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If nineteenth-century Iranian women discovered time travel, where would they go? What would they bring back?



Photographer Shadi Ghadirian did not have these questions in mind, persay, but she is interested in how the Western world perceives Iranian woman like herself. In her photography series "Qajar," she brings out the cognitive dissonance that someone unfamiliar with Iran may experience, as well as comments about the position of women in society today.

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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Jake von Slatt's Roadster, featured at the Fair. Image courtesy of Michael Salerno.

Steampunk World's Fair-- the self-proclaimed "largest steampunk festival in the US" had a huge turnout last year and raised expectations for many steampunks for repeat success. Over the course of the year, shifts in management and staff structure sprouted rumors of uncertainty about the success of the con, but this year's Fair still held a strong and diverse showing of panels, workshops, and entertainments. Previous year's favorites, including musicians Professor Elemental, Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band, Psyche Corporation, Eli August, This Way to Egress, and Frenchy and the Punk returned, with the addition of several other newcomers such as Murder by Death, Copal, Ego Likeness, and Left Outlet.  Events expanded to include book launch parties for Tee Morris and Pip Ballentine's The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Leanna Renee Hieber's The Perilous Prophecy of the Goddess and the Guard, and Emilie P. Bush's The Gospel According to Verdu at the Library of Lost Literature, an academic track, a Tweed Ride, a Dandy Stroll, a charity fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Queen Victoria's Birthday Party. Other notable programming ranged from workshops on bartitsu and kimono-wearing to pro-union rallies and surviving the apocalypse.

Along with my own con report, which is featured on Tor.com, below is just a sampling of experiences offered by our guest reporters, including Daniel Holzman-Tweed, Austin Sirkin, Lucretia Dearfour, Sean Proper, Matt Deblass and Ekaterina Sedia. Fashion designer Kathryn Paterwic of Redfield Designs also presents her runway collection from the "Across the Universe" fashion show told in her narrated photo essay. Photography from Jessica Lilley, Babette Daniels, Michael Salerno, Monique Poirier, Philip Ng, and myself are also included.

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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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.

Read more on BeyondVictoriana.com
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One of the difficult things about writing con reports for Beyond Victoriana is that I've always missed something. Whether it be a panel, a cosplay, or The Biggest Story from the con, I know that since I'm only one person, I can't be everywhere at once to record it for the blog. Not to mention all of those great con events in the community that go on that I can't attend. So for future conventions, Beyond Victoriana will be extending its con coverage to include features from on-staff and on the ground.



TeslaCon is the first event we're trying out with this new format, and justly so. What makes this con stand out from previous ones is its mission as steampunk's first "immersive convention'. " Organized by Eric Larson (Lord Hastings R. Bobbins) as an elaborate role-playing convention, TeslaCon featured not only the usual panels, vending, fashion show and other events, but was built around a central murder mystery storyline and run by a crew of dedicated actors on staff.



Panelist Austin Sirkin talks about his impressions of the con, staff member Wendy Zdrodowski unravels TeslaCon's murder mystery run by Steampunk Chicago, and Captain Anthony LaGrange of The Airship Archon gives an attendee report. Photo coverage is also provided by Jessica Coen and Shannon Sofian, featured in the articles and after the jump.



So even if you were stuck at home like me, you can still get a taste of the TeslaCon experience, thanks for the dedication of our reporters and photographers.



Read on BeyondVictoriana.com
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The SPWF program newspaper. Photo by knightmare6. Click for source.

A moment of history has come and gone: the first-ever Steampunk World's Fair in Piscataway, New Jersey--the largest steampunk event on the East Coast and very likely the largest one in North America.  According to staff estimates, approximately 3,700 people attended over the course of three days, coming from across the United States, Canada, England, France, and Italy. It was a pleasure to participate in this event, and it was only a shame that there wasn't several clones of me running around so that I could attend every single event (though people may have gotten the impression with the various outfits I wore!)

You probably can hear a hundred and one different experiences from people attending. Like when Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band led 200 people in a parade through the hotel and into the parking lot for an impromptu party on Saturday night. Or the Queen of Steam contest featuring the youngest cross-dresser you'll ever see. Or the crazy jumping spider contraption at the Mad Science Fair, or the Gear Guitar, or the Tesla Coil demonstration and Jake Von Slatt's bus tours.

