1.- The interviewees
Araceli Rodríguez (aka Von Marmalade) and Paulo César Ramírez (aka Negro Inmunsapá) are the founders of ‘Mercenarios de Dios’. Deeply involved in the Mexican Steampunk scene, they spread Steampunk worldwide through initiatives like the monthly magazine ‘El Investigador’, the podcast ‘Radio Metronomik’, literary compilations (‘Ácronos’, ‘Planes B’), etc.
2.- Steampunk: from México to the world
Dear Araceli and Paulo, welcoming you to our brief interviews’ series is a great satisfaction for us. No wonder Irene and I have been following El Investigador magazine from its very beginning and all we can say is that your endeavors as members of Mercenarios de DIOS have become a referent in the Steampunk scene worlwide and, more specifically, in the Spanish-speaking community.
Decimononic (D).- In any case, let’s go from local to global. We know that Mercenarios de DIOS members are very involved in the development of the Mexican Steampunk scene (in fact the logo of the forum Steampunk México is one of your works). Tell us a bit about it, please.
Araceli Rodríguez (A).- The logo you mention was made by Mr. Xpk (a.k.a. Gorgonzola666), the same who makes the layout of El Investigador.
Paulo C. Ramírez (P).- As Araceli already said, it was a work that the administrator in that time, Sir Lukyan Corvinus, asked for to Alejandro Pérez Cobos, also known as Xpk. The community already had the idea of mixing nationality with a Steampunk touch and when that idea came to Xpk he simply used his skills to make what we all identify as the symbol of Steampunk México. I must say that’s an adaptation of Mexican flag, without snake, with the intention of giving it an imperialist touch like some flags used in our country during the 19th century.
Araceli Rodríguez (A).- When we first started with El Investigador in March 2011, the forum Steampunk México barely existed (it was kind of 6 months old). It was when Sir Lukyan Corvinus, administrator then, asked for the logo to Mr. Xpk. The very first National meeting on the festival Cronopia, in which Mercenaries where involved, was held in June 2011. After that, Steampunk showed an strong growth reflected in the number of users of the forum, even developing a weekly online broadcast that stopped its transmissions because of diverse reasons, remaining a Facebook group only. Then a series of disagreements between the users of the forum fragmented the scene; some members of Mercenarios de DIOS, as a favor to Sir Lukyan, tried to continue with the development of the Steampunk within the forum but there were a lot of differences with the new administration resulting in the current split. We still keep working on our part, not only in the magazine but with projects in the local and international scene.
Paulo C. Ramírez (P).- As Mercenarios de DIOS we’ve been trying to be part of the formation and stablishment of the Steampunk scene in Mexico. Not only with the logo of the forum or promoting the online presence. As Araceli already said, we were in Cronopia not only to watch but to be part of the logistics in that event; just the same Hodson and Kadeco were fundamental part of ‘Sueños en Ebullición’ (Boiling Dreams), which was the first Steampunk art exhibition in the country, held in Guadalajara, Mexico during last July. In 2012 there were two events in DF which, even being small, are a proof of the progress of this movement in Mexico. There are little groups scattered around the national territory with strength mainly online. With initiatives such as ‘El Santo Taller’ (The Holy Workshop), the magazine and our participation in Planes B and Ácronos we are trying to set up the Steampunk with strong and firm roots. We promote and try to participate in which we consider with quality enough, judging in base to our own tendency. We are not fighting to be “the head of the movement” as some may think or look for, but to share what we know and enjoy. Time will say if we’re doing right our job.
D.- Are there any historical events that you would emphasize as basements for a Mexican Steampunk?
A.- Well, Mexican Steampunk should be more French than British, because of the influence that country had in our country during 19th century, since Iturbide as Emperor, the French Occupation with Maximiliano de Habsburgo, until the Porfirio Diaz period which ends in 1910.
P.- Something that can distinguish Mexican Steampunk is variety: our history shows a wide spectrum going from the imperialism to the republicanism. I would also emphasize periods like the war against USA, the Battle of Puebla against France and even the fact of having had a Mulato president as Vicente Guerrero. That’s just to say some examples, but definitely Mexican Steampunk is very rich to explore historically, from the very beginning as nation until the end of the Edwardian period that coincides with the Mexican Revolution.
