The Steampunk and Robot Anthology and Its CC License

ILLUSTRATION: Detail of “The Smokers” by Jeremy Couturier

Back in the day, when I attended the late, great Bradford College, I designed my own major. It was called Narrative Arts, and it was basically a product of the fact that I couldn’t make up my mind about what form I wanted my storytelling to take. I wrote, I drew, and I acted. I directed plays. Hell, I even sang in a band for a while. I wanted to try everything, and I did.

After college, I eventually narrowed my focus to writing fiction. And I did that for one primary reason: writing fiction doesn’t require anyone but me. Sure, an editor is essential for publication, but the core creative product can be turned out without any help. And since the people I played in bands with and did theater with were now scattered across the country (and, in some cases, the globe), it was a decision that made a whole heckuva lot of sense.

But I’ve always longed to get back to the more collaborative art forms of music and theater. There is something special about working with a bunch of people to create something. Contrary to the cliche, great minds do not think alike. And that’s the beauty of collaborative art: put people with different competencies and backgrounds together and you’re bound to come up with an end result that’s more than the sum of its parts.

All of this is my way of introducing the Steampunk and Robot Anthology organized by John Herman, which was released over this past weekend. It’s a companion piece to An Evening of Steampunk and Robot Theater, and I’m proud to see my name included among the collaborators for both projects.

The Anthology is built around 17 plays with steampunk and/or robot themes. Some of these are being staged right now as part of the Evening of Theater. The rest were sent to musicians and visual artists who have created new work based on the plays they were sent. The results, in my biased opinion, are fantastic.

And here’s the thing: the collaboration doesn’t stop here! The entire Anthology has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license, which allows anyone to take any of these works and make their own art out of them.

The other day, Lost executive producer Damon Lindelof wrote, “We are arriving at that unique moment in time where the term ‘fan-made’ becomes moot,” and I think he’s absolutely right. The future of much (if not all) popular art, it seems to me, will involve collaboration between the initial creator and the audience/secondary creator. Trent Reznor gets this: he’s regularly releases multi-track audio files of his songs for fans to remix. And it’s great to see that Damon gets it, too. More people will get it, I think, and it is more likely to become an institutionalized way of doing things, if we, the unknowns, continue to show the big guns how it’s done.

So, please do check out the Anthology and see if you can come up with your own spin on something you find there. And, if you’re within driving distance of Portsmouth, NH, come check out the play one of the next two weekends. I’m elated to be part of a fantastic group of writers, directors, prop-makers, actors, and musicians who are putting it together, and I’m even more elated that, thanks to the great way the project has been licensed, you can count yourself among us one day if some of our work inspires you to go out and create your own.

NewsE. Christopher Clark