Futuristic tomfoolery and retro shenanigans
Lon Lee is a self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades, the driving force behind Rio Linda’s Friends of the Library Book Store (440 Elkhorn Boulevard, Suite 7). In his downtime, Lee is also an administrator of the Sacramento Steampunk Society. Not surprisingly, Lee says he’s interested in science fiction, fantasy and noir. Still, he possesses “only a passing interest in history” because school presented it in a “linear” fashion. That might help explain Lee’s interest in dieselpunk, a subgenre of steampunk that he describes as “a form of retro-futurism, a blending of the past and future.” The Sacramento Steampunk Society, which boasts more than 100 local members, hosts its first Steampunk Emporium & Swap Meet on Saturday, February 16. Lee talked to SN&R about steampunk, time travel and new ways of looking at history.
Why a swap meet?
We wanted to do something that would be different than the other conventions in the Sacramento area, and we wanted to attract all kinds of artistic people and groups.
What can people expect?
The day will be filled with fun activities and maybe some tomfoolery and shenanigans. It will also be a great opportunity to meet members of the Sacramento Steampunk Society, [The] League of Proper Villains, Sac Geeks, High Desert Steam, The Great Basin Costume Society, Pirates of Sacramento, Steam Federation and Retro-Active Arts.
Why did you get involved with the Sacramento Steampunk Society?
I was looking for a creative outlet and new friends to work on artistic projects with.
So there’s a creative aspect?
Yes, most members create their own clothing, jewelry, gizmos or props. At our monthly planning/maker meeting … members can share their projects and [during a demo period] someone will show how to make or modify something. We’ve had demos for etching metal, pirate scar makeup, proper English dialect/slang and [one] on [making] aging pith helmets. Almost every month the SSS either [hosts] or attends events, and the themes might include steampunk or any of the subgenres … anything that sounds like a fun theme. We’ve had a robots vs. zombies party, a Mad Hatter’s tea party, and for Halloween we did a Dark Carnival.
The definition is different with each person. I think [it’s] Victorian science fiction, technology, fashion and style with an innovative modern twist.
Favorite steampunk author?
I haven’t read a steampunk novel yet, but I have listened to several audio books. My favorite other type of fiction authors include Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Arthur C. Clarke, H. Beam Piper, Keith Laumer, Fred Saberhagen, Larry Niven and Neil R. Jones.
Why steampunk now?
Steampunk, or a form of it, has been around in art, books and films for decades. It might be getting more attention now in the mainstream media because more people have started showing an interest in it.
Why do you think it appeals to so many people?
Steampunk has a vast variety of themes to select from, and each person can personalize [his or her] style to [his or her] own interests and taste. [You can also add] fantasy, Wild West, noir, adventure, romance, mystery, military, time travel, alternative history, retro-futurism, horror, utopian/dystopian views—or all of the above. … People—the public—were looking for something new. Movies, books and television programs have become redundant and predictable, and steampunk themes and stories are a new way of looking at things.
How do all of these interests and subgenres function together?
Steampunk came along, and anything became possible. Steampunk mixed history and technology and allowed any time period in the world to blend with any other time period in the world. Some steampunkers only look at a specific time period, but our group looks at all time periods. We mix and match to our own individual tastes and interests.
So, how is it possible for them to be combined if they aren’t from the same time period?
Like in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, it’s all about mixing new or futuristic technology with the past and future. You can have cowboys riding steam-powered horses, Romans flying airships into battles, 1850s[-era] Scotland Yard [detectives] using computers to solve crimes and clockwork robots falling in love. The possibilities are endless.