The Fourth Horseman of The Steampunk Apocalypse.
Eric Renderking Fisk | March 5th, 2018
“I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a cog adorned top hat was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer…”
In the first two articles in this series, “Requiem for Steampunk” and “The Harlot of Steampunk Babylon,” I wrote extensively about the damage that’s being done to that segment of the retrocentric community. In short, charismatic people have been looking at it as a movement they can take over and exploit for their own profits and gratification. I specifically left it vague because it’s not just ONE person who is responsible for what’s wrong – it’s an epidemic.
Many people tried to guess who I wrote about. I was shocked at the number of other "Steampunk Antichrists" there are in this "Steampunk Tribulation" we're going through right now, if I'm going to stick with the apocalyptic theme from the other two rants...
What’s shocking to me, though, is how the name “Jeff Mach” kept coming up every one of these conversations with other retropunks in the North East United States.
Since I wrote “Requiem for Steampunk” and “The Harlot of Steampunk Babylon,” there have been people who have approached me online and shared their version of what’s happened to them over the years through “The Steampunk World’s Fair” and “Jeff Mach Events...” These stories include performers who claimed they were hired but we’re never paid and volunteers who were sexually harassed or assulted.
The controversy surrounded Jeff Mach Events gathered steam (pardon the pun) in the middle of January of 2018, with disturbing stories about this one character was made public. What was once the worst kept secret in the North East Steampunk Community is now public knowedge.
These accusations (and that’s what they are so far, mere accusations) include anecdotes about a member or two on his “Security Team” who are known to be registered sex offenders, date-rape drugs and other drugs like ecstasy put in public water containers, unknowing or unwilling participants being left alone with strangers in “BDSM” rooms, volunteers being passed off as “sex slaves” to “VIP guests,” or volunteers who were promised rooms given to them were given to other “special guests” and told they had to bunk with strangers of the opposite sex and were told about how they had to make their roommates "happy" for the night.
There are also accusations from vendors and performers who claim they didn’t get paid, and from former employees of his organization who weren’t given the compensation for their work as they were promised and then fired for complaining and replaced by newer staff members who were ignorant of what preceded before them.
Then there are the stories of how other webmasters who were promised “VIP” tickets if they would cover one of his events, only to have the person representing that website for convention were told at the door something akin to “Nobody offered you free VIP tickets to cover this event, you’ll have to pay just like everyone else.” Or “There’s been a misunderstanding…” or “We can’t afford to do that; would you mind just paying for your own ticket and we’ll comp you with…”
… And how has he been able to get away with all of this? According to everything that’s been published, and I’ve read, one of the reasons why JME could get away with a lot of this behavior for the simple reason is that he’s so “powerful.” More specifically many folks have charged that “Jeff Mach Events” have blackballed vendors, companies and even members of the Steampunk community if they don’t cooperate or merely keep their protests to themselves.
Does this not sound like abuse? Isn’t this what I was talking about a year ago, and how is that it wasn’t until this year that people started to openly talk about what’s going on?
The Worst Bits
One of the worst aspects of this isn't so much that all of the above allegedly happened, the fact is that so many people were warned to keep their mouths shut about the entire situation as if you could actually be exiled from "The Steampunk Community" if they were the only ones who spoke out about this, or their names and reputations would be ruined forever.
A handful of people reiterated that there was the “code of silence” about what was happening because many of the people who were involved with this issue were comingling their Steampunk hobby with their sex lives. Upon some deeper research and following the breadcrumbs from a few insiders, there was the darker and more insidious aspect of this that took place on a fetish community website and forum. Here is where I had a serious epiphany about what’s really going on behind the scenes of more than a few Steampunk conventions and other gatherings and where so many religious zealots get their ammunition in their fight against steampunk with their proclamation that it’s “a sin.”
