Tag Archives: fiction

My Steampunk Problem

I like the idea of Retro-Futurism. It’s just fun. The technology of our time is very dear to us all. There is nothing more personal than the smartphone we put in our pocket, or the screens we stare at. But the present is boring, and the future worries us, at the very least.

The Past! That was fun, right? When we merge nostalgia, technology and pulp fiction we get awesome, genre bending worlds. All other -punks aside, the one I’m talking about right now is Steampunk. In my opinion, this subgenre is one good movie away from being mainstream. I said good movie. So that doesn’t mean The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Van Helsing, or Wild Wild West.

If you’re unfamiliar with steampunk, essentially, it’s applying Victorian-Era aesthetics to modern day technology. Of course it gets deeper than that, but I don’t think I’m doing it a disservice at all by describing it that way. Yet, therein lies my problem with it.

Victorian” refers mainly to England, when the empire was under Queen Victoria’s rule in the late 19th century. It was the very peak of the Crown’s power over the rest of the world. The United states was recovering from a bloody civil war and hadn’t secured its place as a global power yet. The industrial revolution would not happen until after the turn of the century.

Despite those facts, SteamPunks are many amongst geeks here in the states, and elsewhere. Go to any Con’ and see how many leather corsets, goggles, and little hats you see. They might be pirates, adventurers, aristocrats, whatever. Take a look at what’s popular amongst YA fiction. Watch Felicia Day’s YouTube channel, tell me she’s not influenced.

Do you see the disconnect I have? I’m being all hipster-y about it. I really don’t care how much exposure it’s getting, beyond my already standing problems. If you haven’t caught it, this genre is, for the most part,  inherently Euro-Centric, make that Anglo-Centric. I am of Mexican/Spanish heritage. See it yet?


I’m not accusing steampunk or fans of as being racist. Don’t get me wrong. Of course I understand that nationalism has nothing to do with liking the look, or enjoying the stories. What I’m saying is I have a problem personally identifying with a genre that has very little to do with my own heritage, and in turn, part of my identity.

It’s the same problem I have with Tolkienesque fantasy. Those stories are all derived from the history and folklore of Western Europe. I’ll talk more about that on another day.

I don’t have this problem with Dieselpunk, which takes aesthetics from the time after the Industrial Revolution (Art Deco, BioShock, Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow). I can say that, as it’s very based in American history, which I identify with more, being a third-generation American (my grandparents were born in Colorado and Nebraska).

I must say here, that I’m not saying I don’t like this genre, I just can’t connect with it like so many of the fans I see. I’m not complaining as much as stating a point.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only one of my kind with this problem. I direct your attention to this awesome article I found on the blog Racialicious.com. The basic gist is that many Chicano/Latino/Hispanic people who want to claim fandom of Steampunk take aesthetics of what was going on in our history, instead of Anglo history: The Mexican Revolution.

This was no insignificant event. Some history, from the article:

The independence of Mexico triggered the independence of eight different countries. After the fall of the first Mexican Empire, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the republics of Yucatan and Chiapas, which later were re-annexed to the Republic of Mexico, declared independence. The Republic also still retained the territories of Texas, New Mexico, and southern California.

So, for my little conundrum, following in the footsteps of others might help:

Interestingly, it is this point in history that many Mexicans use as basis for its aesthetics and steampunk characters. This later time period that we know of as the Mexican Revolution in the early twentieth century also acted like a late call to join the spirit of technological renovation and industrialization that had been held by the European powers. The Mexicans of the late nineteenth century conceived many elements of progress and technological heritage from the French, who were a major presence in the country’s development during this century. Both the fashion and lifestyle, cuisine, style of education, politics, economics, and technology came from the French style.

But here’s where I make all this for naught: I don’t care. Steampunk is huge right now, and I can only see it getting bigger. Like I said, one good movie, most likely in the next year, would solidify it’s popularity for the time being. All the purists will hate it for stupid reasons, while everyone else will enjoy wearing their little hats. As for me? I’m going to watch from the sidelines.

