During the month of February the global steampunk community is celebrated in the initiative Steampunk Hands Around the World. One of our friends, Charlie Dormer, wrote a text as our contribution. Here you can find the rest: Steampunk hands around the world — Official link list.
In September 2013 I boarded a plane to Sweden; a pith helmet on my head and all my worldly goods in tow. Slightly terrified, knowing no one except my boyfriend, and totally unsure of what to expect, I understandably felt more than a little homesick. In fact, at one point maybe two weeks in, I seriously considered going home again. ’What has all this got to do with steampunk?’ you may well ask. The answer is, actually, everything.
My boyfriend eventually convinced me to stay for the Steampunk-Konvent in Alingsås in October. I had absolutely no idea what to expect: what I found was perhaps more wonderful than I could imagine. A couple of hundred Steampunks from all across Sweden, in all their glory – and a few from other Scandinavian countries. Their clothing was wonderful, their excitement incredible, and quickly I found myself, for the first time since my arrival, feeling at home. And this was just the start. I made friends there – lots of them – and very quickly! I started chattering to people and it was so much fun! Even better – a lot of the people I spoke to seemed to be relatively local to my new home. The moment the convention ended, I created a Facebook group –‘Steampunk i Göteborg’, partly so I could try to stay in touch with the new friends I had made over the weekend. The response was startling – within the first few hours we were forty members, then seventy – at last count we were 154 people, and have just formed a förening. We shall also be holding our first big steampunk party on May 17th. Within the group are many of the people who made me feel so welcome upon my arrival to Sweden, and I hold them as some of the best friends I have ever had.
Whilst Alingsås was the first steampunk convention in Sweden, it will by no means be the last. The Steampunkfestival in Gävle this summer is set to be amazing, encompassing Swecon (the Swedish science fiction and fantasy convention) as well as the Steampunk Convention itself – Even better, it shall be based at the Railway museum there. I’m particularly excited about the steam engine which is being ‘steampunked’ for the convention – Steampunk in the UK tends not to involve large-scale artworks – and especially not operational ones! I’m also intrigued by the planned LARP which shall take place over the course of the weekend.
I’ve found that Steampunk in Sweden seems to be more involved with the LARP side of things than it is in the UK. A lot of Steampunks appear to get there through the LARP aspect, and stay for the tea. Generally speaking, LARP isn’t as integrated into British Steampunk, and doesn’t have much of a place within large scale events there. As I’ve already said, large scale works are less common within British steampunk circles, and the biggest projects in the UK tend to be motorcycles and rocket-packs, whereas the Gävle steam engine is obviously much more sizable. It must also be stated that tea isn’t quite as often the beverage of choice for Steampunks in Sweden, but I think that might be more a general thing rather than just within steampunk – after all, Swedes do consume on average three times more coffee per capita than Brits do.
However, it must be said that in some ways, Steampunk in Sweden isn’t that different to steampunk in the UK. Splendid manners and a friendly disposition are found everywhere, and a general enthusiasm for helping to develop each other’s ideas is near universal. There is a considerable crossover with the maker community – which leads to some remarkable creations which capture both the eye and the imagination. The milliners and clothing designers amongst Sweden’s steampunk population are also incredibly talented, with designs and ideas that are so very different to those I’ve seen elsewhere. Not only has Swedish steampunk succeeded in capturing an imaginary age, but it is kindling interest and creativity in other places through collaborations with schools and museums as well as features on national television. Sweden’s steampunk community is going from strength to strength. On a personal level I can wholeheartedly and unashamedly state that without it, I would have returned home to the UK after less than a month. On a wider level, it has the ability to inspire people, to bring people together and to encourage collaboration. It has the ability to be a force for good, making people smile and feel welcome. It has the ability to do wonderful things: to make the world a little more splendid, and in doing so, change the world.