D.- Talking about history, Mexican jewelry dates back to ancient times and the jewelry industry of your country has not lost any of its importance. Just to put an example, Aztec jewelry was made with a rich variety of materials (and more than one type of material went often into one piece). Do you think that Mexican Steampunkers can make the most of these roots in order to design distinctive Steampunk jewelry?
A.- Going to the Aztec roots is just an option, our country has plenty of possibilities such as Maya, Purépecha, Cora, Wixarica (Huichol), Raramuri, Zapoteca, Mixteca, Tlaxcalteca, and many many more. The combination of all these ethnicities with the Colonial and French influences give us many possibilities for a distinctive Steampunk jewelry.
P.- Personally I’ve always resisted to use the Aztec roots because this people were a kind of oppressive Rome in Mexico, I’d think, besides Araceli said, in the Northern Tribes that, usually, are forgotten as Mexicans and people think of them as part of the USA. For example, Gerónimo or Caballo Loco were born Apaches and Lakotas in territories such as Chihuahua or New Mexico that are or were part of our country. If I would have to think in a region nearest to the center I’d suggest the Tolteca Culture because the word means “crafter”.
D.- In any case, how would you describe Steampunk jewelry?
A.- Usually I leave the jewelry for aristocrats, however, the very few I’ve seen are very similar: brassy colors, gears, octopuses… if it does not have one of those elements, people just do not think of it as Steampunk. I think that’s why creators like you must make the difference.
P.- For me any kind of jewelry, and the Steampunk with major reason, must have a distinctive touch from the person who is using it, no matter if it has a cog or not.
D.- Would you dare to synthesize Steampunk jewelry with a single word?
A.- That’s very hard to do, but I think I would say ‘Authencity’.
P.- If I had to choose one single word to synthesize it, I’d choose ‘Singularity’.
D.- Is there anything you miss when you try to find Steampunk jewelry? What do you look for when searching or trying jewelry pieces?
A.- I think the jewelry has been designed for very British people, but Steampunk is beyond England, beyond social classes. Sometimes, some characters cannot use jewelry because it’s too swanky and just doesn’t fit.
P.- I notice there are very few pieces of western style, I’d love to use some that fit in with my character.
D.- You have been the promoters of ‘Mercenarios de DIOS’ (‘Mercenary of GOD’ in English), an independent collective from México that promotes the works of several artists and develops projects in common. Are you satisfied with the results to date?
A.- As promoters it has been nice to reach more and more audience with the magazine. However this has been consuming time to continue with other projects in common, which have been slowed down or even stopped indefinitely.
P.- I think we have to make better publicity in some aspects, El Investigador is basically our face to the world and everything has been going, mostly, well. I think we have promoted the interest of Spanish speakers for retrofuturistic themes and, at the same time, have brought on artists and events from different parts of the world. Of course it is satisfactory to reach and being in touch with places such as Japan, France or Germany, but at the same time it tastes not much in our own language, we have had some projects in common that have only been regional.
D.- Mercenarios de DIOS’ motto is ‘Yours is yours by your own right: Mine, I shared it. (Go with God)’. How was this ‘Mercenary Code’ originated? We think that it has something to do with Captain Misson, founder of Libertatia…
A.- Basically it’s the way it says, we don’t earn any money with the magazine, we decided to do what we like and share it for free but everybody should have the credit by his/her work. I think our Director can tell you better about it
P.- Captain Misson was an idealist, we could say he was the first pirate in which the ones of the Romanticism are based. When we chose the name Mercenarios de DIOS, apparently it sounded kind of contradictory -the same as God and Liberty could sound contradictory- and it was the motto of Misson and his pirates. Most of the times, when people work together the one who is highlighted is the one who leads them and many forget that it is a team work; giving what everyone deserves, recognizing the work each one makes we want to make clear that here’s no room for ego. What I see and what I do is shared and anyone who cannot understand this can always go in peace.
D.- We are aware that Mercenarios de DIOS has always been open to both national and international collaborations, including media such as The Gatehouse. Some members of the collective have an active participation in the Steampunk scene of other countries (specially Spanish-speaking countries) and some Spanish Steampunkers collaborate with Mercenarios de DIOS at present. In fact the collective is trying to expand overseas with the ‘XIII Legión’, a matching iniciative in Spain. Which are the plans of Mercenarios de DIOS for this new year?