Though I have found my entry point, what I’m saying is that I don’t need it, want it, care for it. Again, I have no problems with the stories, the fans, the aesthetics. It’s just not for me. I think it’s because it’s looking to the past. I’ve never been one for nostalgia, especially nostalgia of a time I’ve never experienced. And it’s always confused me why the Victorian era appeals so much to women. It’s so easy for them to forget how little freedom women had at that time. Maybe it’s empowering to erase that fact from current retro futurism. Just as it’s easy for people of other heritages who don’t share direct heritage with English descendants.

I hate to just chalk up everything that people like about it to a “look.” I understand how cool things look when it’s all wood and leather and steam powered. The anachronism of a steampunk Iron Man suit is intriguing confusing and exciting all at once. But without the connection that comes from heritage of any sort, I’m left confused and hoping there’s more. For the sake of how I see the fans, more than just “it looks cool.”

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“All I Have” – Short Story

Less of a story, really, more of an idea. I was inspired by a very beautiful song.

This was written a few years ago, when I first started playing with the idea of writing. I plan on revisiting this and expanding it into something. I’m not sure what, yet.

Enjoy.

All I Have

The water drops on the rooftops with a constant, light beating. Yet, the setting sun manages to break through the gray blanket of clouds giving everything an amber glow.

But the rain still persists, drowning and breaking off the delicate blossoms below my window. My gardenias remain untouched under the awning. Smiling to myself, From just inside my apartment, I admire their demure beauty. Perfect.

A whiff of smoke catches my attention. I turn away from the balcony and in the darkness, I see the small orange glow of the cigarette hanging out of an invisible mouth. As my eyes adjust, I make out his tall figure, standing in the door way. Soft, but piercing eyes materialize out of the black and turn me to stone. Our gaze remains locked as he flicks the cigarette and brushes my hair back, my behind my ear. His hand, now behind my (at this point I feel that I should soften my narration voice a little, not sure how though) head, gently guides my lips to his. His kiss, ooh his sweet, long kiss. It is all so intoxicating: the smell of his skin, the smoke, the rain and flowers, combined with his sweet lips. He pulls our bodies closer as the rain falls outside. The orange sun sets long before our embrace ends. Perfect.

I wake up, alone.

A cold, steely darkness surrounds me. I see the moon outside, peeking through clouds. She is alone too, ashamed to show her beautiful face. Her blue light illuminates nothing. I walk to the balcony where empty pots lay, broken.

“Why are you so lonely, so sad?”

No answer, but I know. I know. Her partner is gone. It has been cloudy and dreary for over a year. A year since the war started. A year without happiness, joy, dancing. A year without gardenias. A year without love.

A tear lands on shards of clay.

Please like/comment/share. The more people who read and like my stuff, the better.

Creative Commons License
“All I Have″ by Ravel Lopez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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Dark Robot Fairies (Draft)

Penultimate draft, just needs a little clean up and technical fixes. I will make a new post with the final draft, as well as a link to an ebook download.
Enjoy and give feedback.

Dark Robot Fairies, Draft 2

There they were. They’re so small, probably 4 inches tall. Little humanoid bodies, like dainty metal dolls. They each had a glow of a different color about them. Like pulsing LEDs getting brighter and dimmer. Yet, through the light, I could see their bodies were a dull gray. Every so often little puffs of steam would shoot out of one or another.

In the faint dusk light, I could barely make out their shimmering, insect-like wings. When the bustle of the city ebbed, I thought I could hear what sounded like the whir of servos coming off them.

Their movement was so graceful, yet so mechanical. Like a choreographed dance of industrial robots. So smooth, so exact. Yet they moved with the breeze, so carefree. They were nimble and precise as they picked up pieces of metal or electronic junk, sorting and discarding pieces with some sort of mysterious intent. Puzzling and entrancing all at once, their strange behavior was.

In the air there was the smell of old motor oil and wet dirt. A junkyard is never a pretty sight, let alone after a rain, but that’s when they come out. I didn’t know what they were, but they were the closest things to fairies I’ve ever seen.

