[Originally published June 25, 2008.]

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Remember when I was crawling around the attic, looking for my old Planters-peanut-man Halloween costume? I didn’t donate it to the children’s theater, like I told you. I salvaged the monocle, top hat, and cane, combined them with a swallowtail tuxedo, and stole away to a midnight screening of the underrated masterpiece The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Don’t get me wrong; I still live in your world. In this very house even. But now I exist between two eras: an Edwardian past and a quixotic future where dirigibles can travel through space and time.

No, I won’t take off my topcoat. And that’s exactly my point. I understand your confusion. The nascent trend I have latched onto is difficult to define. Maybe I can explain it to you with the new mods I’ve been working on. No, Mom. Not like in Quadrophenia, although I appreciate those mods’ fondness for tailor-made clothing. These mods.

This looks like a late-18th-century organette, correct? Look again. It hides the Dell laptop you got me when I went to college. This bronze hand crank turns it on, and I’ve hidden a miniature photo printer where the tune sheet is supposed to go. I even installed Linux. I’ve put a lot of time into this since I quit my job at Anthropologie, which is something else I wanted to tell you about. Don’t get up and go to Lowe’s yet. But when you’re there can you get me a two-speed fan capacitor?

You’ll appreciate this, Dad. Would I ever lose this cell phone? It’s got a back plate of soldered brass. I created the aged patina with simple ammonia and salt. I’ll replenish that soon, if you’ll quit bugging me about it. Check this out. These interlocking gears are what I use to dial. They also explain why I haven’t been replying to your texts recently.

Of course, I didn’t need to mod Grandpa’s railroad watch, but I did want to tell you that I’m borrowing it indefinitely.

If you want to label me retrofuturistic so I can fit into your compartmentalized worldview, that’s fine. But look past my airplane goggles. This is my lifestyle. While many of my kind doubt there’ll be a complete societal collapse in the future, a near-cataclysm is likely. In this scenario, I will be able to repair a generator, suture the wounded, and even train carrier pigeons. I’m learning valuable skills.

Don’t be silly. I am not affiliated with the goths who hang out at the end of the boardwalk. Yes, rivetheads have made attempts to horn in on my culture. It’s attractive to them. Since Evanescence went mainstream, they’ve been able to buy their clothes at Spencer’s Gifts. But just because they read about our ways on Boing Boing doesn’t mean they can rock a true neo-Victorian lifestyle. It takes a lot of time and a lot of welding.

How long? Why are you so locked down to the months and weeks of today? Anyway, I’ve known for a while that I belong to a hypertechnologized gaslight era. I’ve loved trains since I was 2. Remember my obsession with Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? And although I don’t remember getting a good grade on that Nikola Tesla essay, I was really enthusiastic about the subject.

Don’t shackle me to your outmoded ways of work. Trade and barter are more valuable to me than any coin. Besides, I’m plenty busy guest-hosting a blog called The Neon Corset. My band, Shades of Crimson, has taken off. We just booked a gig at the Rusty Rudder.

Is it too soon to invite you to a night of experimental performance and magic? My friends and I are hosting a postvaudevillian event at the VFW Hall. If you attend, I would appreciate if you called me by my new name, Alchemancer.

Don’t look so crestfallen, Mom and Dad. At least I’m not into cyberpunk.