All the way back in 2009, nigh on an eternity ago, I posted a little something called The Bustlepunk Manifesto. Hardly a proper manifesto at all, it was really more of an excuse to post a picture of a really stunning Worth gown along with a bit of topical silliness, which sprung from some conversation that was going on over at my friend Serge’s LJ. Over the past couple of years, that silly little post — and more specifically, the term I used in it, “bustlepunk” — has taken on a life of its own. I get asked about it in interviews with plodding regularity. I hear of other authors being asked about it in interviews. A recent review of my book on Tor.com stirred the pot, calling bustlepunk “the softer side of steampunk.” (Oh noes! Softer? GIRLIER? We know what those mean! They’re really just code words for “weaker” and “crappier”! Aaaigh! More on that later.)  Anyway. All of this came to a head over the past couple of days, on the Twitter feed of a fellow named @steamscholar. Yes, gentle readers, even though I’ve forsworn street fighting for more gentle, womanly pursuits, I’ve waded into a bit of a dustup. Some representative tweets follow:

Well, after that it was on like Donkey Kong. Of course, I considered the argument lost on Mr. Perschon’s side when he took this classic tack:

(Poor man, he sticks his neck out for us poor little gals — including treacherous, ungrateful me — and look at the treatment he gets! He might as well just be a sexist asshole! Oh … wait …)

Anyway, I offered to provide a more thorough and well-thought-out support of bustlepunk than my hastily-slapped-together-half-as-a-joke two year old manifesto. This post is my attempt to honor that promise and address the points raised:

1) Do we really need another “-punk”? No. Of course we do not. I submit we didn’t even need *one.* But whatever. It’s out there, it lives, good luck making it go away no matter how much you hate it. Words come into general and popular usage for a reason. Whether this one has “stuck” because it sounds catchy, or because it puts a name to something that needs naming, I can’t say and don’t particularly care.

2) How dare you call [X] writer a bustlepunk, as though all [she] writes about is tea carts? How dare I? Well, because I can call anything anything I fucking want to, that’s why. I can call Moby Dick bustlepunk if I want to, and there’s not a goddamn thing anyone can do about it. However, because I do treasure logical consistency and accuracy, allow me to state for the record that I would not call Moby Dick bustlepunk. Nor would I now categorize Cherie Priest’s works as bustlepunk, though I did do so in my original post, and I can’t quite remember why. What would I categorize as bustlepunk? Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Shades of Milk and Honey” and Gail Carriger’s books, definitely. This is not because I’m trying to corral either one of those worthy authors into some bogus marketing category I made up all by myself, nor because their work is all about bustles (there’s nary a one to be found in Kowal’s book, as it is set in the Regency.) Rather, it is because I feel that both of those authors are exploring narratives from a different side than does most speculative fiction that is categorized as steampunk. OK?

3) No, not OK. I still don’t get why you don’t just call them steampunk like everyone else. Why do you persist on this foolishness of calling them something all different-y like “bustlepunk”? Well, perhaps it is because I think that the two things ARE very different, specifically in terms of content and focus. The works I define as bustlepunk focus primarily on examining aspects of 19th century life through the lens of the feminine experience. This may include tea tables and fascinators and bustles and crinolines. It may also include sexual freedom (or lack thereof), romantic relationships in which the power dynamic between the man and the woman is hardly short of abusive (due to the political and social realities of the time), the challenge of claiming and using power within a deeply patriarchal society, and so on. I would not consider a book “bustlepunk” if it did not touch on subversive topics such as these. Without them, it’s all bustle and no punk.

4) Oh well, screw all that. It’s marginalizing to women to apply a gendered term to fiction they … uh, you … produce. You’re creating a literary “ghetto” within steampunk and shoving all the girls into it. AND IT MUST STOP! Now we come to the argument that really gets under my girdle. Because it suggests that the marginalization of women writers comes not from the society we live in, or the historical forces we labor under, but rather as a result of the *words* we use. Are you kidding me with that shit? The deep social issues that result in a female writer being dismissed or trivialized because she “just” writes romance do not disappear, and cannot be made to disappear, by simply calling her a “fiction” writer (or a “steampunk” writer for that matter.) It is a comfortable, abhorrent fiction that simply pretending a marginalized group is a happy part of one harmonious whole will make them not be marginalized. Equality does not emerge magically as the result of calling everyone the same thing. Quite the opposite, in my opinion. By focusing attention on the writers who are producing works that focus on this aspect of women’s historical experience, I propose that we are bringing these issues forward for closer examination. But hey. That’s just me.

