Topic: History of the Smoking Lounge

My first attempt to create a steampunk message board was in 2005, the same year I added a steampunk section to my personal website. (You can read the history of the site, now called Never Was, here.)

There were only a few steampunk websites at the time, two of the most popular being Cory Gross' Victorian Adventures in a Past That Wasn't (now defunct, but accessible through the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine) and Krzysztof Janicz' Retrostacja. Cory had a Yahoo! discussion group attached to his site; the only steampunk message board was Gothic Steam Phantastic.

I was an admin at a forum called, which was an offshoot of the Subspace Comms Network. The owner's disappearance left me in charge and I tried turning it into a steampunk community with Cory's and Krzysztof's help.

We organized the forums, but never got it off the ground. The place would have been called the Aether-Telegraphical Steampunk Assembly. The Wayback Machine has saved a snapshot of the home page. went dark in 2005. The following year, Cador Davis created his own community, called nov-net (after Cador's original handle, "Novice"), which drew members from both the old and the Subspace Comms Network. I became a moderator there and suggested adding a steampunk and a dieselpunk forum.

The boards themselves were moderately active. The really popular feature was a steampunk-themed role-playing game called The Peril of Power. It was a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-inspired story about an airship crew battling an evil Count Ignatieff.

The steam- and dieselpunk boards disappeared for a few months in early 2007, when The Steampunk Forum was created, but I soon came back on that decision when it emerged The Steampunk Forum wouldn't allow sensitive topics, such as politics. The Steampunk Forum also became huge overnight, which made me long for a more intimate community.

On our own

In January 2008, we archived the steam- and dieselpunk boards at nov-net and I created my own community: the Smoking Lounge, which was part of my new steampunk website, The Gatehouse.

The Gatehouse originally consisted of various "rooms". For example, the "Colonial Chamber" had artwork of colonial adventures. The "Dieselpunk Parlor" contained early essays about the genre. The "Smoking Lounge" was another such section and the design was entirely integrated in The Gatehouse's.

There were originally five boards:

  • Ætherscope: For discussions about steampunk.

  • Out of the Past: For diesel and pulp.

  • Astounding Tales: For literature and poetry.

  • Startling Stories: For role-playing games.

  • The Diogenes Club: For off-topic discussion.

"Astounding Tales" later became "The Emporium", a place for all creative pursuits, before it was merged with "Startling Stories".

"Out of the Past" was first renamed to "Newspeak" in February 2008 and then to "Café Metropole" in July.

Many veterans of nov-net joined, including J.D. Roger, who helped me administer the community, and "Col. Adrianna Hazard", who became the first moderator. "Steiner" joined the moderating team in 2008 and "Ella Kremper" in 2010. J.D. and "Delphinius J.C. Tucker" also affiliated their websites with the Smoking Lounge.

Role-playing games were again the mainstay of the community. We ran Anyone for Doomsday?, a reboot of The Peril of Power; City in Twilight, about a group of renegade gangsters caught up in dieselpunk-era political intrigue; Uchronia, in which members role-played nations in a world inspired by Tony Jones' "Monarchy World"; and Vanguard, a steampunk-in-space adventure. All the games' episodes are still available. Here is an overview.

Members also found common ground on the politics of steampunk. That is to say, they agreed steampunk wasn't political. There were discussions about defining steampunk too strictly, elitism, steampunk and persons of color and the difference between living and liking the style.

Gatehouse Gazette

When SteamPunk Magazine appeared in 2008, with its mission to put the punk "back" in steampunk, members of the Smoking Lounge objected that the punk had never been there, nor belonged. This provided the impetus for us to launch our own magazine, the Gatehouse Gazette.

Toby Frost, author of Space Captain Smith and a member of the Smoking Lounge, agreed to be interviewed for our first edition. Hilde Heyvaert volunteered to write a fashion column, the Steampunk Wardrobe. Robert Rodgers submitted original fiction. Col. Adrianna Hazard created a cartoon. "Piecraft" and I wrote a conversation-style discussion about dieselpunk, then still a new genre.

Piecraft later wrote an exhaustive, three-part "History of Dieselpunk", published between the third and fifth editions of the magazine. The final installment in the series, "Diesel's Punk", explored the relevance of punk philosophy to the dieselpunk culture. Tome Wilson picked up where Piecraft left off in March 2011, with a four-party history of the diesel era.

Other prolific contributors included Guy Dampier, Marcus Rauchfuß and Sean Schoenherr, writing under the nom de plume Sigurjón Njálsson. Myke Amend provided three covers and we published various chapters in Andrew Bennett's The Fearless.

The magazine didn't become overtly political until November 2009, when we dedicated an issue to "Beautiful Industry". The March and May 2010 editions were the most political (and controversial), the first dedicated to "Victorientalism", the second to steampunk ideology.

Throughout its four-year run, the Gatehouse Gazette had a home at the Smoking Lounge. Nearly all contributors were members and we had a private forum to plan issues. The last bimonthly issue appeared in November 2011 and a special, final edition was released in August 2012.

Re: History of the Smoking Lounge read the history again.
It's like walking through a hall of memories. Good times all around, I must say.

"For I am the first and the last. I am the silence that is incomprehensible and the idea whose remembrance is frequent. I am the voice whose sound is manifold and the idea whose appearance is multiple. For I am knowledge and ignorance. I am shame and boldness. I am shameless; I am ashamed. I am strength and I am fear. I am war and I am peace. Give heed to me. I am the brightest of light and darkness black as pitch. For I am the one who alone exists, and I have no one who will judge me."

Re: History of the Smoking Lounge

Thanks! It was a lot of fun going through all the old stuff to put this together.