by Michael Salerno

If you are Steampunk you’ve probably already heard it said:  ‘If you asked 100 Steampunks to define “Steampunk” you’d get 100 different answers.’  Probably true;  everyone does seem to have their own take on it. But a new twist on that query recently lobbed in my direction got me to wondering.  The question was this:

“What does Steampunk mean to you being an older person?”

After first recovering (slowly) from the shock of being called ‘an older person’ I found that one question had set off, in my mind, a string of others:    Is there some sort of age segmentation in Steampunk?  Am I really so different because I’m “older”? Does someone’s age define how they view the subculture?   How would those 100 different answers break down if they were compared by age group? Would the 17 and under crowd deliver similar answers?  Would the 18 to 25 demographic share traits and would they be significantly different from the 26 to 39 crowd?   Most importantly: Would my peer group, the 40 and older Steampunks, find some unifying commonality in our definition?

I say the answer is a resounding  yes… and no.

Yes there will be similarities in the answers based on age.  The times in which we are raised have a deep and lasting effect on the way we see the world. As a ‘child of the sixties’ I will share the common experiences that shaped the lives and perceptions of others of that generation regardless of our birthplace; just as the children 70’s, 80’ and 90’s will.

But No, the answers won’t be the same.  Geographic origins, the places in which we are raised, have a tremendous impact on who we are and how we see the world.  Those of us raised in the Northeast  will have a different view of things from those raised in the deep south or the Midwest .  (That of course is just looking at things from a U.S point of view.  Imagine the differences from a global perspective.)

We are all so very different how could our answers ever be the same? Each one of us seems to have a personal definition of Steampunk.  And yet, despite all the differences deeply embedded in us by our birthplaces and our upbringings and yes, even our ages, it’s not the brass gears or fancy clothes or amazing inventions that ties us together as Steampunks,  it is the community.

So, what DOES Steampunk mean to me being an older person?   Equality.

Growing up in the 1960s we were taught to treat everyone as equals.  The age of discrimination was coming to an end -we were all brothers and sisters in the same big family.  If we treat each other that way the future will be a better place.  While I have tried throughout my life to live this way and teach these values to my kids, we live in a world where that promise has failed to materialize.  Being a white male I have never known what it means to be discriminated against, to be treated poorly because of my sex or skin color or faith.  But I still see people being judged and separated into groups based on age, skin color, sex, nationality…  Except in the Steampunk community.

I’ve seen Steampunks from pre-toddler to senior citizens and every walk of life all welcomed into the community.  Steampunk, to me, IS the great equalizer – it is unique as a subculture in that it freely embraces all and with equal enthusiasm.   An individual’s race, age, nationality, sexual orientation,  disability are not used to set people aside but are included, accepted, embraced and enfolded , wrapped in the great blanket of Steampunk,  enriching our community.  I have friends here, who, had it not been for Steampunk, I would never have met and I am a better person for knowing them.  Old, Young, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, Gay, Straight, Bi, Trans, Black, Indian, White, Native, Asian, all come together as Steampunks first; each one bringing something more to the community, sharing the new common experience, teaching and learning from each other.   Here, in the community I am not simply an older white guy  who happens to be Steampunk… I am a Steampunk first, just like everyone else; an equal.  Out of many, we are one

E pluribus unum, indeed.