A few months ago, I wrote an analysis of the politics of Steamscapes. In that piece, I tried very hard to outline both the good and the bad in what I have done before. I remain very proud of both my intentions and my efforts with Steamscapes, but I’ve also been thinking a lot about how much further I’ve come as an individual and how much further we’ve come as an industry. It’s time for me to stand by the classic Maya Angelou quote:
I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.
So what does doing better entail with Steamscapes?
Put simply, it means rethinking my role and which portions of the story I choose to tell. More and more, I have begun to question my own attempts at inclusive representation in this setting. Positive intentions are not sufficient – I must consider my impact. And the impact has been that my voice is still the primary decider of what is appropriate to include or not to include in this setting, and that brings inherent problems. No matter how respectful I think I am being, no matter how well-considered or well-researched my ideas may be, I will still miss things. And even if I don’t – even if all the people I have chosen to represent were to say, “No, you nailed it” – it is still patronizing of me to presume that I should be the one to do it.
The world of Steamscapes is big – it’s as big as our world, because it strives to encompass the entirety of that world. But to do that right, my vision must only be a small piece of it.
I am putting Steamscapes on hold for now. I am setting it aside until I can be in a position to bring other people on board not just to help but to be the driving forces behind major decisions about the setting. Ultimately, I would like to be a big-picture guide, an editor-in-chief, but there are too many stories that are not mine to tell, and those are the stories that Steamscapes – and steampunk in general – deserves.
Because of all this, I have also decided that it is no longer appropriate for me to make any money on Steamscapes. However, I do think that there is a lot to learn from and critique in what we did. I still think that, in many ways, we did better than a lot of steampunk out there. And just because I no longer think that my “better” is good enough, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t valuable work here.
In particular, I would very much like everyone to read the wonderful words and see the wonderful art by all my fantastic collaborators! I owe so much to them, and I appreciate all of them forever. There are too many to name here, so please browse the various book credits to see their names. Even if I were entirely embarrassed about my old work, their work remains important to share.
For all these reasons, here are the steps I am taking immediately:
- First, I have discontinued sales of physical products. There will be no more printings of Steamscapes: North America and Steamscapes: Asia.
- Second, all PDFs in the Steamscapes line are now free. Head to DriveThruRPG and download whichever of them you like.
- Finally, I am not moving forward on any further Steamscapes products at this time. If and when I do, it will not be alone.
It’s been hard to come to this conclusion, but I think it will be for the best. I hope someday to come back to Steamscapes with a whole team of writers and editors. Or, I hope to see someone else doing something so amazing that I don’t have to.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and loved Steamscapes over the years! Hope you enjoy what I do next!
-Eric, aka Fairman Rogers
Art by Quinn Burrell