The Crossroads of the Aether
So many of you have shared glimpses of your lives with me, and I have peeked into the real and imaginary worlds in which you live. Quite enlightening!
Some (just a few) have told me that I will fare better if I had a persona ... and I am not sure how to proceed, or whether, indeed this is true. When you go to cons, do you ... do others ... always stay in character? Is it more enjoyable to meet someone who has a well-thought out history and plays the part?
I enjoy dressing up, and sewing, and imagining, all that I "get" ... but so far I have not been captured by any particular character feeling. I am an artist, and so much of my energy goes into imagining new pieces and then figuring out if it's possible to actually make what I have envisioned. (If I could truly make everything I imagined, it would be awesome, but those technical limitations are sometimes over-riding.) I just don't know where to start with developing a second personality and/or entire being to embody when I am amongst like-minded folk.
So perhaps a few questions:
did your costume/attire evolve along with your persona, or independent of each other?
do you tend to stay "in character" when you meet other steampunkers and steampunkettes (steampunkolians?) at conventions?
do you enjoy hearing other people's imagined histories and back stories?
do you have an expectation that an artist or vendor will be in persona, and discuss his/her works with you through an imaginary history or backstory?
I know I am very drawn to many of your stories, but not sure who I am in this world. But having a straightforward nature, I thought I'd just march in and ask.
Just saw the pics in your profile, wow! Very nice snowglobes!
You may not even need an accent. Do not forget that the Victorian Era in England was also our Wild West in America. Quite a few Americans Steampunks have taken up that Western or Weird Western vibe for their looks/personas. I see by your profile that you are in Denver, well a very popular series called The Clockwork Century by Cherie Priest (Boneshaker, Clementine, Dreadnought and more) takes place in and around the Pacific Northwest. Yes you could still wear finery if you so chose because Victorian fashion made it's way to America, it also opens up a few more fashion options.
Before I needed a full one for my podcast, I had a half personae. Sort of like, who would YOU be in the steampunk universe.
Hello Camryn Forrest Danjoux, I hope you do tap into your creative side and create a Steampunk persona. I have to be VERY serious in my REAL life, pay bills, mortgage and taxes and other responsibilities but it seems I have less stress when I come to the Empire and see what my friends are up to and add more story lines to my own persona.
Since I am not a techy person, I have taken the guess work out of that by creating a mermaid persona that was captured and sold to a mad scientist. The scientist designed gears and copper parts to snap onto my mermaid tail to make me walk like any other female. These gears and parts are hidden under my long victorian dresses and I can remove them anytime I want and become a regular mermaid again. I have since escaped the mad scientist and now try to survive on my own and this is where I find trouble. I hide all the time and come out more in late evenings and this is when I see terrible things like vampires and crimes being committed. Also in order to stay well dressed I steal clothes off the clotheslines of the wealthy.
My mermaid persona is constant work and yet fun work for I have so many ideas to add to my character. When I attend Steampunk functions I will wear a long victorian dress but will ocassionally lift my dress up slightly so everyone will get a peek of my mermaids tail. Also my heart lights up blue. I have long blond hair and I might even figure out how to make my hair look slightly damp as if I just came from the water. I'm still trying to figure out what product to use to make that happen.lol
My ultimate Steampunk attire is so vivid in my head that I am beyond excited to make it come true! It is a black victorian 2 piece travel suit complete with bustle, and a very victorian hat ..when you see me from one side I will be ordinary but when I slowly turn and the viewer gets a better look of my OTHER side, they will see a squid lounging on the brim of my hat with one or two of his tentacles creeping upward on my hat. I want the squid to have piercing eyes. This will give me a sinister appearance. If I knew how to create or buy such a FAKE squid as I have described and with the movement like described, I would be ecstatic!!! I have been searching but no luck. I may have to settle for a life-like squid with no movement. But as you can see once you begin creating your persona, just have fun with it. Change it up a bit from time to time. My persona has found herself in a lot of trouble lately but since she doesn't understand how humans really live and about their politics and religion she is innocent but will soon find herself in a lot of trouble!!!! heh heh
If I knew how to create or buy such a FAKE squid as I have described and with the movement like described, I would be ecstatic!!! I have been searching but no luck. I may have to settle for a life-like squid with no movement.
Now, you see, solving technical problems and adding to costume ideas makes sense to me. I'd look for an item such as a Halloween "severed hand" with moving fingers that is battery operated. You can search ebay for animated moving hand and the like. They run about $20. (Reaching hand, animated Halloween prop, etc.)
Then put that hand underneath a squid, and affix so that the fingers are covered by tentacles and voila! moving squid. Some are motion and sound activated, so the squid will move virtually at will when there are people about.
