1.- The interviewee
Born in 1971, Bruno Accioly is a Brazilian author, lecturer and public speaker. Editor in Chief of SteamPunk.com.br since 2007, co-founder of the Conselho Steampunk in 2008 and of the Sociedade Retrofuturista (‘Retrofuturistic Society’) in 2010, he is one of the main promoters and developers of the Steampunk movement in his country.
2.- Past, present and future of Brazilian Steampunk
Bruno, welcome to our series of brief interviews!
Q.- The Conselho Steampunk was founded in June 2008 by Raul Cândido Ruiz and you, with only two Lodges (Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo). A couple of years ago it had reached other ten states, which is an irrefutable evidence of the success of this model in which the Conselho offers technological and cultural support to whoever wants to establish a Lodge in her/his state or to whoever wishes to join a Lodge as contributor. Talk to us about the Brazilian Steampunk community at present, please.
Bruno Accioly (BA).- Although Conselho SteamPunk is considered a large group, present in many states, there are a bunch of smaller groups of enthusiasts organizing in their own cities and Conselho SteamPunk itself, as it is not a centralized organization, has a diverse universe of members in terms of interests and talents.
Conselho SteamPunk offers some structure for the group of enthusiast interested in promoting the SteamPunk Culture, but it is expected that some people need to feel on the margin of the movement somehow protected from a possible “mainstream-ization” of the genre.
What I’ve noticed about the movement in Brazil is that the amount of people interested not only on SteamPlay (the SteamPunk cosplay) is growing or, maybe, the SteamPlayers are gathering around other aspects of the SteamPunk Culture.
The search for a brazilian identity for SteamPunk marches on and I think that, at least in terms of literature, we are getting there.
Q.- Do you think that this network system, brought to the attention of the international scene by Bruce Sterling (Wired Magazine) in 2009, could be exported? We have heard about the Conselho Steampunk Consulates… do you know of any other case of success with a decentralized system?
BA.- As I see it this model not only could but should be exported. There’s great advantage in maintaining a connection among hegemonic groups related to each other by a culture. The more prominent of which being an increase in collaboration potential and diversity of ideas.
There are some good examples of this kind of organization in unusual places, like the Human Body, Terrorist Groups and even the Internet Itself.
The idea is to keep each group independent but linked by a general identity and preventing people from feeling or making themselves more important than other members. If a group sticks to its Fundamental Principles it will stay afloat and will feel right for everyone involved.
The SteamConsulate project is a concept created to potentially pull together every SteamPunk related group in the world using a database for interchange of information on places to visit, local history and people to contact for each place where a SteamPunk group is present.
Essentially it is a SteamPunk Social Network and we are about to launch it but there is a lot of work to be done as it was designed as a not for profit endeavor and it is hard to get the resources to complete the project.
Q.- Are conventions or steampunk-themed events growing in Brazil too?
BA.- Brazil is a very big country and it is hard to make countrywide events because not everyone could attend. That’s another good reason for the model we use in Conselho SteamPunk.
Since the beginning we had SteamPlay on Loja São Paulo, but as each Lodge will manifest its interests according to their enlisted members, not every Lodge has public events nor SteamPlay events.
Some Lodges are very much into Role Playing Games, others in art, workshops, literature, illustration or movies so it is hard to keep track of actual general trends among members.
I would say that Paraná Lodge and São Paulo Lodge are the most active in terms of public event mobilization.
Q.- Are there any historical events that you would emphasize as basements for a Brazilian Steampunk?
BA.- Brazil has a very rich history, particularly in the 19th Century, and since 1808, when D.João VI came from Portugal evading from the Napoleon’s siege of Lisbon, many interesting events took place.
In 19th Century Brazil went from a colonial country to the center of a relevant empire and would be culturally changed forever.
D.Pedro I was a very prominent historical figure and father of a very SteamPunkish Emperor, D.Pedro II, himself an enthusiast for scientific and technological achievements, philosophy, anthropology, chemistry and many other areas of human knowledge.
