The Ghost of Christmas future: Mission Update December 2010

Yeah, I know - I skipped the Ghost of Christmas Present. Let's pretend the Steampunk Santa wallpaper was my "present," and I'll steal the lame pun reference from Animaniacs doing A Christmas Carol and call it even!

Before I get into the bulk of this post, I wanted to present my "things to do before the five-year mission is over" list:
  • Meet James and Kate of Parliament & Wake in person
    • I might still meet James and Kate, but Parliament and Wake is no more. :(
  • Get photographed by Lex Machina
    • This happened at the CNSE in Toronto in April of 2011
  • Have drinks with Jake von Slatt at a Con (we keep meaning to, but for some reason...)
    • We did this (more or less!) at Steamcon III, October 2011 - in Unwoman's Absinthe party
  • Party with Abney Park
  • Talk with Jay Lake about the steampunk aesthetic over drinks
  • Attend Dickensfaire in the Bay area
  • Write my own steampunk tale
  • Get one of Greg Broadmore's Rayguns to commemorate the journey (Barring a raygun, I could always commemorate the journey with a Dark Garden corset-vest)
  • See Chris Garcia win a Hugo for Journey Planet
    • Chris won his Hugo finally in 2011!
  • Do another reading with Gail Carriger (and I'd add a first reading of Dreadnought with Cherie Priest to this particular list, and Felix Gilman's Half-Made World)
  • Build a time machine, go back to Steam Powered in the fall of 2008, and not freeze like a chickenshit fanboy when Greg Broadmore walked by me on Sunday night and said "Hi," and I noticed Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop was with him (true story - I think Orlando Bloom would have fazed me less - I'm a huge fan of Richard Taylor's work).
 As I round the corner into the third year of my PhD work, I'm rather optimistic. With the writing the blog has generated combined with the articles published elsewhere, both in print and online, I've likely got the dissertation already written. It's just a matter of dropping it all into a Word document and organizing it, and then inserting a lot of major literary theorists into the mix. That's the work of May to August of 2011. I'm confident I'll have a first draft done and handed in by August.

My next immediate task is my prospectus, which is basically a paper saying how I'll be conducting my research, which is laughable, since I've been conducting said research for two years now. Part of these "ghost" entries here at the blog have been a sort of warm up for the prospectus. The papers I wrote from my visit to Rice in 2008 were me getting my feet wet: thank God for the serendipity of the "Steam Wars" paper, which really kick-started the concept of steampunk as aesthetic and not genre.

But beyond that first draft of the dissertation, the work will mostly be about colons and semi-colons, dangling participles, and shoring up arguments. I know what I want to say, and for the most part, have said it many times already. The structure of my dissertation won't surprise any regular readers:
1. Introduction to Steampunk: the difficulty of a definition
  • history of the term
  • weakness of etymological approaches
  • weakness of complex taxonomic approaches
  • why steampunk isn't Victorian science-fiction
2. Seeking the aesthetic: an inventory of the novels and short stories utilized; theoretical approaches utilized
3. Aesthetic 1: Neo-Victorianism - how the aesthetic evokes the nineteenth century in a number of different places, worlds, and times, with examples.
4. Aesthetic 2: Retro-Futurism - how the aesthetic imagines what the nineteenth century past imagined the future would look like, with examples.
5. Aesthetic 3. Technofantasy - the inclusion of technology that is scientific in appearance only.
6. Case Study 1: Steam Wars - the aesthetic applied by others
7. Case Study 2: A steampunked Beowulf - the aesthetic applied by the author
8. Conclusion: A definition with broad application
That should do the trick, I figure. We'll see. It needs to be around 200 pages, but I'm pretty sure I have that already. Like I said, it's all about organization and revision now.

Beyond the completion of the dissertation, I see a horizon of writing - not the sort of stuff I write now, though that will continue. I'll get back to writing fiction again. I have a few people who've asked me to submit fiction to their publication/anthology/whatever, and I'm looking forward to the summer of 2012 when I can see myself doing that. If I'm right, this will officially turn out to be a four, not five-year mission. But we'll see.

In the meantime, I'll continue to attend one out-of-town con per year, write for Exhibition Hall, Journey Planet, and, and do my best to keep the blog updated. Thanks to everyone who's helped me make the journey thus far. A few names to that end:

Tofa Borregaard; the members of Legion Fantastique, especially Daniel, Rich, Erin, Ryan, Greg, Maria, and Joel; Sean Slattery; Christopher Garcia, J Daniel Sawyer, Krzysztof Janicz, Cory Gross, Blaine Kehl, Kevin Steil, Jha Goh, Ay-leen the Peacemaker, Matt Delman, Lee-Ann Faruga, Nancy Overbury, James Schaefer, Kate Franklin, Liz Gorinsky, Jack Horner, the folks at Locus, Liana K, Gail Carriger, Jess Nevins, anyone I missed who I should have thanked by name, and everyone who follows the blog regularly. Thanks for leaving comments and keeping the conversation alive.


  1. Godspeed, Mike. Here's to another year of productive work/life balance! :)

  2. *peers closely* Where's our coffee on that list of yours? :P

    I'll be writing my MRP from May to August 2011 as well. We can suffer together.

    Happy New Year! <3

  3. What?! Silly, I just saw you, I could have shot you at Steamcon!

    That's it, you're in for it now, I'm going to make you model gear or make stupid faces, or something. Bashfulness is rewarded with ridiculousness round here!

  4. Yeah, but I didn't *know* I wanted to be photographed by you until after I met you and found out what a very cool person you are! The world is full of fantastic photographers who are jerks. I was having fun just hanging out.

  5. That said, I'm game for ridiculous. I'm the roommate who ran around the block naked for 100 bucks.

  6. Now that I'm catching up on a month's worth of posts and such, Thanks!

    and we hope we can get you out here for a convention or two, big guy!


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