Just like so many other social groups, there is the “After Dark” element that’s only natural when men and women with similar interests congregate for any length of time. There’s the inevitable coupling occurs when people who find themselves attractive who happen to share the same culture and common interests, as anyone can attest to who has attended after-parties. It’s not hard to imagine that grown adults will behave as grown adults often do, even in the Steampunk community…
… But some of this of what I find goes off the rails via what I’ve read where there is the kink/BDSM aspect of this with individuals who expect or demand that Steampunk becomes a recruitment tool. There’s the pervasive attitude that since you like this then it’s just a matter of time before I turn you on to this. There’s the flawed logic that since I like this one thing, and you like this one thing, and since I like this second thing you must also like this second thing. The first being “Steampunk” and the second is the fetish “Consent Non-Consent” sexual submission and violence that has more than a couple of us adults concerned.
Especially those of us adults with children. We are very concerned.
There's also the heavy-handed "Fifty Shades" of bullshit here, with forcing people to submit by signing contracts that allow others within the Steampunk Fetish community to sexual abuse members. But it's OK if someone is too abusive, there's a committee that's run by the accused abusers you can report to and submit your complaint.
To muddy the waters even more, Jeff Mach Events (or as it’s now called “Just Magic Events”) often planed Steampunk and Kink events, often simultaneously. There’s a “wink and a nod” that people who show up just for the Steampunk event will wander around the venue where it’s held and somehow be tricked or fooled into participating in some of the “Steampunk Kink” event going on and be enticed or seduced into some of the kinky sexual misadventures.
Some of the anger from many within the North East Steampunk community is that this isn't anything that people signed on for – there are people who just want the “Steam-powered Fantasy Dress-up,” who don’t want the “Gog’s, Brass and Jules Verne” version of Caligula.
Naturally, there are some claims made by various people of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sex with a minor – specifically a girl who was 16 years old – that are being brushed off or ignored because many of these problems began on this fetish website and that some of the people signed some bullshit “contract.” Granted, with the exceptions of the claims of the sex with the minor, this event could just quietly disappear. Were it not for the courageous posts of a few other people posting about this on social media we would have seen an end to this a lot sooner.
People are fighting back and not taking the “I’m a victim of abuse, too" excuse that was made on the fetish forum by the accused. As a result, the company with Jeff Mach's name is no longer his and within the first two months of 2018, the company has rebranded twice.
North Eastern Steampunk Nation Divided
Since these revelations have come out there’s been a lot of social media traffic about the future of “Jeff Mach Events” Alias “Just Magic Events” alias “Silver Phoenix Society “and how the company will function in the future while grappling with the accusations of abuse and mismanagement. There’s been a lot of back and forth about what went on in this organization and who knew of the allegations of abuse and what people in the community did about it and who else is responsible for turning a blind eye.
And there are volumes of text written about "The Steampunk World's Fair" that is a few months away and whether it should still go on and if there should be a boycott. This is where I mention that entire paragraphs about the boycott of “The Steampunk World Fair” that was to serve as this rant’s bang-up ending to this rant has been cut out and will be its own stand-alone article that will be published shortly after his one is out.
I wrote the first of these articles about what's wrong in the world of Steampunk a year ago with a specific message in mind. I clearly wrote that the biggest problem we have in the retrocentric community, especially within that segment of it, is that there is a handful of taking it as their own and exploiting it while becoming the authority of this anti-authoritarian movement. Throughout history, this has occurred time and again when a great idea is hijacked and manipulated into benefiting a dictator and this is no different. I watched it unfold in real time with the Steampunks in this region, and I talked with some of the “major players” but asked to sit on all of this until the time was right… nobody wanted to be “blackballed” or exiled from the Steampunk community.
But I wrote that just before the allegations of the “#MeToo” movement. I wrote “Requiem for Steampunk” more than six months before the allegations about Harvey Weinstein came out and outing high ranking sexual predators in your organization was a thing.