In conclusion, I can only say that the whole concept of bustlepunk has come to mean more to me than I thought it did. This could, of course, be a result of my own massively over-inflated ego. Or maybe the term really does pinpoint something important. You’ll just have to decide for yourself.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/holzman.tweed Daniel B. Holzman-Tweed

    Thanks for putting this up.  It’s pretty late where I’m reading, so I’ll comment further tomorrow after having had more awake time to read and comprehend.

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      Looking forward to it, Daniel. Thanks for reading.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for waiting.  I’m pulling out the definition you provided in the above article, because that’s what I asked for/about: “The works I define as bustlepunk focus primarily on examining aspects
        of 19th century life through the lens of the feminine experience. This
        may include tea tables and fascinators and bustles and crinolines. It
        may also include sexual freedom (or lack thereof), romantic
        relationships in which the power dynamic between the man and the woman
        is hardly short of abusive (due to the political and social realities of
        the time), the challenge of claiming and using power within a deeply
        patriarchal society, and so on. I would not consider a book “bustlepunk”
        if it did not touch on subversive topics such as these. Without them,
        it’s all bustle and no punk.”

        You had also said in our Twitter conversation yesterday that you didn’t regard Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century books as Bustlepunk, which has me pondering what you mean by “the lens of the feminine experience.”  This is because the protagonists of both novels are female, though not of a social class that allows for “tea tables and fascinators and bustles and crinolines.”  Would it be accurate to say that Bustlepunk looks through the lens of women whose social class permits/requires them to spend their days engaging in the intricacies of social interaction implied by tea and fancy adornment?  Or is there another reason that, say, Boneshaker wouldn’t be Bustlepunk by this definition?

        • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

          Hi Dan:

          Thanks for the comment. I do feel that an exploration/critique of class structure & gender politics is an important element of what I’m trying to define here. And it’s not necessarily that the story has to focus on individuals who inhabit the social class that allows for tea tables, etc. but that the class differences must be recognized and explored in some way. In Kowal’s “Shades of Milk and Honey”, Jane must face issues of losing status within society because she is considered less attractive than her sister. In Carriger’s books, Alexia must deal with the stigma of behaving in an “unladylike” fashion.

          My recollection is that I did not find any such friction in Boneshaker, and that while it had an exceptionally strong female heroine, it was not her challenges within the social and political structures of the time that drove any large percentage of the plot. If I have misremembered any significant aspect of the book (which I read quite a long time ago) I do apologize.

          • Anonymous

            *** Boneshaker spoilers ahead***

            Briar Wilke’s struggles around class and gender issues don’t drive the plot of Boneshaker, but they are very much woven into the characterization and setting of initial conditions of the book.  Before the Boneshaker wrecks Seattle, she occupies a class such that her husband was able to build the Boneshaker in the basement beneath their house.  As the story begins she is a factory worker who is socially ostracized because of her association with her husband.

  • Rachelkoroloff

    Deeply, deeply satisfying conversation on the stakes involved in what we choose to call our fiction. You are witty, logical, honest and clear-thinking — and without a doubt the best defender that romantic/historical/speculative, otherwise bustle-y, fiction could have. @Steamscholar just can’t seem to see their own ‘micro-aggression’ as they start a relatively worthless fight with someone they’d probably do much better to have a real discussion with. The arguments they present against bustle-punk as a useful or meaningful term are knee-jerk and shallow  — so, I suppose, even though I still think you are the one of the funniest, smartest people I know, you’ve been lobbed an easy one here.

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      Thank you, Rachel. :-)

  • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

    Per item:

    1) Apparently you do care enough about your baby to call people names over it, on account of their being “nonplussed” and male.

    2) Er… But “Bustlepunk” is a bogus marketing category you made up all by yourself, and according to their tweets, some of the authors you’ve tried to corral into legitimizing it don’t even “get” it.

    3) There is no difference between “Bustlepunk” and “Steampunk” according to this description. All Steampunk is tedious, boring, derivative, unreadable Urban Fantasy that considers itself subversive about one or another topic that is more than adequately described by a modifying adjective like “feminist” or “post-colonial” or whatever your label is. See point 2.  

    4) I haven’t seen any evidence that female Steampunk writers are dismissed, trivialized or marginalized. On the contrary, the good ones tend to be amongst the first names cited in genre lists.

