Steampunks Stroll into Town
Fantastical garb, with a historical bent, will be kicking off Waukesha Reads.
Be on the look-out for people dressed in fantastical, slightly old-fashioned looking outfits in downtown Waukesha.
You may have already seen them because they’ve attended a few community events – Friday Nights Live and a tea at Steaming Cup.
But later this month, fans of steampunk will stroll the streets of downtown Friday, Sept. 30, to kick-off Waukesha Reads, a community-wide literacy project.
Now in its fifth year, the Waukesha Reads literacy project has selected the classic, The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as its book choice for 2011. The eerie mystery features the famous duo of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
One link between Sherlock Holmes and steampunk is the Victorian period. Plus, the modern-day, pop culture Sherlock Holmes portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. is edgy and hyper-smart, with a devil-may-care attitude, which corresponds well with steampunk culture.
Steampunk is a term for a genre of science fiction set in the Victorian period, where the cutting-edge technology is steam, according to John Klima, assistant director of Waukesha Public Library and steampunk fan.
The term steampunk came into use in the 1980s but this unique view can be seen in earlier works of literature by H.G. Wells or Jules Verne, Klima said.
Klima is one of the few librarians who has written about steampunk. He edits the Hugo Award–winning magazine Electric Velocipede and has reviewed steampunk literature for the Library Journal.
Steampunk is fantastical but reality-based, Klima said. For example, the new Sherlock Holmes movie has a steampunk feel to it.
Taking reality a bit further, though, the works of steampunk usually contain something edgy and unusual, something not found in real-life but which could possibly have existed with a twist of imagination, like historical events turning out differently or certain other technologies or even mystical creatures existing.
Steampunk is a modern, forward-looking take on history or a backwards-looking take on the future, with a dash of fashion and derring-do added.
The fashion aspect of steampunk has grown, fueled by increased interest in DIY-projects and movements like Makerfaire, where people work hard to create something interesting of their own. The artistry of the design is important to the steampunk culture.
At the stroll in Waukesha, people can expect to see steampunk costumes including pseudo-Victorian garb or old-fashioned military-like clothing, Klima said. Accessories include items like a watch with exposed clockwork inside, a clockwork sleeve, unusual glasses or goggles or a trick cane. People may also ride a steampunk cart or bike at the parade.
There may also be a steampunk-inspired music instrument or two.
The Waukesha Reads literacy project will run Sept. 30 through Oct. 30 and will include book discussions and events for all ages.
Waukesha Reads, a collaboration of more than 40 community partners, promotes reading for pleasure and enlightenment. It offers opportunities for the community to come together to explore the book and share ideas, according to a press release for the event. Initially, Waukesha Reads was a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read project, but since 2010 it has become an independent and community-supported literacy initiative.