As the sunlight faded, their distinct colors stood out more: blue, orange, red, violet and a dozen or so more. Each had a distinct personality. The one that caught my eye more and more each visit was the turquoise one. She was always the first, always the last. She seemed more curious, more courageous than the others. I don’t know why exactly, but she became my favorite.

As the sun finally set, the orange street lights came on. That’s when they left. They dashed off towards the East where its dark and hard to follow. They lived deep in the heart of the junkyard, amongst the exposed graves of steel carcasses, all dull gray and red, rusted from the elements. At least, as far as I could tell, that’s where they must have lived.

I had only been living here for a few weeks, but I saw them out there every night I walked past the dump, and I was just fascinated. There hadn’t been a day that went by when I hadn’t thought about them: the glint of their metallic bodies, the whine of their mechanisms. At the same time they were magical and alien and yet very much of this Earth, of this dirty city.

Even the rain, as much as it poured, couldn’t clean the filth off this city, and the dump was a testament to that. Yet, that was what the fairies called
their home. I often wondered how they ended up living there

Where did they come from? I knew they weren’t simply someone’s creation. They were too mystical. It was almost as if they were born of the junkyard, like the fairies and sprites of old forests.

Once again, I found myself crossing the bridge that went over and around the the junkyard. My pace was fast. Cars sped past me. They were all filled with sad people mindlessly stuck in their ruts, going from boring jobs to boring homes. Not me. That magic, that moment was all mine. The sunlight shone through the chain link fence. I knew I didn’t have long.

I was practically running when I got to the spot. I was giddy and anxious. This time was going to be special. I just knew it.

I stopped and caught my breath, then I crouched. I could never tell if they were able to see me, but I wanted to be careful. I didn’t want to scare them and risk never seeing them again. I loved those fairies.

Then I saw her. First, as always, she was cautious at first, staying low and hopping from one perch to another. Then the next came out. Soon, one by one, there were a dozen or so fluttering about with their graceful precision. Each of their individual iridescence darted and danced. It was a beautiful show.

I sat, mesmerized, as usual for minutes. Then, I didn’t know what came over me, but I had to get closer, closer to her. I found the opening in the fence and silently made my way towards them. I was careful not to make a sound.

The sun was approaching the horizon. The lights would come on soon. I didn’t know what I wanted to to then, nor do I know now. I just had to get close.

I was almost at arms length from the turquoise one, and had managed not to be noticed. Up close, her glow was very bright. I found cover behind a rusted street sign. I peaked over the top resting both my hand on either side of my face. The only part of me visible was the top of my head, from my eyes up.

She was so close, I could feel on my face, the puffs of steam she gave off. Then something amazing happened. She saw me. I know she did. I know she was looking at me and didn’t fly away. I couldn’t tell if it was a few seconds or a few minutes, but I swear she was looking at me with her shiny black little eyes. My heartbeat quickened. I knew today was going to be special.

In my excitement, I probably put more weight on the sign than I should have because it collapsed and brought down more trash with it. The fairies scattered, but not her. She couldn’t.

What happened seemed to progress in slow motion. A pipe that fell with the sign hit her. I nearly screamed as I saw her get flung into the mud.

I was breathless as i went to her. I found her in the mud. I got down on my knees and picked her up. I delicately wiped off as much mud as I could. She was even lighter than I expected. Up close I could tell how delicate she really was. Between thin plates that made up her “skin,” I saw tiny gears and thin wires. Her limbs on her left side were torn off. Sparks flew from the torn wires.
Her turquoise glow was flickering and getting dimmer. Her crushed wings twitched, uselessly. Her one good arm was reaching up, grasping for anything. The other, half gone, moved in an aimless circle. The little body was writhing, slowly in my hands.

I didn’t know what to do with myself, with this beautiful creature that I just destroyed. I just sat there on my knees in the mud. I was on the brink of bawling, but I couldn’t. The noise itself could do even more damage. I watched this delicate thing die in my hands. It moved less and less; the light became dimmer and dimmer, until finally

nothing.

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