Photo courtesy of Chuck Marshall - www.lifeinmichigan.com
The genre of steampunk, as described by Lansing’s Capitol Steam Steampunk Society (“Capitol Steam”), is “the aesthetic of yesteryear with the technology of tomorrow...only better”. Capitol Steam is centrally located in Lansing, and characterizes itself as “an open, welcoming group that has a variety of members” including several who live in East Lansing.
Steampunk combines ideas from sci-fi, fantasy, and the aesthetic of 19th century steam-powered technology. This genre is usually a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy and includes 19th century fashions combined with futuristic technology.
According to member Cindy Pape, “Capitol Steam does two main things. We put on events of our own, and we rally groups to attend other local events and locations, including things like Grand Ledge Victorian Days or the Michigan History Museum.”
When invited, Capitol Steam will also attend other events, and will sometimes attend Comic Cons and other related conventions. They also gather a group to attend the Steam Dream Expo in Augusta every year, and assemble panels for the event. Topics for these panels have included the literary history of steampunk, how to build a costume jetpack, and even “parasol dueling.”
Capitol Steam also puts on their own events, which include potluck picnics, and their bi-monthly get-togethers at Kelly’s Downtown Irish Pub. Along with their bi-monthly events, Kelly’s serves as home base for their one annual event, a food drive for the Greater Lansing Food Bank. In March of 2016, they took in over 400 pound of food, and more than $120 cash.
Photo courtesy of Matt Gwin, Errant Knight Photography
When asked about the demographics of their group, Pape says there is a lot of diversity. “One of the neat things about steampunk is that it’s very inclusive, because we're not recreating a specific, genuine era. Some members do choose to go very traditional Victorian, while others focus more on the post-apocalyptic style with science fiction at the forefront.”
There are a lot of ways to get involved, and different mediums to explore when it comes to steampunk. There is extensive steampunk literature, and Pape has written her own Steampunk series called “The Gaslight Chronicles.” Browsing your local library, bookstores, and the internet are great ways to explore the genre.
You can also find steampunk costumes online, if you want to dress for an event. I recommend browsing Pinterest, or browsing the steampunk subreddit for both costume ideas and other steampunk-related media. There are also many steampunk style video games, if that’s more your style; my personal favorite being BioShock Infinite.
Capitol Steam recently attended Capitol City Comic Con on August 27th, where members had a panel discussing the evolution of Steampunk in the media. On September 10th, they attended the Michigan Renaissance Faire for a steampunk “invasion”. There is a lot of crossover in the fandoms, and many members like to costume for both eras.