Steampunk is a global phenomenon. One place where it has taken root is South America where the movement is growing quickly. I reached out to some groups to see if they’d be willing to talk about themselves, and thankfully the fine folks at Steampunk Chile agreed. Below are their answers to my questions as well as several amazing photographs by Cesar Ravello from their Steampunk Chile Encounter IV.
Doctor Fantastique’: Tell us about yourselves:
Steampunk Chile: Steampunk-Chile was created in 2009 by a group of people with a common interest in a hypothetical past based on the second half of the 19th Century, as well as other retrofuturisms, which is the core of this movement. Like all communities, it started off with a small member base. However, as its founding members familiarized themselves with the proper aspects of Steampunk, the community became more attractive and started growing throughout social networks.
By March 2011, our member base had grown enough to allow and justify our first national Steampunk event. Ever since, the community has widened and deepened its participation and understanding of the movement, has organized several events nationwide, and has continued to attract an increasing amount of members.
DF: How popular is Steampunk in Chile?
SC: Goth/Victorian movements are overall well accepted by the Chilean population, and Steampunk has received the same treatment. Despite being a small community (about 400 members), we have already been featured in the national media – with several internet articles and an interview for “La Hora”, a local newspaper, in November 2011. All of this has been crucial in our development as a well-known community.
DF: What do you think Chile contributes to Steampunk as a movement?
SC: Chile contributes to the Steampunk genre with its historical background – which also influences our own community’s identity – as well as many artistic and creative contributions done by members of our community and Steampunk followers in general. Recent literary publications include “La segunda enciclopedia de Tlön” (Tlön´s Second Encyclopedia) by Sergio Meier, “La sombra de fuego” (The Shadow of Fire) by Alberto Rojas and “El mago del desierto” (The Wizard of the Desert) by Jose Luis Flores, which are considered to be of national success and have put the Steampunk concept in the public eye. Other works by our own community come from the writing hand of Francisco Ortega, and dedicated illustrators and graphic designers such as Nelson Daniel, Ren Ato, Frencis Drake and Eliseo Peña. Plastic artists of the likes of Felix Lobotomy and enterprising members such as Sailor Fran (MakinariuM), Tristan Muñoz (Clock Tower – Steampunk Jewelry) and Miguel Oliva (Darkmigu) all have their Steampunk stores with stocks of their personal creations. In general, these are the elements that promote the creative essence that Steampunk represents and also promote the long lost connection that used to exist between any craftsmen and his/her creation.
DF: Does the history of Chile affect how you approach Steampunk?
SC: Absolutely, during the years the Steampunk universe covers, several historic events that took place in our country now inspire our national identity, not just in an aesthetic way, but by influencing the literary works and settings of both professional and aspiring writers. One example is “1899, Cuando los tiempos chocan” (1899, When Times Collide), a graphic novel by Francisco Ortega and Nelson Daniel which involves historical figures Arturo Prat and Miguel Grau during the War of the Pacific (between Chile, Peru and Bolivia, not the War of the Pacific involving the U.S. and Japan). This time period has also been particularly important to those who have borrowed the look of its naval uniforms and incorporated it into their own Steampunk attires.
Of the historic events that define Chile, the wars between neighboring countries, the inner social conflict and struggle, and an economic situation typical of a country considered to be a world leader in brute product exports are what we consider the center of our identity. However, we believe there is still much to study and explore about our own history.
DF: What are your hopes for the future with Steampunk in Chile?
SC: The administrators and more active members of our community are putting great efforts into the future of Steampunk Chile. We have our own forum (www.Steampunkchile.forochile.org), Twitter, Flickr, My-Space, G+, Facebook and DeviantArt accounts. Our goal is to continue growing as we have so far by using the Steampunk genre as a model and inspiration to promote culture, art, imagination and free thought. We also intend to carry out massive Steampunk events and gatherings in different areas across the country, and we intend to take part in different conventions with our own stands and expositions, among other initiatives.