And for all three days, I've scoping out steampunk's less British side and looking around with fen of color spectacles on. Below are some of the highlights from the side of steam for the more cross-culturally inclined.

Click to read on beyondvictoriana.com
 

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I'm preparing for some big events in May (like co-hosting two panels at the Steampunk World's Fair. Will you be coming? It's bound to be INTELLECTUALLY STIMULATING and IMMENSELY ENTERTAINING.) Thus, the next post will be delayed. But never fear, I have some nifty reads that have been building up in my inbox for you to check out after the cut.



Read more on beyondvictoriana.com
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“In my art, I wish to present myself through multiple lenses—as artist, as Moroccan, as Saudi, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite the viewer to resist stereotypes.” Lalla Essaydi (source)


Lalla Essaydi is not a steampunk, but her latest photography series is, in essence, what multicultural steampunk can be: a framework in which representations of the past can be questioned by the present.

Read at BeyondVictoriana.com

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This post has been been cross-posted to Beyond Victoriana's own website. Please submit all comments there.

This weekend I'll be at Wicked Faire (where will YOU be?) and so here is another edition of Odds & Ends to keep you occupied in the meantime.

The Reads

I've gotten a lot of feedback from my Black Victoriana post, including these suggestions:

Black Science Fiction Society - a community dedicated to black sci-fi on Ning

Afrikan Steam/Afrosteam: an updated Tumblr link page maintained by HuemindFantastic

Also related is the self-published book Wonderdark (also available for purchase through Tumblr). It is self-described as an "Afro-Asiatic Steampunk/FaeryPunk/Afropunk meets plant-eating (and in some cases of Anansi-kind: bookeating) tradition of thought-craft and Higher-lense opting. Like just about any book kissed with Steam ethos, it's unconventional, and will not open a door for you to the usual, the 'norm'... the 'generally accepted', etc. Instead, it will open up a door in your mind to higher possibilities, the under-reported splendor of cruelty-free alts, and hope reinstilled for your inner-child that dreams emerge because they're seeking birth. It's not just your imagination... at least not in the way you might think."

Also, there is Cory Gross's presentation about Steampunk & Anime on Crunchyroll. On his blog Voyages Extraordinaire throughout the month of February, Cory is writing a series of posts about Japan during the Victorian era. Notable posts that are especially steampunky include an overview of Japanese Scientific Romances, a tour of the Studio Ghibli museum, and feature about Hayao Miyazaki's Daydream Note.

And not that we need permission from anyone to promote non-Eurocentric steampunk, but here is an observation writer Tim Ayers made about where steampunk is going that I thought was worthy of passing on.

The Buys

Now I don't want to get into the habit of promoting vendors on this blog, but I think is exception is made here for Tess Fowler, who I interviewed about her comic The Seven. Fact is, she has new shirts featuring art from the comic available for purchase on Zazzle. Go check them out!

The Pics

Here is an oldie but goodie, and a source of personal inspiration. The Coalition of Rather Unusual Denizens or C.R.U.D in California is a multiracial group of cosplayers and they all look amazing. A full album of their pictures is at photographer Ed Pingol's site.

Check them out under the cut )
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This post has been been cross-posted to Beyond Victoriana's own website. Please submit all comments there.

Kicking off my crazy February schedule, this week is Beyond Victoriana's small contribution toward Black History Month.  In the United States and Canada, this is celebrated in February, but in England, this month is in October, so I guess I'm giving away my biases a bit, eh?  Now, a linkspam about African/African-American history would be easy to do. And there are many great black figures who lived during the Victorian Era who should be mentioned right now.

But instead, I'll review an interesting book about a view of black history that I don't hear about as often: a series of essays about the lives of both extraordinary and everyday Black Brits in Victorian England called Black Victorians/Black Victoriana, edited by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina.