A.- The very first one is to keep on working. Continuing to publish El Investigador every month like we’ve been doing since the beginning. Developing projects such as Radio Metronomik and El Investigador International, which has become the publication of revised version of the regular magazine exclusive for the anglo world with new information and not only remakes. Also trying to make our part to publish Acronos and other literature works, as well as releasing some other projects that have nothing to do with retrofuturisms.
P.- We’ve been working during December, traveling around our country, going to conventions to make people know a little more about Steampunk. At the middle of the year we will probably attend a conference about retrofuturism at an important convention in Guadalajara, Mexico. We are also thinking on traveling to South America, but first we need time and to talk to some people. Of course we would love to be in the next EuroSteamCon. We’ll be promoting El Santo Taller (Holly Workshop in English) as well, which is the place that makes props as guns and accessories. So it will be a very busy year.
D.- One of the results of this contributions is the Steampunk Anthology series ‘Planes B’, an idea of Josué Ramos and Paulo that has become a reality (and with Jeff VanderMeer as guest of Volume 1). We had the opportunity to attend to its official presentation at EuroSteam Con in September 2012, but many Steampunkers have not been so lucky… what can the Steampunk community expect from ‘Planes B’?
A.- I was lucky to design the layout of the book and even though it has short stories that I had already read for Acronos, I enjoyed reading them one more time. Of course these are stories worth reading, with good illustrations and layout. In order to give it a plus I made some details to move when passing the pages. Another curious detail is that the complete design was made by women: illustrations by Tamarindo Conde from Spain and Karina Contreras from Mexico, the picture of the cover was taken by Alexandra Galeano and the model is Vito, both from Argentina, and as I already said, I put everything together in the design of layout. Maybe it is bad for me to say but I think it is a very worthy book.
P.- Planes B is a big opportunity for writers who are not very well known in the Steampunk community. This way they can reach new readers and, at the same time, readers enjoy stories of the genre. I think it’s an excellent initiative magnificently leaded by Josué Ramos and Simón Bellido. It’s a great work that involved people from three different countries and it is worth to take a look for its literary and graphic quality.
D.- In all certainty you are creators. Paulo, you even have working on a book entitled ‘Las aventuras de NEGRO y La Orden ROJA’. What would you tell Steampunk jewelers like us? What challenges do you see in the future for all the people involved in the creative activity of the community?
A.- From my point of view, I consider that’s always a big challenge to be an innovator in the creative area, especially when it is related to utilitarian art, which has to look good and be able to transmit emotions, sensations and more, even must be original and different.
P.- One of the biggest challenges I see is the lack of support, not only from the public but from the same creative community. One of the biggest satisfactions I’ve found when writing is the luck of meeting people like Josué Ramos, Irene and you, people from The Golden Gear Forum and of course everyone who works on Mercenarios de DIOS. All of them have supported me in different ways in order to explode my own creativity, not only in La Orden Roja but also in my Steampunk novellas, some of them being translated right now. The most important thing is to give everybody something amazing enough to make the piece talk by itself.
D.- With Araceli as Chief Editor and Paulo as General Director, ‘El Investigador’ is a monthly magazine about Steampunk that will celebrate its second anniversary in March 2013. It is the only one of its kind, no one else has been so brave to publish a magazine with this periodicity. Is this such a big challenge as it seems looking from the outside?
A.-Indeed it is a big challenge which, I have to admit, I didn’t measure when I said ‘let’s make a magazine!’. We began with a few pages and now the regular publication has about 30 or 40 pages, with different contributors who sometimes exceed the deadlines or just can’t reach the limit of time and the articles are not published. It takes a lot of discipline and commitment from everyone in the team, especially because no one receives any payment. However, the result is very satisfactory.
P.- I’m glad you ask that because sometimes it seems very easy to be there every single month during more than 20 issues. Actually, El Investigador is launched at the beginning of the month because we have twenty days to put together the articles for the next issue, ten days for editorial design and just a couple for editing and corrections. This is a titanic work if we take into account that everybody who works on the magazine has also other activities. If that’s not enough, sometimes we receive contributions or interviews in English and translations take time too. Besides, this is not only about releasing, it needs time for promotion. If we take all this plus the projects of the Mercenaries, the individual and the common ones, more than courage I would call it love for what we do. And there are people still thinking this is about ego. Definitely all obstacles seem minimized every first day of the month when we can see the result and every time people comment about the good work they see we are making, no matter if they are French, Japanese, German, Anglo-Saxons or Spanish-speakers. The true challenge is to provide contents valued by our readers, and our team always focuses on quality.
