September 14, 2013

Native technology in alternate history

Musing about Native SteampunkA functional alternate history that has the kind of tech seen in steampunk can’t have just started one day in the 19th century. If you’re going to alter your universe, why stick with our existent timeline right up to the last second?

What if NDN folks had, say, knowledge of vaccination? Or what if we’d had a greater number of domesticable animals and thus developed a wider profile of immunities to the kinds of communicable diseases common to Europeans? What if we’d developed advanced cross-national communications systems for the sharing of technological breakthroughs before European contact happened?

NDN technologies have historically tended to be green and sustainable - not because NDN folks are ~magically spiritually attached to Mother Earth~ but because NDN cultures tend to value foresight and cycles, considering generational consequences of technological adoption and understanding of systems over flat utilization of resources. There’s an existent, historical emphasis on biotech (do you enjoy potatoes, tomatoes, or corn? (YOU ENJOY CORN, DO NOT LIE.) Thank NDN folks for making these plants exist, because without human intervention you’d have nightshade, nightshade, and teosinte.) I like to imagine technological development of American nations sans European contact or with non-oppressive European contact as following biotech lines and resulting in super-powerful herbal medicines, biomimcry in architecture and materials development, mycoculture and mycoplastics, and use of solar steam power. I explore NDN science extensively because I am sick and tired of the myth that prior to European contact NDNs were a stagnant neolithic monoculture. To quote Elizabeth Lameman (speaking here about her film “The Path Without End”):"We often limit ourselves and discredit our ancestors by thinking they didn’t possibly have the technology to travel when in fact they did have canoes and other forms of ships. To me, this is how we represent ourselves in steampunk, which is otherwise a very colonialist genre that stems from the Victorian mindset. We do and did have technology, but since we use(d) biodegradable materials, and thus “evidence” has faded with nature, we are told by the dominate culture that we were savage with no technology."
Comment:  For more on Native steampunk, see So Long Been Dreaming and Developing Native Steampunk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, the "punk" part of steampunk does refer to postmodern makeovers. The original cyberpunk was exploring and critiquing the ethics of transhumanism, set in the 1980s/90s. (Think Ghost in the Shell or Blade Runner.)