By Jana King
For some, it might be difficult to look at an old grandfather clock and imagine a use other than telling time. But when Mike Carambat first saw one, the gears in his head started turning.
Carambat has been interested in the Steampunk aesthetic for over 30 years, when he fell in love with classic and golden age sci-fi and fantasy. Largely influenced by artists and scientists from long ago, he has created a device he calls “The ElektraScribe.”
“I read about a late eighteenthcentury German scientists, Georg Lichtenberg; he used dust on a plate to capture strange, tree-like fractals when high voltage ran through it,” Carambat said. “Unfortunately, it is also insanely dangerous.”
The ElektraScribe is a smaller version of Carambat’s first attempt to replicate the fractal crafter, which has safety features that keep public onlookers safe, while letting them view the electric process.
Steampunk is a science fiction genre of writing and crafting focusing on the industrial age and the scientific discoveries, with nods to the Victorian era aesthetic of dressing and mannerisms. The name “Steampunk” comes from the culture’s fascination with steam power, which was popular during the industrial revolution.
Carambat, who works as an IT Director for a local church in Baton Rouge, says that the crafting hobby appealed to him, and he works hard to not simply slap some gears on it and call it Steampunk.
“Although I enjoy making physical props and kinetic sculptures which are obviously in the genre, like clocks, I relish the challenge of communicating through abstract art. It’s surprisingly difficult to communicate Steampunk without being specifically illustrative. “
Carambat has published three different works of Steampunk literature since 2005, which he describes as “bright and positive.” Carambat also provides a cameo of Steampunk influence Nikola Tesla, an electrical and mechanical engineer during the early 1900s, in his novel Farshift.
“There’s even been a few five star ratings of Farshift on Amazon.com, but my favorite of my works has to be Devil May Care.” Carambat wrote The Devil May Care about an alternative universe where Earth and Mars’s governments conspire to cover up life on mars. Carambat describes it as an “experimental interactive multi-narrative style” and says that it can be read seven different ways.
Christina Brown, president of the Baton Rouge Area Steampunk Society, or BRASS, and recent LSU graduate in anthropology and history, discovered her passion for the genre by accident, but similarly, through creative writing in high school.
“A friend informed me that I was writing a Steampunk work of fiction,” she commented. “I didn’t think much of it until a year later Airship Isabella at an anime convention. I fell in love with the Steampunk movement after interacting with these brilliant artists and actors.”
In the Steampunk community, an airship is a group of makers and performers who share a love of the aesthetic and genre, and often collaborate on projects together. Airship Isabella is a New Orleans based group of crafters whose work ranges from visual art to costumes and props, and even performances.
Like Carambat, the journey for some steampunks starts solo. BRASS serves to connect like-minded crafters and makers, with organized socials and even building days. Carambat shared a memory of a building day he hosted at his home after a friend had gifted him some old tubes, clock work and radio materials.
“I soon realized I couldn’t possibly turn it all into art in my own lifetime. So I contacted the group and invited them over. They came, we built, and to this day that stuff is still being incorporated into cool stuff by Steampunk makers all over town.”
BRASS members vary in age, career paths, education, and even crafting experience or interest.
“Members interested in socializing can attend our socials; f you are interested in crafting, we have artists who specialize in sewing, leather-craft, electronics, painting, etc; if you’re interested in film or literature, you will find other enthusiasts.”
Brown boasted the spirit of the community is open and welcoming. “We love to learn, but more than that we want to share our knowledge with the rest of the community.”