Yes, creating a fake squid that moves doesn't seem half as hard to me as creating a new personality and introducing it to people who have not met me.
Your personas sound fascinating and delightful. I do not know why this is stumping me, but I think I need to attend more cons to get a feeling for how people behave.
Since you you have such a love for art and are so talented, why don't you incorporate those things into your persona? I created my character by including all the things I am interested in in "real life" and putting them into a person I would like being.
I also enjoy writing, so I wrote a story about my character and developed him over a period of months through the story. I was able to create an entire back history for him (me) this way as well as explore different things I was interested in through researching things for the story.
Remember, you can always change your persona, or have more then one. If you find you are fretting over it, just take a deep breath and remember it is all just for fun!
For me, creating a new persona is quick and quite easy. I'm a writer, I have to create characters every time I come up with a new story.
(That's "writer" as opposed to "Writer" or "Author" since I'm only beginning to sell my written work. *very* low-level beginning pro, but amateur of two decades standing.)
Making up a character, as well as the little details that serve to make said character come to life on the page, is the easiest part. What I find nearly impossible to do is to walk around *as* that character in public. It isn't shyness, it's that my actual self overpowers any acting skills I might have. Perhaps I could manage it for a few short moments, but to stay in character for an extended period is something I fail at in a spectacular fashion. :)
But, what I do find useful about thinking up a character in relation to a steampunk outfit is that having that character in mind helps me to pick and choose accessories for the clothing, as well as the style of the outfit itself. "Captain Vila" is a character from a novel that I've been writing for as long as I've been interested in steampunk. "Vila," on the other hand, is an aspect of my mundane self that has existed since I was introduced to the British Sci-Fi TV series "Blake's 7" back in 1976. "Vila" is me, but writ a tad larger than life. Less shy, more socially active, and able to leap most difficulties associated with personal interactions in a single bound. Whereas "Dan" is a very quiet and shy wallflower by comparison. "Captain Vila" has a huge, well developed backstory. His different outfits are easier to create because I know so much about him, and his life. I've had to play the character several times at conventions and photo shoots, but I find it quite difficult to pretend to *be* him for longer than a few minutes at a time. He's *far* different form my normal, rest-state self of "Vila," who is in turn different from this "Dan" fellow who only seems to assert himself around family members these days. Or when writing, for that matter.
The problem is compounded by the few times I have worn the steampunk superhero outfit as "Captain Vila's" literary alter-ego, "Secret Service Agent Ebon Black." Ebon Black is another character in the novel- A cold, calculating, dangerous, and highly trained killer. Whereas Captain Vila is a decorated military officer with a quite different skill set. Perhaps it is easier for me to maintain the persona of Ebon Black because he wears a mask. I'm not quite sure.
But if you meet me at a convention, rest assured that you are meeting Vila, not Dan, or even Captain Vila & Ebon Black unless it is one of the few times I need to play the part of those characters. Of course, I'll still answer to whatever name you feel most comfortable to use in addressing me. :)
Other outfits demand other personae. "Tennessee Jed the Mountain Man" is an early 1800s American hunter who is uncomfortable in any environment more civilized than a General Store, Trading Post, Saloon, or the occasional Bordello. He is only really comfortable out in the woods, as far from Euro-centric civilization as he can get. The details of this character that I dreamed up made it easier to craft the outfit he wears. Likewise with the character I've been calling "The Mechanic" even though he doesn't yet have much of a back story. That one is slowly coming together and might soon have a name of his own. Something will come to me. It always does.
The nice thing about steampunk is that you don't actually *need* a persona. Personae are useful tools, but not required for one to have fun. It depends upon one's basic personality, I suppose. To sum up:
A) In my case a costume/outfit evolves more easily alongside a distinct persona that helps me get a handle on the character being represented.
B) No, I find it impossible to stay in character all the time in the company of other steampunks.
C) Yes! As a writer, I am delighted to listen to someone detail all the little bits & bobs that their personae. As a person, I also find it highly entertaining to hear the imaginations of others being creative in crafting characters.
D) No, I harbor no expectations that someone I meet will be so totally in character that I never get to know the real them. I find such times to be entertaining and pleasant, but I neither expect nor require that to happen in order for me to enjoy the steampunk experience. In fact, I quite enjoy getting to know the person as themselves and find the character personae they adopt to be icing on the cake, so to speak. It adds to the fun, but for me it can never be the *totality* of the fun.
By the way, it is always "Dan" who writes these posts, but it is "Vila" you meet in the chat room or at conventions. Being a writer is much like suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder, except writers don't "suffer" from it so much as revel in it, LOL!
Hmmm...well you certainly don't need a persona, but...
