea that a Jew could be noble or trustworthy was laughable.

Even without these restrictions on Jews, Jewish communities knew to remain separate from the outside Christian world: there's even a line from the Ethics of the Fathers that warns against getting involved with the government.1 To marry outside the faith was seen as an act of rebellion, of rejecting the basic precepts of Judaism, and those who did were considered dead to the community. Most Jews in Eastern Europe could read and speak Hebrew but not the language of the kingdom in which they lived: in their daily lives they instead spoke a dialect of Yiddish, reserving Hebrew for prayer and study. A relatively small number of Jews lived outside of the ghetto, protected by their position and wealth.

The state of Jewish thought in that time was relatively poor. While most men and women were at least literate in Hebrew in prayers, few had any personal connection to the words. For the most part, Jewish thought was learning by rote the sayings of the generations before them. The people frequently reverted to mystical beliefs and messianism -- most famously Shabbatai Tzvi, the 17th century mystic who many thousands of Jews believed was the embodiment of the Mashiach, the one who will bring about the redemption of the Jewish people. When in 1666 Tsvi was given the option of death or conversion to Islam and picked the latter, Jewish faith was thrown into disarray.

Jewish standing in the world changed perhaps irrevocably because of the Enlightenment, which preached -- for the first time in the history of Western Civilization -- that all people are created equal, including the Jews. Along with the Enlightenment rose a new movement, the Jewish Enlightenment, called the Haskalah, which comes from the Hebrew word for "intellect".

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Note: This is cross-posted with permission from Edwardian Promenade.

Excerpt from the September 1913 issue of The Crisis:

Mr. Harris's Grocery, Tacoma, WAMr. Harris's Grocery, Tacoma, WA

The characteristic of the Great Northwest is its unexpectedness. One looks for tall black mountains and ghostlike trees, snow and the echo of ice on the hills, and all this one finds. But there is more. There is the creeping spell of the silent ocean with its strange metamorphoses of climate, its seasons of rain and shine, until one is puzzled with his calendar and lost to all his weather bearings. Then come the cities. Portland one receives as plausible; a large city with a certain Eastern calm and steady growth. The colored population is but a handful, a bit over a thousand, but it is manly and holds its head erect and has hopes. Portland was the only place out of nearly fifty places where The Crisis has lectured that did not keep its financial contract, but this was probably a personal fault and not typical. Typical was the effort to establish a social center, to enlarge and popularize a colored hotel, to build new homes and open new avenues of employment.


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TempleCon, a retrofuturist gaming convention, has been running for six years, and I've been lucky enough to attend for the past two years. As a gaming convention, a majority of its programming is focused on huge, expansive gaming set-ups for all types: miniature games, card tournaments, LARPing, and tabletop RPGs. Most people usually spend their entire weekends in the gaming rooms, but for those who like to wander about, this year's TempleCon offered an array of other activities, including Tempest's bellydance workshop, costume & prop panels run by The Wandering Legion of the Thomas Tew, mulled wine & cider tastings, fashion show and costume competition, musicians such as Psyche Corporation, Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band, The Gypsy Nomads, and Eli August, and panels on writing, comics, steampunk, dueling, feminism, and of course, my own workshops on social justice issues. So, roaming the hallways as a zombie during the zombie march was equally as valid as playing Magic: The Gathering with your friends.

This convention had been particularly special for me though: on Saturday, I proposed to my fiancee. On this blog, I don't tend to talk about my queer experience as much as race & culture & steampunk, not because I don't see queer identities as relevant (in fact, understanding the intersectionality of all our experiences is an important aspect to fostering social change), but because the story, is, well, long and involved and deals with cultural (double)standards, racial exotification/invisibility in queer communities, and the ambiguous treatment of trans people and their partners in both straight and queer settings. Not to mention maintaining a level of privacy that any couple should be able to have. But the occasion like this isn't something to be taken lightly, and I really wanted to acknowledge the impact the steampunk community has had on a non-traditional couple like us. "A New Year, Another Beginning" is more of a personal reflection, concerning my ten-year journey with my partner Lucretia Dearfour and our experiences as a couple in life and as a couple within the steampunk community.

Also contributing to this con report is Monique Poirier, a previous contributor to Beyond Victoriana, who gives a run-down on her experiences on Saturday at the convention. Jeromy Foberg shares his time as a Volunteer Staff member for TempleCon, and Simon J. Berman, a game writer for Privateer Press, also stops by to relate his attendee experiences. Photographer Jessica Coen is also contributing her visual eye to our eventful weekend.

