H.M.S. Chronabelle: An Extended Interview with Lady Almira

Lady Almira, by Krista Brennan

After a brief reprieve, your favorite typewriter is back with more exciting material from The Steampunk Bible.  This week we will explore the world of the H.M.S. Chronabelle and its illustrious crew members.  These four women have banded together to create steamsonas that transcend time and space, creating a imaginary realm where anything is possible.  We’ll start off with an extended interview with Lady Almira, a.k.a. Tessa Siegel, to discuss her own views on steampunk and the perks of living aboard an airship.

The Steampunk Bible: What is your personal definition of Steampunk? 

Lady Almira: Steampunk is a genre and subculture revolving around retro-speculative science fiction. It asks the question: What if technology developed at an implausibly great pace during the Victorian Era? What if our advancements surmounted even the technologies of modern day? The end result is a marriage of great advancement with classical styles and mannerisms. Also, there are rayguns.

SPB: How long have you been involved/interested in Steampunk?

LA: I started becoming interested in Steampunk when I was sixteen. I was a junior in high school and was drawn to the beautiful aesthetic of the subculture. Luckily enough, I was surrounded with friends who were all equally interested in the genre, and we were all able to dive into the community together. It is much easier to be a young steampunk when you have other steampunks close to you. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the crew of the H.M.S. Chronabelle with me from the start.

SPB: What differences do you see between now and when you started?

LA: When I started, the entire subculture was smaller and mostly underground. When you brought up “steampunk” in a conversation with a non-steampunk, the response was inevitably confused. Now it’s become a better known thing—on the same level as cyberpunk for the most part. I think the only reason that we (the Chronabelle) managed to draw attention in the community was because we were such a novelty at the time. Active steampunks were generally in their 20s and 30s, so a crew of teenagers who actually took the time to create and share was a bit of a sensation. Now, the society is a great deal larger and there are many people our age who are doing much more interesting things than we ever did.

SPB: How did your crew come together?

LA: We had all known each other for years before we went steampunk; some of us had been together since middle school. Captain Mouse was the one who originally introduced it to us, and we all dove in for different reasons. There was something for each of us in the subculture— literature, art, technology, fashion. When it got to the point that it was part of our daily lives, we decided we needed to form an airship.

SPB: What is it about outdated technology–like dirigibles–that appeal to and inspire you?

LA: Aesthetics. I’m no scientist by any means. Mouse keeps me up to snuff on technology for the most part, but I’m really in into it because it’s pretty. And more than that, I’ve always loved antiquated things. I collect rare books, I’ve had a vintage pocket watch collection since I was eleven, I enjoy spending time in old buildings, etc.

SPB: Why did you all decide to “live” on an airship?  What does it provide for you that 21st century reality cannot?

LA: Back when we first formed it, it was definitely an escape. None of us terribly hated high school, but I think everyone dreams of getting out while they’re there. So the idea of having a giant, beautiful retro futuristic mansion that floated us to exotic places, allowed us to all live together, and let us have adventures really appealed to the group. Now that we’ve all been scattered to the winds, it’s like an imaginary meeting place. We may be stationed hundreds of miles away from each other, but we’re still the crew of the H.M.S. Chronabelle.

SPB: What is it about the steampunk aesthetic that appeals to you?

LA: Basically, everything. I suppose that’s a bit broad… the fashion and the technology are definitely important. Beyond that, the real draw is Victorian mannerism. What’s really wonderful about the subculture is the combination of a look with an attitude. Steampunks are all about talking well, dressing well, and acting well. These are all things that I really appreciate as a young person in a fairly lazy modern world. Steampunk is often affected, yes, but I am glad that there is still a place in society where manners and gentlemanliness are still held to a high standard. Hopefully, there will always be people who appreciate a good top hat.

SPB: Where do you all get your inspiration for your costumes, and can you talk about its influences?

LA: Our costumes were always about what we could do with a limited budget. Students aren’t known for their vast funds, so we generally had to make do with what we had (excluding a few choice expensive pieces, such as my corset). We quickly learned the benefits of alteration and layering. After this commonality, our personal styles tended to diverge greatly. I always lean towards the “steam” side of steampunk—I enjoy attempting to incorporate a certain level of Victoriana into my costumes. Whereas, for example, Captain Mouse and Lady Kodak tended to lean towards a more “punk” feel. We never quibbled about which was better. The crew never wanted to institute a uniform of any kind.

SPB: Future of Steampunk fashion?  Where do you see it evolving to?

 LA: Oh dear, that’s a hard one. People are getting more and more creative and intricate everyday. It’s wonderful to see the crazy stuff that’s out there. I don’t know what the trend will be in the future, but I definitely see more post-apocalyptic styled pieces appearing. Things seem to be straying more and more from the Victorian roots, which I think will lead to both some fascinating costuming and intense debates within the community about the nature of the genre.

“H.M.S. Chronabelle: An Extended Interview with Lady Almira” was published in Interviews, Uncategorized.

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