If I am in costume then I am in persona. I guess the difference here is that I don't wear steampunk clothing during my regular day, and I don't try and bring steampunk into my regular daily life. I am also a writer and artist and much of my non-commercial work currently revolves around steampunk.
The only time I am in steampunk garb is when I'm at a steampunk event or gathering...I don't "chat" or interact online (outside of here) as Major Girth, but at steampunk gatherings I'm pretty much ALWAYS Major Girth unless I'm in street clothes.
For me being in persona is one part escapism, one part performance and one part branding. The Imperial Amerikan Air Corp (the IAAC) has become a steampunk performance troupe over the last 3 years and so being in persona is kinda part and parcel of my steampunk activities. The IAAC travel in a pack and generally interact with each other in character too while anyone is watching, and many of our steampunk friends are also persona performers, expecting us to interact with them in a like manner.
I can certainly interact with folks that are either in persona or being themselves, and while I'm comfortable doing an accent and being in character I appreciate that not everybody else is. I will break character if someone really needs me to but that is generally not why I am there. If I am "doing" steampunk then I generally "am" steampunk...and for me that means Major Girth, not Brian. If my book becomes popular, that certainly might change...though Brian isn't all that normal either.
Accents can become difficult, at times. My wife is English, while I am a Southern US redneck. I was inclined to give up my fake British accent once Cita & I got married. Hearing the real thing made me hyper-aware of how bad my put-on accent was. :)
In fact, one professional actor that we know also refuses to use his stock-in-trade English accent when my wife is around. He says that her real accent is so beautiful that he feels foolish trying to perform a fake one. LOL!
As i said...Imperial...Amerikan...air corp. I would no more use a British accent than I would...Loki-forbid... a french one! Imperial Air Corp Marines aren't called "Rednecks" just because of their red collars...!
Well, if you ever need an airship Captain with experience in fighting during the Martian Invasion attempt of 1859 - 1865 & was also a former Secret Service Agent before his retirement & marriage to a former South American Pirate Queen, just let me know where to enlist! Cross-timeline travel is nothing new to this Confederation of North American Republics veteran...
Alas, I have no fresh commentary and must echo the sentiments of my fellow Citizens....
No, a persona is not required.
No, my attire wasn't originally based on my persona. All the basic pieces of my wardrobe are Neo-Victorian but my accessory choices compliment my persona.
My husband has two different outfits. One is a basic weird west get up. He only has a persona name to go with that one...because I insisted...but no story at all. The other is...well, still a secret. (I'm not even allowed in the workshop at the moment!) He won't let me divulge that info until it's finished and debuted. That one requires a persona name and very brief history to understand some of the accessories.
Yes, I will introduce myself using my persona name when in Steampunk regalia. I will tell you my persona's back story if you ask. Honestly, we're all glad to blather on about our imagined selves when given the chance. ;) My persona isn't much different than my real self, except for some fantastical details. Our history, personality, and accent are basically the same. Quite frankly, I can barely keep up with my real self so I know I couldn't keep track of someone else entirely different! A back story provides reasoning and function for the accessories...and my imagination runs amok occasionally.
The differences between my real and imagined self involves modes of transportation (because who has a REAL Viking class air ship powered by a dragon?), job description (I only WISH I could travel through time and meet fictional people.), elaborate clothing (why let the kids have all the dress up fun!), numerous medals and commendations (my harrowing superhero antics are really only imagined after all), and my title (while I am a Lady through and through, the Queen wouldn't recognize me as such...unfortunately.)
No, I don't often have the opportunity to talk about my back story.
Yes, I do enjoy hearing other people's imagined histories and adventures.
No, I don't expect vendors or artists to be in character. I do like to see that they're dressed appropriately for the type of convention at hand. I'm drawn in by a smile, eye contact, and a friendly comment or question. I usually pass by the booths with general wears. Those vendors seem to show up everywhere and don't really participate in the genre. I like to shop with vendors who genuinely share my interest in SP and don't sell mass produced junk.
I do like the anonymity my persona name affords, but will tell you my real name if you ask. If nothing else, a fictional name makes the whole experience more fun. Besides, a fictional name can become a brand if you're an artist specializing in SP art, fictional writing, or music.
So, the point of this rambling is: No persona name or back story is necessary, but could be helpful in certain situations. It all depends on what you'd like to get out of the experience.
You've all been so helpful.
I've got lovely clothes already, and I love wearing them. But I see now that I can personalize them with somewhat of a history (even if I keep it in my own mind) --- in my case, items that represent my work as an artist and a writer. Of course!
If a persona develops as time goes by, fine. But in the meantime, rather than just putting together a fine outfit that anyone might wear, I will add those accessories which make me my own person.