    Overall, this really seems like one of those cases where someone feels a need to invent a special term all their own for their inconsequential variant on something that already had a name – like Dieselpunk or Greenpunk - then get all pissy and defensive about it when people criticize it. Perschon didn’t criticize feminist themes or women writers or the dignity of feminine literature; he criticized the bogus marketing category you made up all by yourself… A term which your 2009 post implied was a joke anyways.

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      Per item back atcha:

      1) I did not call him any name, I restated the content of one of his
      tweets. He said “I may as well talk TnA” which I translated as “I may
      as well be a sexist asshole.”
      2) What does it matter if the authors “get” it or not? They don’t have
      to. T.S. Eliot doesn’t have to “agree” that he’s a modernist. The term
      is a post-facto vehicle for classification and critique. It is a
      classification that I, as a reader and consumer of cultural product,
      use to identify fiction that fits a certain set of specific — and to
      me, valuable — criteria. It is descriptive, not prescriptive.
      Furthermore, I haven’t tried to corral anyone into legitimizing
      anything. This is a term I’ve used to mean a certain thing and in this
      post I’m just trying to define what that certain thing is.
      3) Your opinion, fair enough. Don’t quite know why you’re entering
      into this discussion if you think so little of genre, but it’s your
      dime.
      4) Yes, and N.K. Jemisin’s “Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” is an award-
      nominated and critically acclaimed hit — but that doesn’t somehow
      magically make racism go away, either. Pointing to successful
      individuals from a marginalized group and saying “See! Look how much
      everyone loves them! What are you complaining about, there’s no
      marginalization going on!” is utterly specious and unworthy of
      comment. And yet, I have commented on it.

      • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

        1) “He might as well just be a sexist asshole! Oh … wait …” I see what you did there! One of the most odious, disingenuous habits of Steampunks is to still consider themselves to be polite while insulting someone passive-agressively, directly on another forum, or by trying to be oh-so-witty (in the tonal equivalent of holding a monocle to one’s eye). Though lacking the class to do it directly, you called Perschon a “sexist asshole” because he thought your cutesy term was actually degrading to women.

        2) As I understand it, the sole characteristic is “the writer is a woman”, which is fairly nonspecific. I gather your bogus marketing category was supposed to be centred around how you like tea and crumpets as a subject matter or something, but some of those authors you mentioned are saying “I don’t write about that.” I’ve even found blog posts by other women fans who are saying the same thing Perschon did. The only people who really seem to get mileage out of it are you and Tor.com, which is a marketing website. 

        3) Unfortunately my radar for Steamdumb is still active, which I grant is practically indistinguishable from a radar for Steampunk as a whole.

        4) This whole thing smacks of a pithy fit about the fact that this English professor who studies Steampunk literature for his thesis (and has a penis) didn’t notice that your “fresh” and “original” new voice for women was so epoch-making that it required its own genre. The reason that Cherie Priest and Gail Carriger are practically synonymous with Steampunk and you are not is not because women Steampunk authors are marginalized as a class.

        • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

          1) Well, I did have a monocle in when I typed it, so you’re spot on there. Kudos!

          2) Tor.com certainly serves a marketing function for its parent company, but it is by no means a “marketing website.” If it were that, it would not have even posted a review of my book, which is from an entirely different (and competing) publisher. Additionally, Tor.com is widely regarded for its critical journalism on the genre, and also happens to pay the highest rates for original short fiction in the biz. Liz Gorinsky, a primary editor at Tor.com, also happens one of the most well-known and respected Steampunk-focused editors there is. She is, in fact, Cherie Priest’s editor. So I guess I don’t quite see how they benefit from giving a term coined by a writer from a competing house “mileage.” I would suggest you do your homework, but I am getting the feeling that suggestion wouldn’t do much good in this case, as your arguments seem to be notably free of logical consistency.

          3 & 4) Case in point re: logical consistency. You clearly have utter contempt for the genre (Steamdumb? Really?) and yet in almost the same breath, you attempt to impress me with the fact that @steamscholar is an “English professor” who “studies Steampunk literature” and is writing a thesis (we shall leave aside the fact that he has a penis.) By your own assessment of steampunk, the fact that @steamscholar is making a study of it should be about as impressive as him doing a rigorous critical analysis of “Who’s the Boss.” (Hint: It’s Angela.)