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Jack JohnsonJack Johnson

By the turn of the century, the color line in sports was firmly in place, but the charismatic and controversial Jack Johnson smashed this line with a firm one-two to the jaw. Though boxing had long roots, it was a fairly new sport to Americans in the 1880s, and though banned in many states, one law which was standard across the board was to deny black boxers the right to spar with white opponents. To circumvent this rule, many African-Americans traveled to France, where mixed-race bouts were not illegal, which is where solid contenders such as Johnson, Sam Langford, and Joe Jeannette built their reputations. This law was relaxed to an extent in the late 1890s, but black boxers were still barred from fighting for the world heavyweight championship. Jack Johnson refused to accept this restriction, and he worked hard to prove his mettle, winning at least 50 fights against both white and black opponents in 1902, and beating "Denver" Ed Martin over 20 rounds for the World Colored Heavyweight Championship in 1903.

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Hajji Baba enjoys the company of Zeenab. After Ḥabl al-matin Persian tr., Calcutta, 1905, opp. p. 142. Caption & Image courtesy of Encyclopaedia Iranica. Click for source.



Hajji Baba was created by James Morier and appeared in Hajji Baba of Ispahan (1824) and Hajji Baba in England (1827). Morier (1780-1849) was a British diplomat, adventurer, and author. He first went to Persia in 1807 and visited it and surrounding countries several times over the next decade. His desire to write something in the Persian style of Arabian Nights produced Hajji Baba of Ispahan.



Hajji Baba is a charming rogue, someone who began life as a barber/surgeon but whose wanderlust and desire for money led him to leave home on a caravan when he was only sixteen. But the course of roguery doth ne'er run smooth, and he is almost immediately captured by a band of Turcoman bandits. Hajji Baba lets himself be captured a second time by a shahzadeh (prince) and is taken to Meshed, where he becomes a water carrier. Hajji Baba sprains his back carrying water–his boastfulness leads him to take on far too much weight, including that of his main rival–and so he becomes an itinerant vender of smoke. But he cuts his tobacco with dung once too often and is caught by the Mohtesib (“the Mohtesib is an officer who perambulates the city, and examines weights and measures, and qualities of provisions”) and bastinadoed for his fraud. So Hajji Baba becomes a dervish, telling colorful stories and shaking down listeners for money; he stops in mid-story, just when things are getting good, and asks for donations in exchange for his continuing. He then becomes a doctor to the Shah of Persia, a position he loses due to an imprudent love affair. And so on and so forth, for hundreds of pages, through colorful stories and attractive boasts and genial swindles and painless mendacity and jovial hypocrisy and maidens fair and wry observations at the foibles of the mighty and the poor.



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As many know and some who may not know, Secondlife has been one of the top multimedia social platform since it's release in June of 2003. It's said that people can reinvent themselves, discover dreams, play games, and of course, make a little money. You want it, SL has it! So why would it be such a shock to have such a fun, fantastical steampunk desert world? Personally, it's the infamous world of the “Sims” on steroids of amazing measure.

Enter Cala Mondrago, a sim (plot of land in Secondlife), named and designed after the ancient culture of the Moors. The name “Cala Mondrago” comes from a city within the island of Majorca, a location full of life, color, splendor, and creativity. All things that sim owner Bianca Namori wishes to foster.




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Note from Ay-leen: This essay is cross-posted from Eccentric Yoruba's Dreamwidth journal and describes the story of the international slave trade from a unique vantage point: where historical hardship becomes a tourist commodity at the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.

Our next guided tour was to the Kakum National Park and Cape Coast, which is home to several colonial castles. Once more we woke up really early in the morning and got into a bus with other Nigerians and off we went on our two hour journey to Kakum. The national park is famous for its canopy walk, which has several hanging walkways above a thick forest. Apparently, some people find the canopy walk challenging and cannot go through it, that is totally understandable. It took a while walking through the forest until we reached the walkways. One by one, we were guided to them, but not before we were warned not to swing the walkways and to refrain from such behaviour.


The canopy walkways of Kakum National Park

There are seven canopies in total. I took the shortcut, which means I walked through only three. "Are you scared?" one of the men-- presumably a safety guide--asked me when I turned left for the shortcut.

"Yes, I am absolutely frightened," I replied even though I had a huge grin plastered on my face and had paused to take a picture a few moments ago. As I walked hastily through the shortcut, I heard the man say behind me, "You're lying." In front of me a little girl was crying while her mother told her not to be scared: "We'll soon reach the end." I felt sorry for her.

Part of the reason I had chosen the shortcut was because I wanted to see Cape Coast. To be honest, I was dreading it at the same time because I'd heard stories; of the slave dungeons and the Door of No Return, of people breaking into tears while there, and I wasn't ready to be caught unawares by several strong emotions and end up crying in public.

