This week’s featured creative is Ay-leen the Peacemaker, editor of Beyond Victoriana and social media manager for Tor.com Steampunk. Ay-leen has also toured with The Wandering Legion of the Thomas Tew speaking at conventions and festivals about the exploration of multiculturalism within the Steampunk genre.
I saw Ay-leen the Peacemaker for the first time at the 2011 Steampunk World’s Faire and later met her at the signing of “The Steampunk Bible” in Manhattan at which she discussed her contribution to the book and her discourse on minorities and Steampunk. Her pursuit of equality within the Steampunk community sparked my curiosity and I decided to research her work further. Where other enthusiasts focus on the art, music, or makery fostered by the steampunk community, Ay-leen has chosen to examine the relationship between industrialization and culture as seen in the Victorian era and colonialism. I find this study of technology and culture fascinating and look forward to reading Ay-Leen’s exposition on the topic as it relates to Steampunk’s “fight the system” mentality. Ay-leen states that “talking about the tensions between technology and how it changes society is what fascinates me most about the [Steampunk] genre.”
Ay-leen has written for several publications including Beyond Victoriana and is a contributor in “The Steampunk Bible.” Ay-leen is also actively raising funds for relief aid in Japan, in association with Rising Phoenix Circle and Shelterbox, an international aid organization. Their goal is to raise $3,000 by the end of Labor day weekend, 2011.
In 2009 Ay-Leen was studying 19th century literature, during which her fiancé introduced Ay-Leen to the 19th century aesthetics of the Steampunk genre.
“To be honest, the impression I got was [that] this was a form of LARPing (Live Action Role Play) where people dressed up in pretty clothes, and I wasn’t too keen on making myself a steampunk character by ‘pretending to be British.’ I had asked a friend, out of curiosity, about the role colonialism played in steampunk and she replied with, ‘Oh, of course you can use the colonies in steampunk. For example, even though we’re Americans, we can still pretend that America was part of the colonies.’ Which, wasn’t the response I was looking for at all! It did inspire me, however, to create a steampunk character that fought against European colonialism and rooted it in my own family’s Vietnamese history. Thus, Ay-leen the Peacemaker was born. My first foray into the genre was as a type of performance. As a cosplayer… with a background in political theater, I was particularly interested in creating a character that could both be over-the-top and ridiculous, but also provide commentary about the romanticization of [the] empire that I saw many other Steampunks becoming involved in at the time.”
Since discovering Steampunk and developing her genre character, Ay-leen began discussing race relations and the idealized colonialism of the Victorian era: “After Racefail2009, there was a lot of talk flying in the sci-fi/fantasy community about how marginalized… fans of color [were] treated in fandom spaces, and that discussion was the primarily motivator behind the creation of Beyond Victoriana, a blog about multicultural steampunk.”
Conference panels based on subjects from Beyond Victoriana; “Steam Around the World” and “Envisioning a Better Steam Society,” in association with author Jaymee Goh, were premiered at The Steampunk World’s Faire in 2010. Also, the recent inclusion of Ay-Leen the Peacemaker in “The Steampunk Bible” and her speeches given at an assortment of Steampunk conferences have cemented Ay-leen’s reputation within the community as a voice for the marginalized peoples of the fandom.
Ay-leen plans on re-entering academia this summer in pursuit of a degree in Steampunk as a performative identity and will be “published in the academic anthology Fashion Talks by SUNY Press in 2012.” She also has several current projects in the works including the Rising Phoenix Circle relief fund and a yet-to-be-announced collaborative photography project to be shown at a gallery in New York. “Academically,” she adds, “I [also] hope to get some more papers about steampunk & performance out.”
To find out more about Ay-leen the Peacemaker, her ideas and creativity, check out Beyond Victoriana. Ay-leen can also be contacted via Facebook or the Twitters. Get involved with Ay-leen’s current Japan relief aid project by surfing over to the Rising Phoenix Circle and picking up a set of Steampunk buttons.
Here on “Grasping @ Creativity” I highlight a creative individual at least once a month with the hope of inspiring readers in their own pursuit of creativity. These highlighted individuals have all inspired me at various times in my life, whether through their creations or through their philosophy. It is my hope that readers will find these articles both interesting and informative, a source of inspiration, and a resource for initiating their own creative endeavors