          Finally, yes. I completely agree that Priest and Carriger are virtually synonymous with steampunk. They have both earned their titles by being hugely talented, gracious, and extremely supportive of the genre. I can think of no better ambassadors. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop using whatever critical terminology I damn well please, made-up-and-silly or not.

          • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

            1) Yay me.

            2) I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Tor wouldn’t be maintaining the website unless they were making money off it in one way or another.

            3+4) I don’t need to like a genre to recognize when someone is an academic expert in the subject (you can even find his CV online if you look), or when their criticism of something stems from that expertice, or when the reaction to that criticism was unfair, immoderate and unecessary.

            “They have both earned their titles by being hugely talented, gracious, and extremely supportive of the genre.”

            And perhaps therein lies the reason why they manage to be big fish in a big pond while you’re looking for a smaller pond to swim to.

            • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

              2) Of course they are making money off the site. And part of that money is surely going to pay their authors, one of whom is Cherie Priest. Not me. So what is your point exactly?

              —–Original message—–

              • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

                That “Bustlepunk” is a bogus marketing category you made up all by yourself, and according to their tweets, some of the authors you’ve tried to corral into legitimizing it don’t even “get” it. And that calling Perschon a sexist asshole for being “nonplussed” about your bogus marketing category is unfair, unnecessary and juvenile.

            • Okwari

              Hey, MK Hobsen is not going around saying that this is a new literary term and everybody should be using it. She’s saying she’s made the category for her own use.

              • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

                As I understand it, she invented this term as something of a joke to be a grab-bag for any Steampunk author who happened to be a woman. Then other people started using it. Then other people yet started criticizing it. Then she got defensive about it and started calling them names.  

  • Tom Russell

      Now I kinda want to wear a tricked-out bustle.

      I also want to say “bustle” over and over again.

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      I’ve seen some pretty awesome tricked out bustles. They’re great for hiding things in, kind of like a Victorian fanny-pack. And I’d love to see more men wearing them!

      —–Original message—–

  • Victoria Lockyear

    Hm.  Once you invent a term, you do get to define it, and as such, well done.  Watching the reactions of others within this context is almost as much fun as teasing the cat, so again, well done. As someone who appreciates speculative fiction baised in pretty much any period, I think that Cory Gross is being redundant in pointing out that it is derivative.  That is like saying that something which is made from sugar is sweet.  That doesn’t make the stories less worth reading, or less from a feminine point of view. If he doesn’t like them, I won’t make him buy them.  However, I do have a strangely agressive urge to make him wear a corset with 40lbs of additional weight perched in the top half of it, in place of breasts, along with a bustle, 10 yards of skirt and then encourage him to ride on a Victorian era train, and ask him how comfortable his great grandmother must have been.  Perhaps he would feel comfortable speculating at that point. And perhaps I am being overly reactionary. 

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      Victoria, it’s much like the old joke that if men could get pregnant, abortion would not only be legal but also free. I wish fostering a true understanding of the issues involved were as easy as putting a man in a corset and bustle for a day; alas, it would be as useless as trying to understand institutionalized racism by going around in blackface.

      —–Original message—–

      • Victoria Lockyear

        You are, of course, correct. But my reaction was not rational, and was indeed kind of mean, and I will admit that the only way to truly understand would be to experience the real thing, instead of a simulacrum for a day.  It would be wonderful if it would be possible to graphically communicate an understanding of any concept that easily. 

        I get cranky. Sorry.

        • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

          Oh, don’t be sorry! I’m right there with ya, sister :-)

          —–Original message—–

          • Victoria Lockyear

            Thanks. :) Being rational is sometimes not my best skill set.

            And now I want to build Tom Russell a tricked-out bustle with a spring loaded dart gun, some kind of nifty magnifying device and a place to stash books. And perhaps a cup holder.

    • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

      This pretty much typifies the issue, doesn’t it?
       
      An academic expresses how he is “nonplussed” at a bogus marketing category, and the author who invented the term decides to call him a sexist asshole instead of actually engage the point being made. For some reason you want to make me dress up in Victorian drag, as though that has anything to do with my criticism that her calling Perschon a sexist asshole was as bogus as her marketing category.
       
      Instead of actually debating the merits of the idea, you’re just hiding behind a bustle and accusing us of not liking you because you’re girls… Despite the fact that Perschon was called a sexist asshole because he didn’t want the positive voice of women Steampunk authors to become ghettoed. Talk about cheap tactics.