Irineu Evangelista de Sousa was a brazilian banker and industrial that practically made the Brazilian economy and future viable while creating an iron metalwork, railroads, a shipyard, commissioned the first telegraphic submarine cable from South America to Europe, developed commercial steamboat transportation and installed gas-fueled street lights in Rio de Janeiro – then the capital of Brazil.
Entire books could be written about the evolvement of great men and women with the progress of technology and science.
Q.- You are Editor in Chief of SteamPunk.com.br and author of ‘Crónicas Póstumas’. As writer, which Brazilian literary sci-fi works of the 19th century would you highlight?
BA.- Machado de Assis is the author that comes to my mind immediately every time someone asks that. “Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas” (1881) is one of the five Woody Allen’s favorite books and there is a good reason for it – http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/06/woody-allen-top-five-books
“The Immortal” (1882), by Machado de Assis was one of the first Science Fiction/Fantasy works written in Brazil and was published on the female magazine “A Estação”.
The narrative tells the story of Ruy Garcia de Meirelles e Castro Azevedo de Leão, an ex-monk that lives everything to live among indians where he meets and marry the daughter of the tribe’s chief, Pirajuá.
Feeling death approaching, Pirajuá tells Ruy de Leão the secret of the elixir of eternal life, which he himself would dare take.
Years later Ruy de Leão, on the verge of death, remembers the elixir and decides to take it saying: “Now that death is certain what would I loose by daring to use the beverage? The science of a century could know it all; other century will come and pass it on. Who knows, he said to himself, if men won’t uncover it’s secrets and the scientific elixir would end up being the savage drug itself?”
Ruy de Leão, travels the world after that, without aging and seeing his loves and friends die. Even after condemned to death he wouldn’t die, as tissue and bones would regenerate rapidly.
It is a very compelling short story that can be found in english here: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/25650662?uid=2&uid=4&sid=21102442689511
Q.- And what about Brazilian contemporary Steampunk literature?
BA.- There are a lot of authors publishing in the SteamPunk genre in Brazil and some anthologies could be pointed out, like: “SteamPunk – Histórias de um Passado Extraordinário”, “Vapor Punk”, “Deus Ex Machina – Anjos e Demônios na Era do Vapor”, “SteamPink”, “O Baronato de Shoah”.
These works were written by Gianpaolo Celli, Fábio Fernandes, Antonio Luiz M. C. Costa, Alexandre Lancaster, Roberto de Sousa Causo, Claudio Villa, Jacques Barcia, Romeu Martins, Flávio Medeiros, Octavio Aragão, Yves Robert, Flavio Medeiros Jr, Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro, Jorge Candeias, Carlos Orsi, Eric Novello, João Ventura, Norberto Silva, David M. Gonzales, Carlos Machado, Yuri Wittlich Cortez, Alliah, Georgette Silen, O.S.Berquó, Leonilson Lopes, Daniel I. Dutra, Alex Nery, Rebeca Bacin, Lyra Collodel, Tatiana Ruiz, This Gomez, Lidia Zuin, Amanda Reznor, Leona Volpe, Dana Guedes, Nikelen Witter, Verônica Freitas, Bia Machado, Renata Galindo Neves, Lívia Pereira.
There is a review of “SteamPunk – Historias de um Passado Extraordinario” on Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/10/review-steampunk-historias-de-um-passado-extraordinario
3.- Steampunk, jewelry, values
Q.- Brazil is the world’s leading source of both precious and semi-precious stones (in fact there is one state called ‘Minas Gerais’, which translates as General Mines). Your country brings forward top-world jewelry designers like Howard Stern and Manoel Bernardes, just to name a couple of examples, and arising trends such as ‘amazonia bio-jewelry’. Bio-jewelry, also known as ‘eco jewelry’, is made with material furnished by nature: seeds (Açaí, Buriti, Jarina or Jupati), coconut fiber, golden grass… do you think that Brazilian Steampunks will make the most of these roots in order to design distinctive Steampunk jewelry?
