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Steampunk Hands Around the World! Steampunk Road Trip. Grasping February’s coattails on the way out.

(Art by Alex Xpike)

Steampunk Hands Around the World is a recurring event in the Steampunkverse. I’ve had the pleasure of being involved since its early beginnings, though my contributions in the past few years have been erratic at best! The project is something I will always champion, since what drives Airship Ambassador Kevin Steil’s initiative is global connection and friendship.

He believes there is a need to unify Steampunks everywhere. Whether they are writers, crafters, bands, event organisers, alcohol manufacturers, diversity warriors, costumiers or simply lovers of the genre who express their enjoyment by attending events and gatherings, his wish is to tie them all closer together and break any walls that stand between different articulations of the genre. It certainly helps towards the ‘More Steampunk Than Thou’ syndrome that can still prevail sometimes, though much less so than when I first became more active and vocal.

I love meeting people, I always have. Steampunk has facilitated some friendships I absolutely never would have had and they cross other interests of mine, too. I made friends with Steampunks who are also pagans, Steampunk who are also musicians, Steampunks who also write across other genres, Steampunks who are also filmmakers, the list goes on.

Some of these friendships could be laid down on a map as a digital road trip, as I have yet to meet some of them in person.

It is a real feature of the modern age that we can sustain a friendship and grow close without physical proximity.

I’ve had some real life-wrenching, air-punching, joy-affirming, sorrow-sharing Skype and Facetime conversations. I’ve exchanged heart secrets via WhatsApp. (Probably foolish, actually considering no data is safe.) But it is a sharing across boundries, visible and invisible that is reflected in the idea behind Steampunk Hands.

When you end up getting closer, it does become an urge to meet up in person, something I try to do whenever possible.

Last year, I finally had the thorough delight to meet up with Diana Pho and her newly wedded partner Ashley.

When I first launched Steampunk India in 2012, Diana was one of the first people to express her enthusiasm and support. She kindly signal boosted articles and posts on Beyond Victoriana to help bring SP India to a wider audience. An online friendship grew through a raft of other mutual interests across fiction, comics, theatre, movies and being vocal for inclusion in various pop culture/alternative communities and LGBTQ representation.

So there we finally were, at one of my favourite Edinburgh haunts – Treacle on Broughton Street, loved by me for their inventive cocktails and the TV screen near the door that plays Thundercats episodes on an endless silent loop. Tipples of choice in hand, we chatted nineteen to the dozen about all these things we were passionate about and our most recent and current projects. It was short but sweet, she and Ashley were taking full advantage of the fact they were in town during the Fringe and had a show to catch. But these moments where lives touch, in this case lives that mostly play out continents apart, is exactly what the joining of Steampunk Hands is about.

Diana Pho of Beyond Victoriana (Right)

An armchair Steampunk road trip of sorts took place over the past two years or so. Josué Ramos and Paulo César Ramirez Villaseñor, as a direct result of connections made through Steampunk Hands, came up with the idea for a bilingual Steampunk anthology that would include writers from all over the world. It was homeless for a while until it found a publisher in Luna Press.

I covered this publishing journey in previous articles so I shan’t rattle on about it at length again. It deserves a mention as an example of a Steampunk collaboration that joined people together, who had become friends during past Steampunk Hands events and who, besides writing the fiction and creating the artwork, became mutually invested in the technical side of getting the book to see the light of day.

(Night train from Kolkata to Assam. ©️Suna Dasi)

At the beginning of this year, I was in India (which deserves a whole article in itself – if I manage to sit still for more than half an hour at some point) and could not let the opportunity slip for another joining of Steampunk Hands: Shreya Ila Anasuya is an award winning writer, academic and activist who currently lives in Mumbai. Those very worthy features are not the things that connected us at first, some five or six years ago. In fact, I’m pretty sure the very first thing we did together was fangirl online at each other about the Steampunk/Lovecraftian joy that is Hopeless, Maine, which I enthused about on the SP India Facebook page when it came out as a serialised online comic. We ended up chatting in the comments thread and have been corresponding ever since.

(Hopeless, Maine. ©️Tom & Nimue Brown)

A lovely addendum is that Tom and Nimue Brown, the creator couple who draw and write the comic together, also became friends in more than one way, though we have so far not met face to face. I occasionally exchange ideas and thoughts on various strands of witchcraft and paganism with Nimue, which is always fascinating as we both come from extremely different schools of thought and practice. Tom happily boosts all music projects I’m involved in and literally cheers from the sidelines when I sell a new piece of writing. They’re both just lovely and part of a minute group of people whom I would meet without hesitation after having known them previously online. Fingers crossed that will happen in the near future. But I digress down a sidetrack on this road trip…

Back to Mumbai; sweltering, blistering Mumbai, even in January. Shreya meets my travel companions and I in Versova Social, a bar that so utterly exudes the same wonderful vibe as De Kroon in Amsterdam that it’s uncanny.