I can tell you exactly where I was when I first heard about people’s personal experiences about Jeff Mach; I was standing outside on the property behind our house where the yard becomes the threshold of the path through our woods and the sun was just started to disappear on the western horizon. While on my cell phone talking to someone who I trusted and admired for years in the retrocentric community. I was told this elaborate story of intimidation and a homosexual proposition that ended with a threat to his person’s career if he ever said anything about what happened there would be problems.
All the other people who reached out to me after “Requiem…” and “Harlot of Steampunk Babylon” told me about what was going said things like – “Eric, is this what you were talking about? Is this what’s killing Steampunk? Is this going to taint Steampunk for everyone forever?”
Because of people like Jeff Mach and a handful of others trying to turn Steampunk into something it wasn't, there's this weird vibe about Steampunk that might never lose. This past January I was talking to a handful of other people who publish articles and work in the Steampunk genre and I asked; "Is this the missing piece? Is this why Steampunk has lost some of its momenta? Has Steampunk become ‘code' for something sexual or perverted all this time and we just didn’t know because we’re stupid and naive?”
One of the women in this conversation responded; “If that’s the case, do people think I’m promiscuous and a slut because I like Steampunk? Because I’m not!”
Have we all been idiots in thinking that “Steampunk” means one thing when it means something else and we’re idiots? If you’re into Steampunk, what you’re really saying is that you’re into Victorian Sci-Fi/Fantasy BDSM? Or as I’ve already stated, was Steampunk being used by a couple of individuals to lure Steampunk aficionados unwillingly into the BDSM lifestyle the same way pedophiles lure children with toys and candy?
But to the accusations against the founder of what is now being called “Silver Phoenix:” Does this all sound familiar? Is there something about this that you’ve all heard or read before with other incidents in other environments. Steampunk isn’t special in this realm. What we are witnessing with the accusations about “Jeff Mach Events,” or “Just Magic Events,” or now “Silver Phoenix” mimics the accusations about other predators in power like Harvey Weinstein and has a few similarities with the Louis CK.
There is nothing extraordinary about these accusations against Jeff Mack et al. It’s sensational in the United States North East Steampunk community and it has been the only thing people can talk about since folks are wondering what’s going to happen with the Steampunk World’s Fair and if it’s going to happen, or if there's a boycott. (Again, I have an entire article devoted to the boycott that will be published shortly after this one.) But in the realm of large social group dynamics, this has happened time and again.
I was in the grocery store talking to a couple I’ve known for almost a decade now and we were talking about the church we used to attend, and I was “shocked! Shocked, I tell you” to find out that the pastor had been sexually harassing the wife. I listened to how she found the courage to stand up and call this pastor out on what happened, and she eventually reported him to the branch church leadership. Then she told me about how the organization tried to buy her silence and a non-disclosure agreement, then told other pastors in other churches to “look out for this couple” and “send them back home” if they show up to the services at those other churches.
Then, the same pastor starting sexually harassing another young woman in his church, a woman that he virtually watched grow up. This pattern echoes what we’ve already heard time and again.
Whether it's a Hollywood Studio, a local church, an annual Steampunk Event... sexual preditors seem to be popping up everywhere.
Once we strip away all the specifics of each incident the story always goes like this… someone looks at movement or organization and says, "That's something I should be a part of," then thinks "I'm smarter and better than everyone else, I should be in charge…" With the egomaniacs, narcissists, and sociopaths their attitude evolves into “I have these sexual needs that need satisfied, I need something more than what my wife is willing to do for me… some of these hot women in this group/congregation need to take care of my needs… I do so much, I sacrifice so much, shouldn’t I get something in return?” Thus, the sexual harassment and assault begin.
Too many self-appointed leaders eventually have a perverted sense of entitlement, and too many times we’re shocked, angry and disappointed when we hear about this since so hard to fight against something wrong when it’s kept secret.
