Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Victorian / Steampunk Culture: Professions

It may seem that professions in the Victorian/Steampunk era were either limited or strange (i.e. carriage whip-maker)... or everyone was either in the military, an inventor, or simply "existed". Quite the contrary, as professions ebb and flow (there was a time, in the pre-internet era, where no jobs of the sort existed as they do now - i.e. webmaster, content designer, or companies like Yahoo, Google, or of course, SL). I've cobbled together a list of potential professions, perhaps a more cinematic than realistic - but who wants to be a wage-slave in sl? (That's what rl is for!) Here are a few suggestions...

Aesthete - You are a young man or woman of education and taste and the money to live accordingly. Depending on which decade it is, you may be a dandy, a pre-Raphelite, or a fin de siecle decadent; your role model may be Byron, Baudelaire, Swineburne, or Wilde - or their female counterparts. Sensible people like Gilbert and Sullivan make jokes about you,and respectable people find you scandalous, but you enjoy making life more beautiful.

Demimondaine - Your position in society is awkward. You aren't a respectable woman, but respectable men enjoy your company and seek you out. You don't exactly sell yourself, but you are willing to have your expenses paid for or accept costly gifts. Your personal charm is your greatest asset; your quick wits are nearly as important.

Detective - You may work for a police force or a private agency such as the Pinkertons, or you may be your own boss. In any of these roles, you are a pioneer in systemic investigation. Given the limitations of laboratory methods of the time, you rely on legwork as on forsenic science.

Engineer - Whether on a ship or airship, you're the man who keeps the engines running. The ship's officers may not treat you as an equal, but they depend on your grimy hands. The Scottish accent is optional, though the stereotype was already emerging in the Age of Steam.

Explorer - You spend your life venturing where no one has gone before, or at least no European. You aren't going to settle down; your goal is to make discoveries and return to report them. You may seek ancient ruins, new species of plant or animals, geographic information, or trade routes. Whatever your goal, you measure your success by new knowledge gained - and by whether you live to tell the tail.

Inventor - You are a master of advanced technology and the scientific principals underlying it. You may have already created one or more devices, or you may be starving in an attic while you perfect your invention.

Medium - The practice of spiritualism began in the 19th century and was almost immediately controversial. Believers regarded it as proof of survival after death; skeptics considered it fraudulent.

Reckoner - You belong to one of the newest professions of the Steam Age: the men (and women) who create instructions for analytical engines. Your work requires a sophisticated grasp of mathematical relationships, and willingness to get your hands dirty rearranging gears and circuits.

Scientist - The role of scientist is new; the word wasn't coined until 1840. Scientists are knowledgeable in one or more branches of the study of nature; there is little specialization yet. Scientists are often amateurs supported by inherited wealth or doing research in their spare time; neither government nor industry offers large research budgets in the English-speaking world, though Germany is more generous.

Sportsman - You may be an amateur or a professional; in either case, athletic performance is the focus of your life. You spend considerable effort on keeping fit and practicing the sport(s) you enjoy, which could be anything such as: equestrian acrobatics, hunting, riding, fencing, fist-a-cuffs, boating - anything from the era.

Stoddard, W.H. (2000) - Gurps Steampunk, pgs. 31-42, SJG:Austin
[edited for removal of game specific content]

Now, you may ask - "why should I bother?" Well, my view is if some type of background is provided for yourself, it allows others to better grasp who you are, and makes you 'unique', as opposed to the "generic" sl individual. Then again - it is personal preference, so please use the aforementioned information you wish!

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