Saturday, January 14, 2012

Questions that Either Have Been, or Might Some Day be Asked of Me (What Less Wordy Blogs Might Call "FAQ")

Q: So, wait. What's steampunk?

A: The boring question first! Awesome. Steampunk is a genre and subculture based on the idea of alternate history and science fiction, based in a 19th century setting or aesthetic. There's a lot more to it than that, but yeah, that's a lot of it.

Q: So what exactly is a Steampunk Emma Goldman?

A: My character is based on the idea that at some point during her life, Emma Goldman acquired the ability to time-travel. Don't think about it too hard. All you really need to know is that she runs around throughout time and space participating in revolutions, and that she also sometimes makes posts here about political activists of the 19th century whom she feels are worthy of your attention and/or admiration.

Q: Who is Emma Goldman?

A: An excellent question! Emma Goldman was an anarchist during the late 19th and early 20th century. She kicked epic amounts of ass. Want to learn more? Start here!

Q: So are you some type of crazy person who thinks she's, like, Emma Goldman reincarnated?

A: Not at all. I'm some type of crazy person who thinks Emma Goldman was an amazing person who deserves more attention than I think she usually gets, and who I think could be a valuable source of inspiration to activists and aspiring activists in the present day.

Q: Are you an anarchist?

A: I am.  And for people who aren't,  I think that even if you don't agree with it, anarchism adds something very important to the political conversation, even if I don't entirely agree with it. It's possible that one day I will come to consider myself an anarchist, but right now, I don't.

Q: So, how did this become a thing for you?

A: Two ways, really. First, I was getting sick of the way the steampunk subculture, (in which I have been an active participant since about 2006) tended to be apolitical. I saw a lot of admiration for artists and scientists of the past, but none for activists. I figured people with an interest in history were in a great position to talk about politics, so when all the Scott Walker drama in Wisconsin was heating up, I decided to stage a Steampunk Pro-Union Rally to talk about the history and present status of organized labor. And it was amazing. It happened that I decided to dress up as Emma Goldman for the event, and people loved that, so I continued doing so at steampunk events as way of politicizing things. Then when I started participating in Occupy Wall Street, I realized that the real world of politics needed a little Emma Goldman too, and did a few performances in Zuccotti Park.

Q: Is what you do political performance art?

A: Uh, yes, yes it is. Gosh, I'm pretentious, aren't I?

Q: Would you find it awesome if other people started dressing up as political activists of the 19th century at steampunk events?

A: Yes. Yes I would, thank you for asking. As it happens, I can personally attest to a Steampunk Voltairine de Cleyre, and a Steampunk Subcomandante Marcos, and I'd love to see more.

Q: Why do you perform in sparkly red lipstick?

A: The red is for Red Emma, the sparkles are because Emma believed in everyone's right to beautiful, radiant things, and also it looks awesome.

Q: What's that thing you wear on your arm?

A: That's my time-travel device! I call it the Means of Production. I seized it, you see. For the people.

Q: What about this blog...are all the people you write about anarchists?

A: Not at all. Many of them are, but the only thing that they all have in common is that I find them politically admirable in some way, and that they lived at least part of their lives in the 19th century.

Q: I have a really good idea for someone you should write about!

A: That wasn't a question, but yay! If you suggest them to me, it is very possible that I will write about them. It is also possible that I was already planning to do so, but your suggestion may spur me into action.

Q: Where can I go for updates about Steampunk Emma Goldman's performances, as well as blog updates and other random links and thoughts about politics and history?

A: It sounds like you're looking for the Steampunk Emma Goldman Facebook Page! Like the page, and you will get all sorts of fun things.

Q: I know that Emma Goldman has been spotted in various time periods and locations. She seems to look different now than she did during what is generally thought of as her natural lifetime. Tell the truth. Is Steampunk Emma Goldman a Time Lord?

A: As an anarchist, who abhors hierarchy of any kind, Steampunk Emma Goldman prefers the term "Time Comrade."

Q:I had a question, and you didn't answer it!

A: Sorry! Put it in the comments and I will edit this post to include it.


  1. Steampunk Emma Goldman: Awesome idea! I love this, and nice FAQ!

    Just one note: I've always thought of Goldman as an marxist, not an anarchist (although very close to the very subtle dividing line of the two closely related ideologies)

    1. Thanks for your comment! You're absolutely correct that Emma (sorry, "I") could definitely be identified as an anarcho-communist. But as you say, the line dividing Marxism and anarchism is fuzzy, and I'd say much of Emma's work emphasized the overlap between the two ideologies. Still, she identified herself most strongly as an anarchist, so that is how I have chosen to portray her.