      • Victoria Lockyear

        Cory,
        If you would like to discuss the merit of a type of literature, it helps a lot to understand the point of the literature. By that, I mean the point that the author is making, not whatever point that you choose to attribute to that author through your own reading.  The point that I was trying to make is that this specific author invented a word, which has been attributed to the feminist portion of a sub genre, and she is definitely the correct person to define it. Regardless of your opinion of my reactionary comments that were meant to point out that you would have a very difficult time understanding a Victorian female point of view, she has the right to define herself, her writing and her life.  She likes being feminine, as do I, but that doesn’t mean that we are not feminists, and are not perfectly within our rights to tell you off when we disagree with your interpretation of what we have written.  If you have a problem with either this author, or myself, you know exactly what you can do. 
         
        As for the academic expressing his opinion, he did express his opinion, as did other people within this social context. You getting upset about adults expressing their opinion doesn’t change anything, except for your blood pressure, and everyone else’s amusement at your loosing your mind over the fact that someone defended their idea. Good luck with shouting someone into changing their mind, insulting people who were laughing at the conversation, and generally appearing to be a heavy handed obstipated posterior of a mule.

        • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

          Oh, Hobson is certainly entitled to do any number of things. She is perfectly entitled to invent a bogus marketing category for herself because she can’t hack it in the crowded Steampunk marketplace, to try and piggyback off the success of female Steampunk authors who are more talented and renowned than herself, manufacture a controversy to raise awareness of her brand, and even conveniently call anyone who questions this a “sexist asshole” because they also happen to have a penis (which is not the same as “defending an idea”). No one is stopping her from doing any of this. I’m not even stopping her from doing this.

          But if I understand your line of reasoning, it goes: Hobson is free to express her opinion, Perschon is free to express his opinion, Hobson is free to express her opinion that Perschon is not free to express his opinion because the object of his opinion was invented by someone who happened to be a woman and he happens to be a man, and I am *not* free to express my opinion on Hobson calling Perschon names because I am also a man and not a Victorian woman as though that had any relevance whatsoever to the subject of Hobson acting like a female of the canine species engaged in lewd acts of a sexual nature (was that a Steampunk enough way of saying it?). At least, that’s what I got out of “you know exactly what you can do” and then your speech about my getting upset about adults expressing their opinion. Maybe you should have backed that speech up to when Hobson said that Perschon’s penis negated his opinion, or when she called him a sexist asshole, or when you were “cranky”, “not rational” and “overly reactionary.” Hypocritical much?  

          • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

            Nope. You’re not stopping me from doing anything. As a matter of fact, I am giving you a forum, on a blog that I host and pay for, to disagree with me and call *me* names in return. So exactly how are you not free to express your opinion?

            • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

              I missed replying to this, which I guess I should since apparently it’s going around that I’m a troll who thinks they’re being censored (but apparently some people aren’t trolls by responding to critics by dismissing them as sexist assholes). For the benefit of those who, despite Steampunkish verbosity, do not understand the English language, what I did was draw a conclusion from the statement that I should sit down and shut up and not comment on people personally insulting someone for making a perfectly valid critique. It struck me as hypocritical that I should be told to shut up for the outrage of expressing my opinion when the same person did not tell you to shut up for the outrage of expressing your opinion. But contrary to those whose reading comprehension is intermittent, no I don’t think I’m actually being censored. You’ve been quite good about letting turnabout be fair play, so thank you for that.  

              • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

                Not to be pedantic or anything, but consider this: I expressed my opinion in a post on my own blog. A space I rented and paid for. No one has the right to tell me to shut up because it’s my space. Yes? Make sense? Now, you came into my space as a guest and expressed your opinion. I allowed you to do so and will happily continue to allow you to do so because I generally like people who can be jerks in an interesting way. If someone else told you to shut up (which, to be fair, Victoria didn’t really do, at least not in so many words) that’s not hypocritical at all. There’s a difference here between your right to speak and mine. If we were both on someone else’s blog, you’d have a point. But we’re not. And you don’t.

                And you’re welcome.

                • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

                  Victoria said: “If you have a problem with either this author, or myself, you know exactly what you can do” and ”You getting upset about adults expressing their opinion doesn’t change anything…”
                   
                  I assuming that’s Steampunkese for “shut up douchebag,” since I don’t imagine that she meant that the exact thing I know I can do is express myself openly as I am doing. The implication is also that my “getting upset about adults expressing their opinion” (read defending Pershon from you calling him gratuitously petty and childish names) is not a valid opinion in itself.
                   
