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Features Headline MAIN Headline News — 23 October 2013

By Spencer White

Students and staff celebrated the anniversary of the Honors Observatory in unusual style.

On Friday, Oct. 11, a group of “steampunk” aficionados rang in the 130th anniversary of the observatory by dressing up in Victorian garb and looking at the moon through the telescope.

David Kennan, Midland first-year, attended the event.

“It was much different from the telescopes I’d looked through as a kid,” Kennan said. “I could see each individual crater and the terminator line [the line that separates night and day].”

Kennan is taking a class that focuses on the subculture of steampunk.

Steampunk is a style of science fiction that focuses on machinery driven by steam.  Groups of steampunk fans often gather themselves into groups called “airships,” a term referring to steam-powered flying machines often found in steampunk media.

Steampunk’s unique blend of future and past technology allows for social commentary that other genres can’t address as readily.

“Through steampunk, we analyze other subcultures and their views on social issues and society,” Kennan said. “For example, women’s rights, racism in the Victorian era and the morality of technological advancement.  Doomsday weapons are a theme of many steampunk works.”

Megan Kudzia is a co-instructor for the course, working alongside Guy Cox, director of the Ferguson Center for Technology-Aided Teaching & Learning.

“The Steampunk class is sort of straddling the line between a literature criticism class and an anthropology class,” Kudzia said.  “We’re discussing the continuum of culture, subculture, counterculture, the squishy divisions between those ideas, how humans have historically thought about culture.  We’re using the particular subculture of Steampunk to explore those boundaries.”

Kudzia also feels that studying steampunk has merit as a lens for looking at cultural issues.

“Steampunk allows us to use fiction and our imaginations to re-address, or continue to address, social issues and injustices that we’re still dealing with today,” Kudzia said. “It’s science fiction and retro-futurism and fantasy and it’s lots of fun.”

Photo by Hollis Washington

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About Author

Spencer White

Spencer White is a junior from Wixom, Michigan. He's dedicated to squeezing every last bit of journalism he can out of Albion College.

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