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For Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year), I'm spending the day with my family (and getting in gear for TempleCon.) But I wanted to leave a little note for today to those who celebrate Lunar New Year's in any manner.

Most people would recognize that today is Chinese New Year, and that it is the Year of the Metal Rabbit.

For the Vietnamese, however, Feb 2nd was the start of our New Year, the Year of the Metal Cat.

Either one sounds pretty steampunk, though.


teampunk rabbit ring. Click for link.


Andrew Chase's cheetah. Click for link.

After the jump, check out some more info about how Lunar New Year is recognized around the world.

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Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories is a very unique anthology for a variety of reasons. By unique, I'm not stating that this anthology is tailor-made for only a specific target audience (though it may scream "niche" to the average reader.) Still, upon first impression, a reader might wonder: would someone who isn't queer or female or a romance lover still enjoy this book? Torquere Books, known for its queer and alternative literature, may be jumping onto the growing steampunk bandwagon that is gaining speed in the publishing world. And, some people might fear the worst after steampunk Palin-- is Steam-Powered just another trend-hopper?

No, it is not. To think so would do a great disservice to the quality of work contained within this volume, and the literary thoughtfulness from both the contributing authors and Steam-Powered's editor JoSelle Vanderhooft.

These stories feature the work of several prominent and up-and-coming writers in the SF/F world. It starts off strong with N.K. Jeminsin's "The Effluent Engine," previously published on her blog for the A Story for Haiti fund-raising campaign, and also includes the work of Georgina Bruce, D.L. MacInnes, Sara M. Harvey, Beth Wodzinski, Rachel Manija Brown, Shira Lipkin, Matthew Kressel, Meredith Holmes, Teresa Wymore, Tara Sommers, Mikki Kendall, Shweta Narayan, Mike Allen, and Amal El-Mohtar.

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Note: This is the final segment in a four-part series by Eccentric Yoruba about Ancient Africa & China, cross-posted with her permission. Also, check out parts 1, 2, and 3.


Monument of Zheng He located in the Stadthuys, Melaka, Malaysia. Click for source.

Zheng He’s 7th expedition was his last and after years of moving back and forth between the East African coast and China, all contact ceased. Some people may look at this and say that the Chinese turned their backs on Africa, but if you look at the situation within China in that time, it sheds more light on this situation.
In 1424, the Yongle Emperor died. His successor, the Hongxi Emperor (reigned 1424–1425), decided to curb the influence at court. Zheng He made one more voyage under the Xuande Emperor (reigned 1426–1435), but after that Chinese treasure ship fleets ended. Zheng He died during the treasure fleet’s last voyage.

…Chinese merchants continued to trade in Japan and southeast Asia, but Imperial officials gave up any plans to maintain a Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean and even destroyed most of the nautical charts that Zheng He had carefully prepared. The decommissioned treasure ships sat in harbors until they rotted away, and Chinese craftsmen forgot the technology of building such large vessels. (Source)
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Kala Persad was created by “Headon Hill” and appeared in The Divinations of Kala Persad (1895), a collection of short stories. “Headon Hill” was the pseudonym of Francis Edward Grainger (1857-1924), an English author of romance, mystery, and detective fiction.



Kala Persad is a wizened old Indian man, “at least sixty...he must have been a grown man as far back as the Mutiny days.” Persad is being pursued by a trio of “bad Mahometan budmásh” (evildoers) when he stumbles across Mark Poignand, an Englishman who has come to India to investigate possible murder attempts against a friend. Poignand, an overly-self-assured young man, does not do much to save Persad. Poignand simply stands there and watches as the murderers, “seeing that they had a Sahib to deal with, vanished without more ado across the adjoining fields.” Persad is so grateful for Poignand's “help” that he solves the mystery of who was trying to kill Poignand's friend. After that, Poignand presumes on Persad's gratitude and returns to England with him.



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Note: This week features Noah Meernaum, with a dual review of ROBOTIKA and its follow-up, ROBOTIKA: FOR A FEW RUBLES MORE.



Wherein the graphic series Robotika is seen to be mounting up and continuing into further outbound territory proclaimed to be steadily aided by an additional scribe (causing much trepidation upon the reviewer).