BA.- It is hard to say. We should have in mind that a lot of inspiration comes from foreign work and foreign designers and that most of the SteamPunk creations are not professional creations but more of an individual effort towards making an appealing Cosplay.
Back in 2008 I contacted a jewelry designer whose specialty was techno jewelry and sustainable recycled resources for making them. Nana Hayne fell in love with SteamPunk and has designed a lot SteamPunk inspired pieces since then. Some of Nana Hayne’s work can be found here.
I don’t know of any other jewelry designers here, but I know of some accessories makers and fashion designers interested in SteamPunk. Much of the SteamPunk production is very DIY oriented now in Brazil unfortunately.
There is a very distinctive approach, I think, to cosmaking and to artifact production in Brazil, though, mixing Colonial and Victorian styles – as that’s a very strong characteristic of our 19th Century identity.
Q.- In any case, how would you describe Steampunk jewelry?
BA.- I think of SteamPunk jewelry as a translation of the awkwardness of form and function and the attempt to give function to ornaments. One shouldn’t be after replicating Victorian styled jewelry but go after locket concepts, mechanical devices, clockwork pieces and such. The best approach, I think is not to produce a fake functional-like necklace, but something believable even if it is simple, as the pendant on the movie “The Illusionist”.
Q.- Would you dare to synthesize Steampunk jewelry with a single word?
Q.- Do you think that there is a place for Steampunk fine jewelry?
BA.- Sure there is. Prada made it clear that all things SteamPunk are up for grabs and that people love it no matter what’s their background.
Q.- We are convinced that jewelry for men deserves to be brought into focus (this is why we designed our Sky Captain Series, nominated to this year’s Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice Awards). Should jewelry for men receive more attention?
BA.- Yes it should. Not only in therms of SteamPunk jewelry but everywhere. I consider prejudice against men using jewelry very… anachronistic – no pun intended.
Q.- As a creator, what challenges do you think Steampunk jewelry designers face?
BA.- SteamPunk artifacts can be made with care and without care. When produced with care a piece will be convincing otherwise it simply won’t. SteamPunk artifacts has a very particular public and they are kind of picky about what the like and dislike or even what they consider SteamPunk or not.
Q.- Like you do, we think that the current production systems that use natural resources intensively are not sustainable. In 2011 we wrote a blog post entitled ‘Steampunk raison d’être: it’s all about values’ , which values do you think that could be considered characteristic of Steampunk?
BA.- SteamPunk can be considered as a metaphor revisiting the Victorian Era to criticize or point out the flaws of our wasteful way of life. It is not only about the glamour of progress in science and technology, but the way humankind acted on recent history towards natural resources.
Part of the reason I am so interested in SteamPunk is this inconspicuous dystopic reality that it put out without being a pain. I wrote something about it a while back and I have some strong convictions on the matter: ‘Steampunk: Utopia, distopia e realidade’.
Q.- Thank you so much for your time and kind attention, just one last question to bring this interview to an end. Is there anything else you would like to add?
BA.- Thank you for the opportunity and for these great questions =) I would like to share with you our english/portuguese vidcast that you can watch www.SteamCast.com.br and our fanpage on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vapor.marginal
Disclaimer.- The opinions or statements expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Decimononic.
4.- Next interviewee!
On the 15th of September we are publishing the interview for Art Donovan, artist, designer and museum curator with a lengthy career in the arts. From 1980 to 1990 he was the senior designer and head illustrator for Donald Deskey Associates, NYC. Since 1990, he has specialized in hand crafting custom lighting and illuminated sculptural objects for his company, Donovan Design, with the support of her business partner and wife Leslie Tarbell Donovan as President of Donovan Design and owner of Staging Places.
Remember that all the published interviews are available for your delight: ‘Steampunk jewelry tonight with…’ the brief interviews series by Decimononic.