I feel a bit sheepish over how I left the problem of steampunk, for all that this isn’t about steampunk, and won’t be, dammit; a bit glib, to toss off Íkaroi and asymptotes without acknowledging how any one of us worth our salt should take a fence planted and a gauntlet thrown like that: back up for a goddamn running start. —And I never should have linked to Catherynne Valente’s magisterial rant without acknowledging her morning after.
Still, do or do not; there is no try. Tripping over the gauntlet and faceplanting into the fence does nothing but bloody your nose and besides, the fence likes it. —And anyway I’ve got angels of my own to wrestle with. (The themes of seduction and colonization running just under the surface of urban fantasy, say.)
(And I don’t yet know for sure quite what to do with this which is why it’s being stuck over here to one side as a parenthetical—)
What I said was that some critics had called cyberpunk a reactionary response to feminist science fiction. This is true. Specifically, I’m pretty sure this is something Jeanne Gomoll, among others, theorized about.
I brought up this point because though I don’t personally believe that cyberpunk was a reactionary response to feminist science fiction a) It’s an interesting premise to examine; b) Examination leads me to think that while cyberpunk and the cyberpunks were not antagonistic to feminist science fiction, part of the media hype surrounding it was an attempt to find something, anything to look at other than feminist science fiction; and c) Parallels can be drawn between the popularity/commodification of cyberpunk and the popularity/commodification of steampunk in relationship to, respectively, feminist science fiction and speculative fiction by POC. Also, I was being somewhat provocative, which I think is kind of my job on a panel: to entertain as well as educate.
This isn’t about steampunk, dammit; I’m not trying to kick it once again. (Here, have some lovely steamy boosterism from Nisi Shawl, a glorious backing-up for a good hard run at the damn thing.) —It is an interesting premise to examine—note the elision to genre-as-marketing-category in the above, which is where marketing dollars pool, instead of fears; but remember that marketing dollars have fears of their own.
But this is about urban fantasy, and while I know for a goddamn fact the way only someone who’s lived through the past forty years can know that history doesn’t progress, not any more than evolution does, that any narrative here is necessarily constructed by a guiding, editing, distorting hand without which you have just a bunch of stuff that happened, and while I’d never presume to call urban fantasy qua urban fantasy in any way a feminist genre—it is more concerned, much more fundamentally concerned with gender and interpersonal relationships than cyberpunk ever was, and while I’d never make the assertion that the leather pants and the elves in sunglasses and the vampire CEOs and etc. and etc. are in any direct or meaningful way an offshoot of or outgrowth from or improvement on cyberpunk—don’t get distracted by the dam’ furniture—
Still. The idea won’t leave me alone, is all I’m saying.
But anyway the urban fantasy crew for whatever bucks it might bring in is still I gather second class in the Beowulf game; fangfuckers, they’re called, and paranormal romance is said too often with a sneer; I know, I’ve felt it on my own lip more than once. —It’s late. I’m digressing. There’s other moves to make. I need some sleep.