by Dr Cornelius Porridge
Introducing a guest post from the infamous Dr Porridge as he gives us some Steampunk wisdom in honour of Lincoln’s famous Weekend At The Asylum which is happening at the end of this month.
England circa 1856; The gentle sound of glasses clinking in a rundown tavern is rudely interrupted by the depraved ramblings of a metaphysical butler and his charge, the slightly mad and deceptively sober Dr Porridge. Once again the good doctor has upset a regular patron in an argument over a can of ‘Mr Fruity’s Canned Salad For One’, the existence of the Greater Squiff Weasel of Chile and the questionable background of the aforementioned patron. In due course a hasty exit into the sidestreet is warranted and Dr Porridge hits a few buttons on his gauntlet, quickly activating his Time Machine.
*PHWZAAAP* (As we all know, that’s the sound a Time Machine makes.) Our bedraggled doctor and his butler, Barnaby, find themselves in the centre of a fine English city in the year 2015. Slightly weary from their lumbering jaunt through the space-time continuum they find that there can be only one thing for it; a frothing beverage is required. Enquiries are made and directions given to a tavern just a few stumbling steps away. Dr Porridge enters, a quart of ale is ordered and so the evening’s revelry begins…
Welcome, dear reader, to my world… the wonderful world of Steampunk. I first discovered this fascinating sub-culture about five years ago in my local city but did not become active within my local society until a couple of years ago. So, what is Steampunk? It’s a movement that brings together science fiction and the Victorian era together with the works of the likes of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, good old crafting and a great deal of fun. Oh, and of course, a lot of dressing up in one’s finery.
I myself do not get quite as dressed up as some of my compatriots. I usually dress in simple attire; dress trousers, shirt, waistcoat… oh and the small matter of a backpack time machine, various fake weaponry and holsters, bowler hat or pith helmet, goggles and boots. I’m a hobbyist leatherworker so I also make a lot of my own costume, as do many Steampunk folk.
Whilst going out of an eve it’s worth remembering that it takes a lot of chutzpah to walk into a public house dressed as something straight out of a Victorian science fiction novel. Indeed it could be said that it borders on the line of eccentricity in the highest regard. Steampunks are generally friendly types who like nothing more than talking about their lifestyle to great length. Whether you’re a Steampunk yourself or just steam-curious here’s a rundown of my on how to behave in licensed premises as a Steampunk.
1. Take a deep breath and walk through the door, it obviously pays somewhat to check the place out first but generally quiet bars, real ale pubs and cafes are very welcoming. I’m not saying that the louder places are not, it’s just that if you’re wearing a pith helmet, the more inebriated members of our fair nation will no doubt either want a photo or try to claim it as their own.
2. NO WEAPONRY. You’d be amazed how many times people ask about the guns, swords, crossbows and vampire stakes. If it is an organised event with many pubs, check with the landlord first. It is an offence to walk around with ANYTHING that could be construed as a weapon, that being said at organised events the local constabulary and doorstaff are usually on the ball. However, do not be tempted to point your Nerf/Replica/Cardinal Chunders Peasant Removal Device™ at unsuspecting members of the public. People will (and have!) called the local constabulary over such matters and they WILL turn up and point their own Cardinal Chunders Peasant Removal Device™ up your nose (Editor’s note: I’m not entirely sure in which century Dr Porridge last encountered the British police.) No-one likes that much paperwork. If in doubt, leave it at home.
3. Be prepared to answer questions as a Steampunk, the commonest being ‘What is Steampunk?’ Have a short answer but be polite and respectful, you represent a whole community of fine people. For the steam-curious amongst you; be courteous in your asking of the questions, we don’t mind answering them but we’ve probably had it all day and just need a quiet beer. Although, for that matter, if you actually buy a Steampunk a beer and you you may struggle in getting away. Huzzah!
4. ALWAYS ask for a photo rather than just taking one. It’s polite! Most Steampunks will gladly allow the odd photo for interested parties, obnoxious behaviour will be frowned upon. Don’t forget a lot of us have Nerf guns…
5. Make sure that your attire is safe. I know of a number of people turned away by doorstaff because their wonderful Steampunk boots have steel toecaps.
6. If you get harassed by members of the public let the barstaff know. In most cases, especially in my city, Steampunks are viewed favourably. Who doesn’t love having time traveller in their local? Especially if, as the great Professor Elemental once said, ”you can drink ten pints of Adnams without even breaking a sweat.”
7. Don’t feel you need to drink alcohol at all. You could be in for the long haul on an event and you don’t want to put yourself at risk of ruining your good clothes or worse getting into fracas with some unmentionables. (Editor’s note: Dr Porridge has been known to run around public houses asking non-Steampunk folk if they’ve seen his bemused butler, Barnaby. Obviously this is done in good spirit and not to be frowned upon at all, ever, no Constable… that Martian was on the floor when I got here… ahem.)
8. Be respectful to the staff at all times. It can be slightly unnerving serving drinks to returning veterans of the Martian wars.
9. If you find a pub that is open to Steampunk it should be nurtured and visited regularly. I’m very fortunate that my local village pub is very Steampunk friendly and over the years the locals have come to expect it and enjoy it. Steampunk can enhance a business and where my local society meets it fills an evening with trade and gets customers talking.
10. And finally, the most important point of all. HAVE FUN. If you’re not having fun you’re missing the essence of Steampunk.
So those are my top ten tips on being a Steampunk and staying safe whilst enjoying the many delights of Great Britain’s public houses. Now if you’ll excuse me there appears to be a Martian capsule landing near Skegness that I must attend to. “BARNABY, bring me a gin and that Martian ray gun we acquired and for goodness sake put some clothes on!”
Dr Porridge is a member of the grand and renowned Society of Lincolnshire Steampunks though his opinions are his own.