BELLINGHAM How would a Victorian have pictured the future? Pocket watches were always going to be in style, of course. Same goes for steam power. And the sky will be full of dirigibles. That's the alternative world steampunks live in.
Steampunk is a nebulous, fantasy subculture that has exploded in popularity in the past few years. It's easy pick a steampunk out of a crowd: Look for the top hats and the trademark copper goggles a safety necessity if you're going on an airship adventure.
"Our granddaddies are (Nikola) Tesla and Jules Verne," said Aron Beattiger of Bellingham, who founded the Bellingham Steampunk Society about two years ago. The group, now ballooned to a few dozen members, has met each month since.
On Saturday, July 7, they flocked to the Fairhaven Village Green for "The Fantastical Mr. Flip's Carnival of Wonders and Curiosities," a festival for steampunks. The group's youngest member, budding circus performer Caleb "Flip" Kors, 10, died earlier this year in a tragic accidental hanging at his home in Sudden Valley. Saturday's event was named in his honor.
Vendors sold steampunk-style vests and jewelry, grooving to steampunk tunes. (Steampunk music, apparently, sounds like one part Tom Waits, one part acoustic folk and one part blues.)
"When most people think 'punk,' they think miscreants Mohawk music," Beattiger said.
Being a steampunk, though, is more about rebelling against the current time period. Characters dress up in costumes that would fit in just fine in a H.G. Wells novel.
"Steampunk is whatever inspires you to be steampunk," clarified Karina Cooper of Bellingham, shading herself with an orange parasol.
So what's the appeal?
"Well, first of all," Cooper paused to wave her left hand over an elaborate corset and a long dark ruffled skirt, "Hello. You can dress like this all the time."
Cooper, a writer who describes her dark fantasy books as "mass-market candy," released her first steampunk novel last week. On Saturday morning she was getting ready for a reading in Village Books, along with two other authors of steampunk-tinged fantasies.
Sudden Valley resident Rebecca Saxton, a friend of Cooper's, showed up in full garb goggles, cloak and all with her two daughters and her husband.
"I think the appeal for a lot of people is being able to make your own things, rather than going to the mall," Saxton said.
So it's about being creative, she said. Saxton had taken a toy lightsaber and jerry-rigged it into a Tesla sword.
That's a blade that's "got its own little generator so it can shoot out lightning," Saxton explained. "Or at least that's the premise I'm going with this week."
Reach CALEB HUTTON at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2276.