“Whatever happens, we have got, The Maxim Gun, and they have not.”–Hilaire Belloc, 1898.
Peruse through a few images of steampunk dress and gadgetry, and the gun will make its appearance soon enough. Fitted into holsters, held haughtily over the shoulder, brandished in threat, tucked between bustles or even adapted to retro-futurist cybernetics, the gun has become a staple of the genre in both literature, film and cosplay. Given the era that steampunk attempts to navigate, recreate and/or re-imagine, the gun only seems fitting. But like so much else from our collective past, it comes with its own troubled histories. This was also an era of racialized subjugation, colonialism and imperialism. And the gun played a central role.
“…many Negroes and Mulattoes the property of Citizens of these States have concealed themselves on board the Ships in the harbor … and to make their escapes in that manner … All Officers of the Allied Army … are directed not to suffer any such negroes or mulattoes to be retained in their Service but on the contrary to cause them to be delivered to the Guards which will be establish’d for their reception …Any Negroes or mulattoes who are free upon proving the same will be left to their own disposal.”–General George Washington, October 25, 1781.
That time Washington had Patriot troops surround Yorktown to stop slaves huddled with the British from escaping. Wouldn’t know much of that watching Sleepy Hollow, where Washington wasn’t just a Founding Father, but a Savior of the Apocalypse and venerable Saint–”the good guys” in a war against evil where the Patriots are (literally) on the side of the angels.
I like this show. But sometimes it makes me wanna throw up in my mouth a little.
“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. . . We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”–physicist Stephen Hawkins.
The last in a three-part installment on Christopher Columbus. How the destruction of the Americas and the legacies of colonialism and slavery, help shape the fears of our popular imaginings.
What do the hunt for a mythical Christian King of the East, a fabled river of African gold and fears of the impending Apocalypse have to do with Christopher Columbus? Turns out, quite a bit. The Age of Exploration has a weird speculative side.
As we approach Columbus Day, I’ve given some thought to how the legacy of 1492 has impacted our modern concepts of exploration and encounters with difference, what have remained common themes in speculative fiction. Everyone by now knows that in 1492 an Italian sailor named Cristoforo Colombo sailed the ocean blue, stumbling across what we would eventually come to call the Americas. But while his voyage may have been the first of its kind, he was by no means the first explorer. With the exception of the Americas, the late medieval world from which Columbus emerged was one of long-established contact, as trade and curiosity sent out earlier explorers, seeking across both land and sea.
This past Monday FOX premiered its much-anticipated haunted Fall show Sleepy Hollow, a modern-day remake of Irving Washington’s classic tale. With a story that seems part X-Files, part National Treasure and just a wee bit Rip Van Winkle (also by Irving), the show takes risks, plays it safe elsewhere and exploits some popular tropes to spin out a semi-original tale that’s admittedly lots of fun.