Robotika: For a Few Rubles More by Alex Sheikman (writer/illustrator), David Moran (writer/script), Joel Chua and Scott Keating (colors). Archaia Press, 2009



Alex Sheikman’s resplendently rendered comic concoction Robotika was (as serial albums often intentionally are) left largely open-ended regarding its leading characters and had rather boldly proclaimed that its odd cast would be drawn further forth within the sequential sequel subtitled For a Few Rubles More. I reckon most readers will recall that this secondary heading is an exchanged refrain rung from Sergio Leone’s notorious noodle western For a Few Dollars More (Per qualche dollaro in più, 1965) aptly referenced by Sheikman as a flipside further molded by Russian relations. This inflected impartment reflects upon Sheikman’s personal experience living in Russia and tenders due currency toward maliciously ‘made men’ or marked outlaws.



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Note: This week, Noah Meernaum (who previously wrote for Beyond Victoriana about racial representations in Weird West comics) returns with a dual review of ROBOTIKA and its follow-up, ROBOTIKA: FOR A FEW RUBLES MORE. The first review is below, and its companion piece will be posted on Monday.



Steampunk is currently continuing to be abundantly referenced to describe a vast array of fictional works that have presently arisen in the revitalized interest around this peculiar fantastic amalgam. Amid this extensive fictive outgrowth there is an increasing concentration towards advancing beyond any given geographical location, fixed elements, or customary Western outlooks surrounding steampunk. These alternate positions and views, while being openly encouraged as further imaginative formulations enlarging upon the allowable confines of this compound term, are sometimes held as far flung adoptions disproportionately conjoined of disagreeable parts or disparate plots.

One such decisive adaptive outthrust of steampunk is graphically pronounced in the comic series Robotika, that through its principal creator Alex Sheikman’s descriptive reference as being informed of a “samurai steampunk” is sure to directly incite those opposed to such an audacious concoction. Certainly this conjunction of Eastern emblems interacting with Western motifs is not novel in its projected mythical fusion. This perpetual exchange has stemmed from the pioneering films of Akira Kurosawa and continued in current re-shoots or re-slashes such as Takashai Mikke’s Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) and Ji-woon Kim’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008). Afro Samurai (Manga or magazine format, 1999-2000) is another preceding animate example of engaging what would appear to be disparate cultural elements portrayed through alternate perspectives.

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Note: This is the second in a four-part series by Eccentric Yoruba, cross-posted with her permission. Here are parts 1 and 2. Check out the rest of her Ancient Africa & China series appearing every Friday throughout this month.

 




The Ming Dynasty's fleet of giant ships predates the Columbus expedition across the Atlantic. Photograph of the display in the China Court of the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai. Click for more info.

In 1414 a Chinese fleet heralded by the Muslim Grand Eunuch of the Three Treasures, Zheng He (also known as Cheng Ho) sailed into the western Indian Ocean for the fourth time since his journey to the East began in 1405. In previously, that is between 1405 and 1414, Zheng He and his ships had reached the ports of Indonesia, south-west India and Ceylon. However, the trip in 1414 was special because the fleet was advancing into more distant regions beyond South Asia and the Arabian Gulf and in the process, covering a larger total of water than any seafaring people had before.

Zheng He is frequently referred to as the Chinese Columbus and today he has become the personification of maritime endeavour for China. I am personally not fond of this comparison between Zheng He and Columbus; Zheng He was much cooler they shouldn’t even be compared. They are not on the same level in terms of their maritime adventures. Really to me calling Zheng He the Chinese Columbus actually dims his shine.

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Note: Cross-posted with permission from Yakoub Islam from his website The Muslim Age of Steam on The Steampunk Shariah.

Middle Eastern Astrolobe. 1291.
Middle Eastern Astrolobe. 1291.

In Summer 2009, I made the bold decision to write a full-length novel. It seemed like the perfect solution to a troubled and difficult decade, which had largely centred around caring for my autistic son: a return to an old passion – creative writing; a therapeutic outlet following a period of mental and physical illness; and perhaps a means of drawing together the various intellectual and spiritual threads that have informed my faith and eclectic reading over the last 20-odd years. I began by exploring the imaginative possibilities surrounding the first recorded Muslim visit to England, allegedly made by the twelfth century geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi. A small cast of characters was assembled, along with possible subplots, themes and a couple of draft chapters. Yet after twelve months of research and writing, the various elements of my intended novel remained disparate, and I almost gave it up.

I wondered whether the problem wasn’t down to a contradiction that I’m sure many writers have experienced – between creative and publishing ambitions. I wanted to write a one of a kind book, but who would want to read it?

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Some cool goggles, worn for a reason and not just on a hat.



Avatar: The Last Airbender (A:TLA) is easily one of the best US-created animated shows in the last ten years, and not just because I consider it a great example of Asian-inspired steampunk (though it helps). In terms of steam-worthiness, A:TLA not only creates what Asian steampunk could look like, but it places its steampunk technology within a cultural and political setting that speaks about technological development's relationship with empire-building and the ramifications of global warfare.



