James H. Carrott--cultural historian, design research consultant, and author of Vintage Tomorrows (O’Reilly Media, 2012).
Ask me anything
I research, write, and speak on cultural change and technology, working to design a better future through the creative application of the past.
Brian David Johnson (@IntelFuturist) and I will be speaking and signing at Powell’s Cedar Hill Crossing location this coming Monday 25 March at 7pm. There will also be a reception afterward—looking forward to seeing you there if you are in the area. For more details, check out Cory Doctorow’s post on boing-boing or Bruce Sterling’s post on Wired. Yes, it’s that cool!
TIME.com just ran a piece on Vintage Tomorrows as well. It was an enjoyable interview and produced a couple of great little pieces. Many thanks to Lily Rothman for some darn good mainstream journalism. The article, “5 Reasons You’ll Be Talking About Steampunk in 2013” is here, and you can find their “Steampunk 101” photo gallery here.
Things like this always make me think about the observer effect. In doing and sharing our research on steampunk, Brian and I are also changing it. This was most certainly never the plan, but ideas have impact. When we start talking about counterculture and cultural change in the pages of TIME, we’ve altered both the context of the conversation. I could follow this all the way down a postmodern rabbit hole, but see little point in that. For the moment, it suffices to say that counterculture is a conversation about culture… add in the “transitive property” and you start to see the fractal a little bit—patterns within patterns. When you study something, you become a part of its pattern, whether you like it or not.
It’s never not been a fun ride, but it’s getting more interesting all the time…
…will be available in hard copy around/soon after 11 February. @intelfuturist and I have literally sent it to the printer. Now’s the time to pre-order!
The first installment of our free companion ebook: Steampunking Our Future: An Embedded Historian’s Notebook is in editing and will be up online at around the same time. It includes my visit to Wellywood to chat with Greg Broadmore about heroes and villains, art and storytelling, the roots of ray guns, and the sheer human joy of blowing shit up). More on that soon!
Emma: ‘They’re just stories. The Mad Hatter is in Alice in Wonderland—a book. A book I actually read.’
Jefferson: ‘Stories. Stories? What’s a story? When you were in high school, did you learn about the Civil War?’
Emma: ‘Yeah, of course.’
Jefferson: ‘How? Did you read about it, perchance, in a book?’
Emma: ‘History books are based on history.’
Jefferson: ‘And story books are based on what? Imagination? Where does that come from? It has to come from somewhere. You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants a magical solution to their problem, and everyone refuses to believe in magic.’ from “Hat Trick,” Once Upon a Time, season 1, episode 17 (2012)
It really is quite amazing how much work goes into getting a book out of one’s head and into the physical world. Our publisher has incredibly fast turnaround times (what you might expect of O’Reilly Media, who also publish MAKE Magazine—they do things their own way) and I’m told to expect to see the book on shelves by the end of the month. When I have a date, I’ll be sure to share it.
Of course, a project like Vintage Tomorrows is hard to tie up with a simple bow. We had a lot of fantastic material that didn’t make it into the book (the general consensus was that people would prefer to be able to actually pick up Vintage Tomorrows without the assistance of hydraulic machinery… so we cut it down to a more wieldy length). There was so much more story to tell and so many more ideas to explore that we decided to do a second book. As such, my project for the coming week-plus is to finalize the free companion ebook: Steampunking Our Future: An Embedded Historian’s Notebook.
I’ll also be traveling down to Portland to work with the incredible Byrd McDonald and his talented film-making crew, helping to put some final touches on the Vintage Tomorrows documentary. I don’t pretend any knowledge of the documentary film release process, but you can rest assured that as soon as I know when & where you can see it, I’ll let you know.
There’s a radio tour in the works as well. My co-author Brian David Johnson and I will be doing some talk radio rounds soon. I’m looking forward to that (and will share details when I have them), but expect it to feel a little weird being on the other side of the microphone. I’m used to being the interview-er, not the interview-ee. We’ll see. One thing’s for certain: neither Brian nor I will run out of things to talk about.
A historian’s work, it seems, is never done. That’s alright with me. I greatly prefer it to boredom (though I’m not sure I’d recognize boredom anymore even if it walked right up to me and smacked me in the face with a 20lb. trout).
And now back the to Notebook. Good God/dess is this fun!