And there we finally were, at Versova, now forever loved by me for it’s great ambiance, inventive cocktails and perfect lounge music. Tipples of choice in hand, we chatted nineteen to the dozen about all the things we were passionate about: poetry, books, queer activism and representation in Indian society, people we admired, writing projects we were involved in.

The best thing about this meeting was that there was more time; as all of our conversations ended up being unfinished business by the end of the night, we met up again the next evening and simply continued. There is even a joint fiction project in the works for the near future!

Shreya Ila Anasuya (Left)

India itself was a true road trip, too, and very often Victoriana and the modern clung chaotically together like a messy, jungly, Victorian/Blade Runner mashup.

(Kolkata, ©️Suna Dasi)

One of the things that struck me is the fact that it isn’t merely a small effort to imagine yourself back in the days of the Raj, but that your surroundings will accommodate you with ease.

(Yep, that’s me! ©️Suna Dasi)

Everywhere, traces of the colonial empire persist, in the architecture and infrastructure on first glance, in the culture when probing further and deeper under the skin of Indians and Indian-ness. It’s not so much what Indian culture has lost (which is much, if you consider for example that it was the Victorians who introduced a form of prudery and lack of acceptance regarding sex and sexuality that was hitherto not part of the Hindu mindset – also food for an individual article later down the line), but what it has retained. Indians are obsessed with giving out cards, for instance. It is a leftover from leaving calling cards when going visiting and it is seen as a mark of sophistication to have your own cards.

(Victorian lamppost, Juhu Beach, Mumba. ©️Suna Dasi)

This impromptu article was cobbled together in haste, to be able to contribute to Steampunk Hands Around the World before February 2018 turns into a pumpkin at midnight. I have neither expressed myself as well as I’d like, nor included everything relevant to the concept of a Steampunk Roadtrip. The main thrust however, is this:

Journeys are made more meaningful by the people and places you connect with. The more people and places you connect with, the richer your experience of the world and the more likely we are to have a greater understanding of it. The Steampunk Hands initiative insists that boundaries are there to be crossed, cultural walls to be scaled and continental distances to be covered, in order to make those connections.

So if you find yourself with an opportunity of meeting someone you might otherwise not be able to, for reasons of distance, circumstance or what have you, do it. Enjoy the chance of sitting in a favourite haunt, tipple of choice in hand, chatting nineteen to the dozen, sharing the things that drive you and stir your passions. Keep travelling.

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Filed under Books, Comics, Culture, Diversity, Events, India, Steampunk, Steampunk Hands, Steampunk Hands Around The World, Victorian, Victoriana, Writing

2018: Steampunk, SpecFic, Music and more!

Happy New Year!

Seldom do I post (for regular updates Twitter is best), yet now I have many excitements to impart. Please make like the tiny turtles in Finding Nemo and scooch together, my kind followers.

2017 ended on a high note with big gig conformations for Erin Bennett: Planet Rock’s Winter’s End Festival, (we play on Sat 24/02) plus Hawkwind’s Hawkeaster Happening, in Morecambe. Krow, too, has an epic gig confirmed – announcement coming soon! New album releases are pending for both. (For those of you who followed this blog fairly recently; I sing backing vox in both bands, which is how I make a living. I write in the gaps.) The Cherry on the Christmas Cake: invites for contributions to two new anthologies & a speculative poem for a third.

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2018 started with a bang because oh, my goodnes; My short story ‘Unmade‘ (featured in Steampunk Writers Around the World) has been nominated for a BSFA by the British Science Fiction Association! Many congratulations to all fellow nominees & my open minded publishers at Luna Press Edinburgh.

For the full list of nominees in all categories, see the BSFA website.

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Filed under Awards, Books, Diversity, EDM, Events, Music, Music Festival, Prog Rock, Rock, Science Fiction, SciFi, Short Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Writing

Other Projects: PandoraFest!

Beside Steampunk India and singing with Erin Bennett (my ‘day job’) , I am a founder of female positive music festival Pandora Fest. In the spirit of signal boosting on all frequencies, here is a recent article on the event by music blog Drunken Werewolf.

(Image: Erin Bennett & The EB Band (ft. Anna Fraser on drums and myslf on backing vox)

The festival has its inaugural launch next month, on July 16th in Scotland and features a great variety of artists and genres. There is opportunity to camp, glamp, browse the market stall, eat, drink and be merry! Everyone is welcome!

Though not strictly Steampunk related, the event certainly hits the independently minded, DIY button…And of course, if you are based in UK, perhaps you might like to attend..

Coming soon: news on the two publications that will feature Steampunk India short stories this year.

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Season’s Greetings from Steampunk India

Christmas is close, how lovely! It’s nearly time to wrap up for the holidays. 

The last deadline of the year is looming: an article about Indian Steampunk for the next edition of SciFi Romance Quarterly. 2016 will see the release of the Steampunk Universe anthology edited by Sarah Hans, featuring my latest story, Internal Devices. I will be contributing to The SciFi and Fantasy Network and am excited about my involvement in a writing project instigated by fellow Steampunk Hands Around the World participants, which has been brewing for some time. February will of course see the 2016 edition of Steampunk Hands Around the World itself: the annual global effort to connect as many people across as many cultures through Steampunk as possible by local events, blog tours, themed articles, exclusive artwork and interviews and much more. Keep a weather eye on the Airship Ambassador’s site for details.