                  Her hypocrisy comes into play from the fact that she is telling me to shut up for insulting you the way you insult people, but not telling you to shut up for insulting people to begin with. Everything she said about shouting at people, insulting them and being an ass applies just as easily to how you reacted to Perschon – and, in fact, is what compelled me to comment here to begin with – but for some reason wasn’t applied to you. Hmmm…

                  • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

                    Fine, whatever. You get the last word, I’ve lost interest in this game. I’m too busy trying to figure out what building the College of Mechanics would have been in in at UC Berkeley in 1910. You don’t know, do you?

                    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

                      Never mind. Found what I needed:

                      http://bit.ly/jRDpkK Have a great night.

                    • http://profiles.google.com/corywgross Cory Gross

                      I suppose it’s a minor victory. Too bad you don’t have the class to apologise to Perschon for calling him unfounded names though.

          • Leah

            Speaking as a third party who doesn’t really have a horse in this race, I’m afraid that if you’re curious as to why anyone’s calling you an asshole, I can confirm that you’re definitely coming off as one here.

            It might be time to take a walk around the block and cool off, man.

  • Liz Coleman

    Well stated!

    My take on this: “Bustlepunk,” implies stories in which women kick ass without literally kicking ass. It’s not always about how high you can kick (which, in a bustle, is not very high). In real life, we were freed by dropping the encumberences of corsets and bustles that society required its women to wear to be womanly. But now that we’re freed ladies, we can make the choice to wear them if we want (and have adventures in them, which probably won’t involve much kicking!)
    I understand what Perschon was trying to say, and if a man had come up with the term “bustlepunk,” his points might be more valid, but as it is, he’s reflexively negating women’s attempts to define themselves.

    (OMG, it’s like I’m actually at Wiscon!)

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      Oh, how I wish I were at Wiscon this weekend!

  • Okwari

    Interesting piece. Your comments about being marginalized within a genre remind me of how horror writers/filmmakers who are female tend to get set aside in favor of their male counterparts.

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      Horror, fantasy, SF, steampunk, it doesn’t matter what genre. It is endemic.

  • Joie

    I’m afraid I may disagree with you here.  While you’re, of course, welcome to call your work whatever you wish, I’m not entirely sure the coining of a new term does the work any favors.  I can certainly see how the term “bustlepunk” can be interpreted as marginalizing toward a strictly feminine experience, and I’m a woman who greatly enjoys these kinds of books.  I understand that, by using the term, you’re trying to illuminate the female experience in the genre, but I don’t believe it’s necessary to separate the feminine from the masculine to validate these works.  In fact, I’m afraid doing so may have the opposite effect, where gentlemen readers will dismiss anything labeled “bustlepunk” as strictly for women and miss out on several wonderful books and authors because of it. 

    From my reckoning, *this* is what the Steampunk Scholar was trying to point out, and I don’t believe it was intended as a direct attack upon you in any way.  I’m a big fan of your work, and I read your blog quite frequently, but I’m afraid you may have leapt to the defense here, instead of trying to understand the point he was trying to make.  You are, of course, welcome to disagree with him, but I don’t necessarily think it’s fair to claim he isn’t allowed to have an opinion simply because he is male.  I also don’t feel his having a differing opinion than yours makes him sexist or an asshole. 

    It’s true he’ll never be a woman, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of understanding the feminine perspective.  I’ll never be a 12th c. Italian nobleman, but I’m perfectly capable of understanding and interpreting Petrarch.  That’s the beauty of literature; that we, as readers, can use it as a method of understanding lifestyles beyond our own experience.  That doesn’t mean our own perceptions don’t color our interpretation, but it also doesn’t mean we’re not capable of thinking beyond ourselves when necessary.

    • Victoria Lockyear

      Interesting.  Do you consider it positive or negative to refer to a piece of writing as ‘Feminist’? I am not saying you are wrong, I am just curious.

      And I agree with you that it would be difficult for you (or me) to be a 12th century nobleman, but we both understand that our interpretations of Petrarch are our own, and thus not his interpretation of his own work.  If Petrarch were to self apply a term, however, I wouldn’t argue that it was invalid or an attempt at marketing because I disagreed with the term or the context of the term.

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      Hi Joie, thanks for commenting.

