Flammarion Woodcut-703974

The inspiration for this blog site comes from a handful of recent projects. Firstly Dark Mountain, who question the modern myths that have brought us to the brink of ecological and social catastrophe…

Deeper than oil, steel or bullets, a civilisation is built on stories: on the myths that shape it and the tales told of its origins and destiny. We have herded ourselves to the edge of a precipice with the stories we have told ourselves about who we are: the stories of ‘progress’, of the conquest of ‘nature’, of the centrality and supremacy of the human species.

We aim to question the stories that underpin our failing civilisation, to craft new ones for the age ahead and to write clearly and honestly about our true place in the world.

It is time for new stories. The Dark Mountain Project intends to conjure into being new ways of seeing and writing about the world. We call this Uncivilisation.

The Uncivilisation manifesto eloquently presents a case which is perfectly summarised by the Alan Moore quote we use on our header, “There are people. There are stories. The people think they shape the stories, but the reverse is often closer to the truth.” Erich Fromm said that we are ‘creatures’ that evolved to become ‘creators’, and our lives – our history, traditions, beliefs, laws, morals, mores and ‘truths’ – are more a product of the human imagination – more ‘ficticious’ – than we dare admit. But when we accept that we live in a world created by stories we free ourselves to create stories of our own. And these new stories will have the power to open up a countless new worlds of possibilities –worlds undreamt!

Dark Mountain go on to say…

Our aim is to bring together writers and artists, thinkers and doers, to assault the established citadels of literature and thought, and to begin to redraw the maps by which we navigate the places and times in which we find ourselves.

The literary world is important, but we do ourselves an injustice if we ignore the genre-tainted world of ‘fantasy’ and ‘sci-fi’ in our quest for new stories. Another source of influence for this blog is Margaret Killjoy‘s recently released book, ‘Mythmakers & Lawbreakers: anarchist writers on fiction‘, which explores the political musings of some of the ‘fantasy’ worlds brightest stars. (I intend to write a full review of this book, but for now I’m just going to say ‘BUY IT!’)

Magpie (Margeret) was also a founder of Steampunk Magazine; and it is Allegra’s introduction to the latest issue (Number 6) which inspired me to create this blog. I have been an anarchist and political activist for more years than I care to admit, but there is a level of creativity in Steampunk which is sometimes lacking from the wider anarchist/radical movement. As Steampunk Magazine attempts to ‘put the punk back into Steampunk’, so the wider anarchist movement needs to put the beauty back into ‘the beautiful idea’. Like the Steampunks, we need to work together in order to physically create the world which we desire – and the more alternatives we create the better! As Alan Moore says in Magpie’s book…

Fascism is a complete abdication of personal responsibility. You are surrendering all responsibility for your own actions to the state in the belief that in unity there is strength, which was the definition of fascism represented by the original Roman symbol of the bundle of bound twigs. yes, it is a very persuasive argument: “In unity there is strength.” But inevitably people tend to come to the conclusion that the bundle of twigs will be much stronger if all the twigs are of a uniform size and shape[.] So it goes from “in unity there is strength” to “in uniformity there is strength”, and from there it proceeds to the excess of fascism as we’ve seen them excercise throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.

Now anarchy, on the other hand, is almost starting from the principle that “in diversity there is strength”, which makes more sense from the point of view of looking at the natural world. [sic] The whole program of evolution seems to be to diversify, because in diversity there is strength.

And if you apply that on a social level, you get something like anarchy. Everybody is recognised as having their own abilities, their own particular agendas, and everybody has their own need to work cooperatively with other people.

We might add that everybody has their own ‘dreams’.

It is the goal of this blog to celebrate dreamers, schemers and those who follow their own, less travelled path. To explore Utopias, Dystopias, daydreams and desires in the hope of broadening the ‘dream pool’. We used to say that ‘another world is possible’, but maybe we should say ‘many worlds are possible’ – after all,  diversity is strength!

To guarantee diversity one must always be prepared to go beyond the confines set by other people’s (and, of course, our own…) expectations. The ‘comfort zone’ should be viewed as little more than a retirement home for the imagination. As I mentioned previuosly it was the introduction to the latest issue of Steampunk Magazine which ultimately inspired this blog and so I have chosen to reproduce it here in full; I think you’ll agree that Allegra’s words are true for every alternative movement, culture, genre and/or philosophy…

The Victorian age is slowly becoming 
to steampunk what the Dark Ages is 
to sword-and-sorcery. A certain amount 
of this is inevitable: as steampunks, we 
are in love with Victorian technology. 
We adore the machines that come from 
an age before endless replication reduced 
everything into soulless copies of 
itself—lacking any sort of individuality, 
and plastered with labels warning us not 
to interfere with machines whose workings 
we cannot possibly understand. 
However, beyond the factories of the 
late eighteen-hundreds, whole centuries 
lie unexplored; waiting for us to ask that 
question which lies at the very heart of 
steampunk: what if? 
It is only when we ask ourselves this 
question that we can find out just how 
much that we have in common with the 
ethics of the Romantic poets, painters 
and musicians of the early nineteenth 
century—people who rejected the values 
of increasing mechanization to live 
in harmony with technology, with Nature, 
and with one another as friends and 
lovers, as companions, and as equals. It 
is only by asking ‘what if’ that we begin 
to look at ancient sacred science or the 
political uprisings of the French Revolution 
and Waterloo, and begin to take 
what we can learn from all these things, 
and use them to build a better future for 
Steampunk has always been a melting 
pot of ideas, where the present and 
the past intertwine with the fantasies of 
our own imaginations—and too often 
are those imaginations restricted by the 
silent rule that, in order for something 
to be steampunk, it has to be Victorian. 
In fact, we should reject that seemingly 
unbreakable connection just as 
thoroughly as we reject suggestions that 
steampunk should be nothing more than 
historical re-enactment. We should expand 
our horizons before the Victorian 
age becomes the rope by which we hang 
ourselves—until we become little more 
than the meme which our detractors 
claim us to be. 
Let us study our relationship with 
technology anew. The Industrial Revolution 
may have brought us the smoking, 
seething, rumbling machines that 
we all love so much, but steampunk is 
not an industrial revolution in and of itself. 
In fact, in our rejection of mindless 
commercial consumption (in loving the 
machine, but hating the factory), and 
in our desire to use our contraptions in 
harmony with Nature instead of against 
it, steampunk is often a non-industrial, 
if not a pre-industrial revolution. 
By no means should we forget about 
our steam engines, or cast aside our corsets 
and our top hats, but these things 
are not all of what we are. And, while we 
should continue to embrace them, we 
should also make sure that we don’t stop 
ourselves from asking that irresistible 
little question …What if?”C. Allegra Hawksmoor