Steampunk, Guns and the Imperial Mission

9 thoughts on “Steampunk, Guns and the Imperial Mission”

  1. I have explored the gun prop-wise in Steampunk India. It was excellent fun and I have assumed several of the poses you mention. But I believe your article is vital and timely as Steampunk does appear to be experiencing a fresh surge in diversity and I have to admit that in attempting to write my fiction it’s not foremost in my mind. In fact, I find myself much more thinking along the lines of, oh, inventiveness with maritime implements of navigation, or propulsion of vehicles and suchlike. Secret messages embroidered in saree linings etc. 🙂

    I found ‘Land Leviathan’ bothersome and the story somehow didn’t quite go the way I’d expected, which may have been naiveté on my part, neither can I quite put my finger on what I *was* expecting exactly.

    In any case, this article is excellent food for thought and I will be chewing for some time!

    1. Thanks for the read! The idea came to me a month back as I was looking at the prevalence of the gun in the genre (even as decorative) and teaching a segment on colonization. Images of colonizers with rifles and sun helmets kept creeping off the historical pages into cosplay photos, melding in my head. The Maxim gun’s pivotal role really stuck with me. So, thought I’d just bring up the topic as food for thought.

      As for Land Leviathan… I knew if I searched my files, I’d find something that better explains my whole issue with the “Black Attila.” I’d almost forgot this quote by Moorcock. But long before I read it, I’d gotten the sense that he was drawing on the then (nearly defunct by 1974) Black Power Movement for his character. It always left me with a mix of fascination and discomfort–feeling “some kinda way.” This was Moorcock in 2009 when questioned about it:

      “You got it — Gandhi’s the ideal. Attila is a reality, based on many of the Black Power guys. I sympathised and even admired many of them, but I was ambivalent about methods. I was REALLY mad at whites when I wrote that, I have to say. And ashamed, since I was one of the benefiicaries of an unjust system…”

      Lots to unpack there regarding white (even liberal/radical) perspectives/views of black/PoC liberation struggles: part admiration, part bogeyman.

      1. A lot to unpack indeed!
        I remember, thanks to your quote, that part of my discomfort was the balance being tipped too far towards the other extreme. The white mortified self-awareness really did somewhat drip off the pages.
        His social anger or wasn’t misplaced, but disproportionate perhaps. If it was a burgeoning awareness that’s understandable in a sense.
        And as far as my discomfort is concerned, if you’ll allow the digression, I have the same internal reaction to Peter Gabriel’s song ‘The Rhythm of the Heat’…!

  2. Great article, although I think it’s something of an oversimplification to describe Hood, the Black Attila in the Land Leviathan, as ‘a mad man’. He’s actually pretty rational, albeit ruthless. The view ultimately given of him is somewhat ambiguous – he’s basically in the right, liberating colonised nations and also liberating the blacks of America – tellingly, Bastable, the narrator, initially deserts his forces because of his ruthlessness towards the whites when he invades the US, but returns to his cause when he witnesses the even uglier brutality of the KKK-style regime in power in America – but is fairly harsh to the whites he overthrows, declaring his intention to ‘punish one generation’ for its forefathers’ crimes, and then gradually move towards a more equal society. Bastable acknowledges a measure of justice to this, but can’t wholly approve – the final impression is that a necessary change has been accomplished, but at the price of many innocents suffering.

    1. good points. my overall criticism was the ways in which the character is morphed into a type of despot, whose actions (even if somewhat understandable in this imagined world–whites had reestablished slavery after all) leaves him something of a caricature of black liberation that readily fits into white fears of a vengeful racial apocalypse. but you are quite correct I should not use the term “mad man.” he was quite rational and calculating (Machiavellian even), but not suffering from mental illness–not that I ever recall. the term is distracting and rather insulting to those who indeed deal with such challenges. a bad ableist habit picked up from my literary godfathers that I have to put more effort into breaking. will amend. thanks for the read and advice.

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