Steampunk has other predators. I was talking to a famous Steampunk artist and model who told me that there are other men who are doing the exact same thing in the retrocentric community in her part of the country and it’s a mere matter of time before this person is “outed” and everyone knows who this person really is and the west coast Steampunk Community will face the same issues and outrage.
For me, “Steampunk” is ruined. It was ruined for me a year ago which caused me to write “Requiem of Steampunk,” “The Harlot of Steampunk Babylon,” and now “The Fourth Horseman of The Steampunk Apocalypse.” Not just because of the accusations against Jeff Mack Events and Company, but because there are the anti-establishment folks among us who allowed this guy to create an establishment and then abuse it.
People were “forced” into silence to protect their livelihood and reputations. I get that.
Steampunk has joined the #MeToo moment, for good or bad. The entire steampunk community is a part of the conversation and has more to gain or lose depending on how it wants to handle itself as the story continues to unfold or simply be ignored and disappear thanks to ‘polite silence.’
What’s shocking to me is how this has been like so many other controversies, it’s become a Rorschach Test. If you believe the claims made by the alleged victims or do you believe the accuser that all of this was made up, or do you just want to ignore this whole ugly episode while pretending this didn’t exist all demonstrates factettes of one’s character.
How the Steampunk Community will or won’t recover depends on what becomes of The Steampunk World’s Fair and a pending boycott.
As the webmaster of The Fedora Chronicles, one of the admin of both “The Original Girls of Steampunk,” and “The Women of Dieselpunk,” an occasional guest writer on “The Steampunk Journal,” I’m more than a little pissed off at Jeff Mach and the rest of the team at “The Steampunk World’s Fair” for more than a handful of reasons.
I encouraged people to go to that event. Period. I encouraged people to go not realizing that this was comingled with a “BDSM” event possibly going on at the same time, simultaneously at the same exact location. If anything horrible happened such as a woman went to The Steampunk World’s Fair because I promoted it on The Fedora Chronicles and then was raped at one of these side-attractions because of the “forced consent-non-consent” activities, I would not help but feel somehow responsible.
And now I have to wonder what people think of us because we in the Dieselpunk community said we should support “Steam” because they’re just like us while we didn’t really know that in some circles “Steampunk” is a fetish in the BDSM lifestyle crowd. Because of this “kerfuffle” and everything that’s been posted on social media and the Fetish lifestyle forum, some people use Steampunk as a gateway to introduce people into kink. We now know that there are some people can’t separation “cogsplay” and “Victorian Sci-Fi Dress-up” with “Steam powered Edwardian Rape-rooms” and “Jules Verne style bondage, discipline, dominance and submission.”
THIS is the reason why so many people will not allow their children – especially their daughters – get involved with Steampunk. This is why so many Pastors and religious leaders say “Steampunk a sin” and it’s a gateway to other deviant behavior. Genuine Steampunks who aren’t into kink and BDSM should be furious at this end of this episode and should want to do something to fix it.
The only question I have, honestly, is how should they begin.
Anthony Sakovich Event Coordinator Aethertopia: The Nomadic City of Steampunk Makers
Honestly, from our perspective here in the Southeast, we had no idea that there was any relationship between Steampunk and any kind of sexual activity whatsoever. Members of the Aethertopia executive committee, which is made up of about 70% women, were absolutely mortified that there was this kind of public perception of our beloved genre. Our local Steampunk activities are always family friendly, and we go to great lengths to make sure they stay that way. Our upcoming Aethertopia event in July, however, is going to take extra precautions this year to make sure that nobody experiences what people have gone through at events in other parts of the country. We already have two levels of security on site, with one being an outside contract service that reports to the venue, and not to us. We are considering adding in additional outside security personnel, just to make sure no one has any concern about their safety at Aethertopia. For us, Steampunk is about the history, the style, and mostly the creative genius behind the making of the clothing and devices. That’s how we see it, and that’s how we keep it in our area of the country.
- Anthony Sakovich