Book Description:

Black Victorians/Black Victoriana is a welcome attempt to correct the historical record. Although scholarship has given us a clear view of nineteenth-century imperialism, colonialism, and later immigration from the colonies, there has for far too long been a gap in our understanding of the lives of blacks in Victorian England. Without that understanding, it remains impossible to assess adequately the state of the black population in Britain today. Using a transatlantic lens, the contributors to this book restore black Victorians to the British national picture. They look not just at the ways blacks were represented in popular culture but also at their lives as they experienced them-as workers, travelers, lecturers, performers, and professionals. Dozens of period photographs bring these stories alive and literally give a face to the individual stories the book tells.

The essays taken as a whole also highlight prevailing Victorian attitudes toward race by focusing on the ways in which empire building spawned a "subculture of blackness" consisting of caricature, exhibition, representation, and scientific racism absorbed by society at large. This misrepresentation made it difficult to be both black and British while at the same time it helped to construct British identity as a whole. Covering many topics that detail the life of blacks during this period, Black Victorians/Black Victoriana will be a landmark contribution to the emergent field of black history in England.

Also check out her book Black London as well.

My Review:
The essays in Black Victorians/Black Victoriana are varied and fascinating, ranging from the everyday lives of African Brits to the portrayal of blackness by the British, and, in turn, how the British defined themselves by their whiteness. The topics of these essays are divided into three general areas: the black experience in Britain, the interaction between Africans, African-Americans, British, and African-Brits, and representations of being black in Victorian culture. I enjoyed the essays that focused on aspects of the black experience--nevermind Victorian-- that I had never even considered before. Joan Anim-Addo's "Queen Victoria's 'Black Daughter', examines the life and circumstances surrounding Sally Bonetta Forbes, a young orphaned West African child whom the King of Dohomey presents to Queen Victoria as a "gift" in 1850. Sally was the first of a long line of Empire adoptees who entered the Queen's household as "properties of the crown" and were raised as the Queen's proteges. Other interesting essays included about the black experience is a profile on Pablo Fanque, a black circus proprietor who ran the most successful circus in England for 30 years, and the biracial classical composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

The conclusions each of these essays make about race relations during Victorian England vary, even contradict each other. Fanque, for instance, is widely respected and defended by the general public as a performer, and Coleridge-Taylor's historical biographers skid more about his white mother's illegitimate parentage and servant class than his Nigerian father's background. On the other hand, other pieces such as "Mrs. Seacole's Wonderful Adventures in Many Lands and the Consciousness of Transit" (titled after her memoir of the same name), focuses on the prejudice the Crimean War heroine and nurse Mary Seacole faced from the British medical establishment --and from Florence Nightingale's all-white company of nurses--when on the front lines. And the essay "The Blackface Clown" explains the roots of blackface in England, framed around the concept of "blackness" as the racial Other onto which white Brits transposed everything they considered "unBritish."

The most interesting essay in the collection is Neil Parsons' "No Longer Rare Birds in London," a record about the travels of four different African envoys to England. Representatives from these African kingdoms visited England in order to petition for various reasons, from protesting British occupation to appealing for protection against other European powers. Parsons gives a detailed itinerary account of what each group experienced. Some incidents during their journey were very telling of the conflicting views of black and Africans in Victorian England. For instance, when King Cetshwayo of the Zulu visited in 1882, he was whisked away in a special train because the colonial ministers didn't want the public--who were only familiar with "Zulu warriors" as depicted by mostly African and African-American circus performers and from the news of the crushing British defeat by the Zulu nation in 1879--"to make a spectacle of him." The king, however, was unexpectedly received by cheering crowds and enjoyed being recognized in the streets as the leader of the battle. The envoys reactions to England are also intriguing. Many compared the packed urban sprawl of London to locusts and the Ndebele envoys remarked how the British "worshiped the god of money while they spoke of the God of Love" and how "the hands of the European never tire of making things. It is for this reason that white men's faces are often so fatigued and sad. They wage war with each other not for virile glory or to test their strength, but for things."

Overall, a fascinating book and highly recommended for scholars and history buffs alike.

***

Another treasure came at the suggestion of Miriavas from the Steampunk Empire: Okinawa Soba's collection of nineteenth-century photos. He features three collections portraying different perspectives on the black experience during this time period.  Below is a sampling from each collection, but I encourage you to go through his galleries yourself.

Click here for the pics )

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