      You say “I’m afraid doing so may have the opposite effect, where gentlemen readers will dismiss anything labeled “bustlepunk” as strictly for women and miss out on several wonderful books and authors because of it.” But is that the fault of the *terminology*, or the narrow-minded readers you presuppose? Should I also refrain from call Carriger’s books “romance” or “romantic fantasy” because, similarly, some readers might be turned off by that? Where, precisely does it end?

      I am perfectly willing to accept that the Steampunk Scholar did not intend his attack to be personal, and it’s possible that I took it more personally than I should have. The “sexist asshole” comment was used to characterize one tweet in particular, where he said “I just hate that advocating for women sometimes get the same response as objectifying them; I may as well talk TnA.” If, instead of that, he had said “I just hate that advocating for black people sometimes gets the same response as objectifying them; I may as well talk about Uncle Tom” would you not see how that statement could be characterized as problematic? 

  • http://profiles.google.com/alyx.dellamonica Alyx Dellamonica

    Oh noes! I definitely didn’t mean weaker or crappier. But I can see where that would be a fair interpretation. I shall mind my Q’s and P’s ever more carefully.

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      I know you didn’t; I hope you understand that I was stretching to make a point. 

      • http://profiles.google.com/alyx.dellamonica Alyx Dellamonica

        Totally! I think that post is coming together, btw.

  • Pingback: Hobson versus the trolls… | A.M. Dellamonica

  • Kip Manley

    Can anyone point me to a definition of bustlepunk as something that must have been written by a woman that is not being made by someone denigrating and lambasting the genre as a ghetto for women writers? —There is a vast, vast difference between “the softer side” of anything, that is written “through the lens of the feminine experience,” and something that has been written by a woman. The continued, unthinking conflation of the two is, it seems to me, rather illustrative of something or other.

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      Hi Kip!

      I certainly have never defined it as being restricted to women authors. While the authors I’ve cited as representative are all female, if a man were to write a book that focused on the social/political issues I’ve identified, I’d include him in my classification. Oscar Wilde readily springs to mind.

      —–Original message—–

      • Kip Manley

        So there’s nothing about bustlepunk that rules out a liking for rough trade, then. Duly noted. (Memo to self: develop “The Importance of Being Codswallop” post-haste.) (Oh hell given the etymology I need to drop everything right this instant and hop to it.)

  • http://serge-lj.livejournal.com/ Serge Broom

    Thanks for mentionning me, MK. I’ve never been that crazy about the term ‘steampunk’ because, in the days of the genre’s founding father Jules Verne, electricity was the Future. Steam was old-hat although it was the (I hate that expression) paradigm shift from animal to mechanical motive power. But the term stuck and, in a way, it has come to define the contents of stories thru specific elements. What am I getting at? ‘Bustlepunk’ on the other hand remains an attitude, an approach to certain concerns, and the specific element of the bustle isn’t needed to make a story Bustlepunk – one example that you mentionned being the wonderful “Shades of Milk and Honey”.

    That being said, I wonder how long it’ll be before interviewers ask you about “Moby Dick”. :-)

    • http://www.demimonde.com M.K. Hobson

      Ordinarily, that would be my cue to crack wise and talk about “blubberpunk”. But I certainly wouldn’t want to marginalize any cetaceous writers. Frat boys might not buy their books!

      • http://serge-lj.livejournal.com/ Serge Broom

        I’ll buy a tale as long as it’s whale told.

        Say, weren’t baleens once used to make corsets?
        Now that proves your argument that “Moby Dick” IS bustlepunk.

      • http://serge-lj.livejournal.com/ Serge Broom

        I’ll buy a tale as long as it’s whale told.

        Say, weren’t baleens once used to make corsets?
        Now that proves your argument that “Moby Dick” IS bustlepunk.

  • http://serge-lj.livejournal.com/ Serge Broom

    Thanks for mentionning me, MK. I’ve never been that crazy about the term ‘steampunk’ because, in the days of the genre’s founding father Jules Verne, electricity was the Future. Steam was old-hat although it was the (I hate that expression) paradigm shift from animal to mechanical motive power. But the term stuck and, in a way, it has come to define the contents of stories thru specific elements. What am I getting at? ‘Bustlepunk’ on the other hand remains an attitude, an approach to certain concerns, and the specific element of the bustle isn’t needed to make a story Bustlepunk – one example that you mentionned being the wonderful “Shades of Milk and Honey”.

    That being said, I wonder how long it’ll be before interviewers ask you about “Moby Dick”. :-)