This week’s featured creative is Margaret Killjoy, author of the book “A Steampunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse” and publisher with Combustion Books. His new book “What Lies Beneath The Clock Tower” is available on AK Press.
I first heard of “A Steampunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse” on a genre forum I happened across a while ago, and someone there was kind enough to post a link to the book’s pdf version (released under creative commons licensing), which can now be found in the downloads section of the SteamPunk Magazine website. The guide is a tongue-in-cheek (but well researched) look at the necessities of life in a post-culture society. I found the book both entertaining and fascinating as a reference for DIY living and for old-school off-grid construction. Chapter four was rather entertaining with its descriptions of defense strategies, including trebuchet building and cipher coding; and I’d like to actually try some ideas in chapter three’s section on vertical farming, which I think could work well in the limited living spaces here in Brooklyn. The book is full of all sorts of creative tips that could be practical, even without waiting for the world to come to an end first.
Margaret Killjoy is a prolific creative: in addition to his Steampunk writing, he is also known for his art, design, and activism as a nomadic Anarchist. His book “Mythmakers and Lawbreakers: Anarchist Writers on Fiction” is a collection of interviews with a cross-section of science fiction writers describing their political views and how those views affect their writing. There is a selected chapter of the book available for download via Strangers in a Tanlged Wilderness publishing. Killjoy’s current bibliography includes “A Steampunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse”, “What Lies Beneath The Clock Tower”, “Mythmakers and Lawbreakers”, “Being the Adventures of One Fine Summer”, “Miti e Molotov #1” and “Miti e Molotov #2”, as well as his articles in SteamPunk Magazine and other ‘zines.
Margaret Killjoy first discovered the Steampunk genre back in 2004:
“I was living in a squatted tenement building in the south Bronx. There was an anarchist paper in the city at the time, the New York Rat. While searching around the website that hosted it, I ran across some steampunk writings by ‘The Catastrophone Orchestra,’ including the manifesto that we published as ‘Colonizing The Past So We Can Dream The Future’ in the first issue of SteamPunk Magazine a few years later. It intrigued me: just crazy enough to be interesting, and it spoke to an aesthetic I’d long been fond of, of clanking gear machines and mad scientists hellbent on liberation.”
After discovering Steampunk, Killjoy and his friends designed several Steampunk inspired drum machines and “cabinet-sized music boxes” to use for busking (a form of street performance). His first official Steampunk-themed writing was for the website Steamy Punk. He then took the aesthetic to another level by founding SteamPunk Magazine as an “outlet for all the crazy stuff” he was writing at the time. SteamPunk Magazine was soon picked up by the UK based publishing collective Vagrants Among Ruins and back issues are now available for download or printed order via their website. I originally came across Margaret Killjoy’s work via SteamPunk Magazine back in 2009. The magazine included original works of fiction, poetry, comic strips, interviews with featured artists and (my personal favorite) how-to guides.
Killjoy seems to enjoy Steampunk for its DIY ingenuity in design and mechanical engineering, beyond the iconic goggles and gears, and I have to say I agree. I also enjoy stories that use Steampunk in science fiction to explore mechanical alternate histories, parallel realities, or potential post-apocalyptic futures. As Killjoy points out, “(Steampunk’s) not just an excuse to wear silly clothes… it is an opportunity to question the whole of western history and humanity’s interaction with technology.”
“Now, don’t get me wrong,” he adds, “I love the clothes too.”
Currently, Margaret Killjoy is working on several new projects including a feature-length narrative film. He has also started writing again for the possible resurrection of the long-dormant SteamPunk Magazine, which he still claims as his favorite Steampunk project to date.
“Some of the pieces we published are absolutely some of the most important theoretical texts that shape my own thinking: the original steampunk manifesto we published, ‘My Machine, My Comrade,’ which addresses the ways that we as humans interact with machinery, and a piece on the nature of ‘progress’ as defined by western society that tears open the myth that, for example, the fixed-wing aircraft is superior to airships.”
I’m looking forward to the possible return of the bi-annual SteamPunk Magazine. In fact, I may consider submitting a couple DIY guides of my own if the publishers send out a request for submissions again. One way or another, it was interesting getting to meet Margaret Killjoy and seeing his creativity first hand.
Killjoy’s most recent book “What Lies Beneath The Clock Tower” was released on May 26, 2011 and is currently available for order via Combustion Books.
To find out more about Margaret Killjoy, his past works and future projects, please check out his blog at Birds Before the Storm. Killjoy can also be found on Flickr and the Twitters, and for his published works peruse Combustion Books.
Here on “Grasping @ Creativity” I feature at least one creative each month with the hope of inspiring readers in their own pursuit of creativity. These highlighted individuals have all influenced 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.