Work is ever ongoing for the Steampunk India-verse itself; short stories – and ,eventually, a book – are mapped out. I will delve into other genre writings as well as ongoing music projects. I will continue to work towards gender -and LGBTI equality in all creative industries

So please, keep your aural induction oscillators tuned to the aether, thank you for your support and enjoy the festive season, however you may celebrate! 

Merry Days from Suna Dasi.  

 

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Rites of Spring: Holi in India

Today all of India celebrates Holi. This year is marked by especially moving events as widows are taking to the streets to participate. In India, widows are complete outcasts from society, shunned by their families and made to fend for themselves. Most of them make a pilgrimage to the two main widow communities in Vrinavan and Varanasi. There they live out the rest of their lives among each other. They may only wear white, are completely excluded from participating in life and barely scrape a living. (Deepa Mehta’s searing (fictional) movie ‘Water’ follows the lives and trials of a small widow’s conclave in Varanasi in 1938. Recommended if harrowing viewing.) This Holi, against traditonalist opposition, many of them have come outside to douse each other with colour and celebrate the coming of Spring. This is quite possibly the best smile I’ve ever seen…



Holi celebrations could be compared to pagan Beltain festivities: The celebrations start with a bonfire the previous night. Folk join each other by the fire to revel. The next morning everyone gets up early and a riotous carnival of colours ensues. Everyone plays, chases each other and throws vibrantly hued powder and coloured water. Massive water gun -and balloon fights break out everywhere. Anyone and everyone is fair game, family, stranger, friend or foe, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The entire city is overrun with frolicking people. Some go from place to place with musical intrsuments, there is song and dance all round. It is time for eating, drinking, love and intoxication: Bhang, made from cannabis leaves, is a common ingredient in drinks and sweets. 



(I have made a very conscious choice to show revelling, happy women: there is an aspect of Holi which is less savoury, which is that under cover of the powder men grab a chance to lay their hands on women. However, as this is a woeful component of the society any day and is something that is continually discussed, something about which movements for change are extremely vocal and activist, I have chosen to highlight moments of intimate exuberance.)



When night falls, people sober up and dress up, to go visit friends and family.

This historical image shows Holi celebrations with a group of women laying into some men with coloured powder. It is not uncommon for powder games to ensue where it very blatantly becomes about men vs women, family vs family or whole neighbourhoods against each other! Date unfortunately uncertain, possibly 1700s.



“Holi is celebrated at the approach of vernal equinox, on the Phalguna Purnima (Full Moon). The festival date varies every year, per the Hindu calendar, and typically comes in March, sometimes February in the Gregorian Calendar. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair ruptured relationships.” – Wikipedia



Two women touch foreheads in a quiet moment in the revelries.

For the many background legends on the significance of Holi in different regions of India, visit: http://www.holifestival.org/legends-of-holi.html

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The Clockwork Watch London Gazette Latest

A background article for the Clocking Off Late Nighttime Event at The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich on the 13th of November.

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Tickets at http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/events/clocking-off-late

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Via Anachronauts Digest: Clocking Off Late Presents: The Tinku Diaries

The Tinku Diaries is an interactive journey of discovery, taking participants deeper into the ‘make believe’ Steampunk world of Clockwork Watch, a story told through live events, graphic novels, an online newspaper, and film.

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Read the full article: http://www.clockworkwatch.org/2014/10/27/clocking-off-late-presents-the-tinku-diaries-2/

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Artwork by Jennie Gyllblad for graphic novel ‘Clockwork Watch: The Arrival’ by Yomi Ayeni and Corey Brotherson

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Tickets are now for sale for the Clocking Off Late event on the 13th of November:

An evening of Georgian era inspired activities with a generous helping of Steampunk from Clockwork Watch at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich!
The evening offers music by The Frolick, a talk by poet Kelley Swain on her book Double the Stars on the life of the brilliant astronomer Caroline Herschel (pictured)

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The event will also host a pub quiz, and a Georgian wig making workshop, so do, by all means, don your finery and become part of the jollity…

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Clocking off Late will also provide a new encounter with Clockwork Watch character Tinku Ranbir, who will be inhabiting the East India Company wing of the museum this time and once more share her stories with the public.

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There will also, Steampunk India has this on very good authority, be GIN.

Come one, Come all for a memorable night at the museum!

http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/events/clocking-off-late

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October 2, 2014 · 08:20

An interview with Steampunk India by author Khaalidah

imageThe interview was conducted a while ago, going more in depth into personal background and creative projects and what drives this project of bringing Indian based Steampunk into the genre specifically.

http://www.khaalidah.com/?p=1351

Khaalidah is an author based in America and her involvement in Steampunk was, among other things, articles for the Steampunk Hands Around the World project in February.

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