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There seems to be a trope going around that Steampunks are reacting negatively to people voicing the opinion that they don’t care for Steampunk. Nothing could be further from the truth. What one likes or dislikes is simply a matter of taste – I don’t like mint, something far more popular than Steampunk will ever be. I don’t think I’ve seen a single person have a negative reaction to someone saying they didn’t care for Steampunk.

What I have seen, and what I have authored, are reactions to people who critique Steampunk on the grounds that it does or doesn’t interrogate/analyze/deconstruct/subvert/etc. racism/sexism/classism/colonialism/imperialism/etc. because that critique simply is not true. Or on the grounds that it uncritically glorifies the 19th century without addressing the Dickensian conditions that prevailed if one didn’t happen to be on the top of the heap, because that critique simply is not true. Worse than mere falsity, these are critiques that can only be made if – at best – one has not troubled oneself to actually read the source material that one chooses to critique – and I am still waiting to hear exactly which books people are reading that lead them to these assertions[1]. I am hard pressed to think of a more fundamental failing in a critic than ignorance of their topic. Gentle Reader, if you don’t find that statement axiomatic, I don’t know what to tell you.

Hard pressed as I am, though, I do arrive at a more fundamental failing in a critic. Even worse than mere ignorance is the marginalization, the silencing of voice after voice such ignorance leads to – if one is writing from a space of good will, pining for that which for already exists and is available with the least of effort is self defeating. [livejournal.com profile] jadegirl lays it out rather well: When that marginalization manifests as white critics acting as if critics of color don’t exist, we’ve come once again to white privilege. When that marginalization manifests as male critics using their critique to police women’s clothing choices, hello male privilege! When that marginalization manifests as middle-class people calling out poor people for having the temerity to wear an aristocrat’s costume[4], say it with me now, that’s class privilege.

No one minds that this author or that doesn’t like Steampunk. No one even minds that this author or that has a critique to offer about Steampunk. But, I think we are not unreasonable to insist on good critique, informed critique. Because, honestly, we already have some excellent critique going on and time we spend saying, “Have you actually read Boneshaker???” is time we could have been spending advancing that critique even further.

[1] Mr. Stross’ objections to the finer details of Ms. Priest’s Zombiology notwithstanding.[2]
[2] I still haven’t heard Mr. Stross present his preferred Zombiogenesis theorem in opposition to Ms. Priest’s “mysterious gas.”[3]
[3] That may be just as well.
[4] Or, as the Victorians might have called it, “dressing above one’s station.”
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