Pretty complex for a children's show that aired on Nickelodeon. But its depth of storytelling, detailed world-building, and strong characterization attests to its wild popularity across all age groups.



There are other assessments of the world of Avatar: the Last Airbender (A:TLA)--particularly Jha Goh's article on "Kyriarchy in Avatar: The Last Airbender - Perpetuating & Challenging Oppression & Imperialism" and the Tor.com roundtable re-watch--so I highly suggest you go to them for a more highly detailed reading of the series as a whole. So instead, I'll answer the question: Why do I think steampunks should watch Avatar: The Last Airbender? Warning: spoilers for the series after the jump.



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Note: This is the first in a four-part series by Eccentric Yoruba, cross-posted with her permission. Check out the rest of her Ancient Africa & China series appearing every Friday throughout this month.


"Comprehensive map of the Four Seas (Si Hai Zong Tu)". A copy of an ancient Chinese explorer map that had survived to the 17th century and found in the 1730 book “Records of Sights and Sounds of Overseas States” (Haiguo Jianwen Lu) authored by Chen Lunjiong"

Last year while I was researching for my dissertation, I came across a footnote that mentioned that the first Africans who reached ancient China (the particular period was not specified) were two slaves given as gifts to the Emperor by an envoy of Arab traders. I found myself wondering what happened to them, were the slaves male or female, were they killed immediately or did they go on to serve the Emperor, did they have children (it was possible!) etc.

It keeps on popping up, one or two sentences or a footnote that quickly says something about Africans in ancient China, whether in Peking or Canton but there is never enough information. To be honest I’d like to know more. If I could, I’d travel back in time just to see the daily lives of those Africans in ancient China. I’ve read that most of them were slaves of Arab traders and lived among the Arab settlements in Canton…things will become clearer from here on, I promise.

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Steampunk fashion is seen as modern interpretation of fantastical ideas based on history. This trend of multicultural influence and inspiration seen in steampunk fashion is also reflective in fashion trends today. The rise of Chinese designer Guo Pei is one example of this; she has been well-known in Chinese fashion circles for many years, but her recent collections created buzz throughout the runways of the world, in particular her 1002nd Arabian Night collection.

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2010 has been a momentous year, both blog-wise and in general steampunk-wise. Looking back, a lot of amazing things happened: I attended dozens of cons and steampunk events, corresponded with many interesting and smart steampunks, won an award, and got a cool side job. I've worked with a growing network of steampunk hobbyists, academics, tinkerers, activists, and costumers. Many of these people I now consider friends of the blog and in real life as well. Because of efforts from everyone here, Beyond Victoriana has been recognized and signal boosted by many different sites and folks across the steampunk community & the general SF/F community around the world-- including The Steampunk Workshop, Steampunk Magazine, The Steampunk Tribune, The Steampunk Scholar, Silver Goggles, Edwardian Promenade, Dru Pagliassotti, Jeff Vandermeer, Scott Westerfeld, Bruce Sterling, Racialicious, Tor.com, SFSignal, Bibliophile Stalker, Free the Princess, Leanne Renee Hieber, The Steampunk Librarian, Overbury Ink, Doc Fantastique's Show of Wonders, Airship Ambassador, World SF News Blog, Steampunk Conselho, and Clockworker.de.

Maintaining this blog has been extremely busy for me, and it couldn't have been the success it is without YOU: the readers and the contributors. At the beginning of 2010, what started off as a personal project has grown to become a community venture, and it wouldn't have happened without the numerous volunteer writers, reporters, and photographers who have helped me out. I feel like a broken record of saying this all the time to people, but that's because THIS is what multiculturalism means to me: it isn't just one person standing on a soapbox spewing encyclopedic facts, but a community of people interested in sharing their intellectual and artistic knowledge and personal experiences. I recently read an interview with Maegan la Mala Ortiz, Managing Editor and Co-Publisher of Vivirlatino, who said something that had really struck a chord:

Diversity has become such a buzzword almost to the point of meaninglessness. Diversity is not about holding hands to cover up difference. It is about acknowledging how difference works, good and bad and how we can build across not through or over difference.


That has always been the mission behind Beyond Victoriana: we are not simply celebrating, but also debating, confronting, and discovering through critical listening and learning. Because to post up content without context is equal to empty hand-holding. We're not talking about historical facts alone, but how these facts shouldn't be separated from how they affect our lives today. And it's about time we did more than hold hands, but raise them up. Together.

That being said, the content for 2011 kicks off with some great news.

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