D.- However, El Investigador does not only pay attention to Steampunk, but also to other retrofuturism: Dieselpunk. In fact Mercenarios de DIOS has a podcast to cover specifically this genre, Radio Metronomik. What attracts you specifically from Dieselpunk?
A.- We are in a moment when everything Steampunk looks very similar, while Dieselpunk is like breathing something not brassy or brown and cogs to travel to the Jazz Age. I think there is a lot to explore; I found freshness and familiarity in it.
P.- I find in Dieselpunk a place in which people can debate without conflicts, since there are two lines perfectly defined as Ottensian and Piecraftian Dieselpunk. Everybody can go from hope to horror or from dystopic to postapocalyptic without being so hidebound and can mix the two lines into these four flavors. Nobody is arguing if there is or not Dieselpunk music; in fact, everybody understands how it sounds, which the vibe is in the Jazz Age. In Dieselpunk everything smells and tastes to that moment, to that time, is like taking pulp fiction and mixing it with adventure, horror, detectives’ stories, the World War period, gangsters, etc. There is something that has always been present in our lives because of the movies or the comics. Definitely it is a retrofuturism easier to understand and to take, which is always very fascinating.
D.- World War came to an end on 11th November 1918 and for this reason 12th November has been chosen as IDD (International Dieselpunk Day). If we are not wrong, the IDD 2012 was celebrated on 15th November in Guadalajara (the original date was changed in order to make the celebration easier). Is the Dieselpunk community growing in Mexico?
P.- I wouldn’t say that Dieselpunk community is growing in Mexico, I think it has been there for years, but not everybody knows its name. As a matter of fact, Dieselpunk community is growing up around the world with only four or five years of life. Just the last year the international Dieselpunk Community reached an agreement to celebrate IDD; this talks about the big difference between Steampunk and Dieselpunk communities. The second one seems to have learned about the problems and advantages lived by its big brother, just to call it in some way, and it has been getting stronger from those experiences. This way Dieselpunk is opening doors for other retrofuturisms. I think it’ll be better established in a couple of years to the most, and we’ll have a retrofuturistic community with three or four genres strong enough.
A.- As Paulo already said, the community was already there, they already liked these things but didn’t know the name. Now, thanks to the celebration of IDD people find a movement they can be interested in because they have things in common with it.
D.- Which elements should inspire Dieselpunk jewelry from your point of view?
A.- One Word: Decodence. I mean, Art Deco, constructivism, Bauhaus, military style and everything that could be iconic in the Jazz Age.
P.-The Streamline, Art Deco, ellegangster and everything between 1918 and 1950 or so.
D.- Araceli and Paulo, thank you so much for your time and support. Just a last question to finish this interview: Is there anything else you would like to add?
P.- Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this series of brief interviews, and for thinking of us. There are so many personalities of the international Steampunk community who have expressed their opinions in here. Also I want to congratulate Irene and you, not only for the excellent work of amazing quality you both do, but because Decimononic has become a truly promoter of Steampunk from Spain to the world.
A.- As said, thank you so much, I had a great time answering this interview. I just want to say good luck for Decimononic, I’m sure we’ll be meeting over and over again on the road taken by pioneers.
Disclaimer.- The opinions or statements expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Decimononic.
3.- Next interviewee!
On the 15th of February we are publishing the interview for Madeleine Holly-Rosing, writer/ creator of the webcomic Boston Metaphysical Society. Winner of the Sloan Fellowship for screenwriting, she is a TV and feature film writer. Madeleine was interested in the foreign service, but international competitive epee fencing stepped in her way… for fifteen years! With a marketing background, she has a BA in Politics, a MA in Arabic Studies and an MFA in Screenwriting, and works part-time as a spin instructor. She is an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy and historical military fiction and loves to mess with the physical laws of the universe in her stories just to annoy her rocket scientist husband.
Remember that all the published interviews are available for your delight: ‘Steampunk jewelry tonight with…’ the brief interviews series by Decimononic.