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Genre tattoo

April 18, 2010

I wrote last year about tattoos and writing. At the time I was considering getting a symbol from a story I was working on, and an addition to my existing tattoo.

Then, I changed tack. Rather than a specific symbol, I’ve gone for something representative of a genre I’m increasingly fascinated by; steampunk.

Steampunk “denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used…but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date.”

Hence my tattoo is of a robotic arm, but one powered by cogs, gears and pistons, rather than electronics. Sort of like The Terminator meets Tik-Tok.

It is an elegant visual representation of the steampunk genre, and it has got me thinking; how could other genres be represented by tattoos? Clearly, if my tattoo featured electric circuitry then it could represent science fiction or cyberpunk. But what about the myriad of other genres? How would you represent them?

Readers, leave your suggestions in the comments below…

I was told the tattoo would only take 4 hours. By the fifth hour, I was gritting my teeth as the skin was getting pretty raw. And as the sixth hour approached, I was about ready to scream…
  1. April 18, 2010 6:27 am

    I see a portrayal of a Romantic, yet Decadent genre, in which a tattoo does not represent the skin torn back to expose the cogs, gears and pistons depicted by Wells or Verne. The picture that I see shows it folded back neatly, with tiny pearl buttons and petit point needlework buttonholes, worked in silk. There is even room in my imagination for the finest worked, minute scalloped edged lace embroidery, fashioned by Belgian nuns. Nuns near blind with their beloved tasks. A pretty border worked on the edges of the skin, where others would have torn it back most cruelly.

    Yes, there is an arm, and yes one can see deep inside that arm, but is important to see, before we look too closely at its constituent parts, why this arm has been created, and how it is comprised of those working parts. The arm terminates in an elegant hand, holding an equally elegant fountain pen, do doubt created by none less than Karl Fabergé. Not the lowly goose’s quill; nor the flamboyant peacock’s outrageous feather. A Fabergé jewel and nothing less; purely decadent; precious metals and gems, worked by the master craftsman of his field.

    The hand is constructed for nought but writing words, the epigrams of a genius. But travel with me, dear friend; up that elegant had and wrist, follow the beauty of the forearm, and passing now the open workings of that shoulder, travel up the neck, and course the majesty of that jaw, where hang lips of deepest red; lips to mouth those epigrams that blessed hand has writ.

    But did you notice as you travelled to this place, the workings of the arm? Gaze deep inside and marvel at the workings there. I see no nut, no bolts. There are no pistons, cogs and wheels. No physicist would find satisfaction here. I see neither veins nor flesh nor bone; no surgeon’s cruel amusement. I see a panoply of rare delights; a pyramid of pretty serving girls, resplendent in starched white and sombre black; a thousand dinner invitations to the best of homes; salons of the demi monde; balls of the influential; country house parties; menus from the best restaurants; witty conversation; unrequited love. The whole glorious edifice balanced on a cruel yet honeyed word; an arched brow; a poisoned yet never forthright barb.

    And yet, dear friend, wait and look again: my pictorial representation of the arm is not a tattoo, but the most wonderfully worked oil paining, an oil paining on living skin, ageless and beautiful as God intended. A glory to behold. A most familiar glory to behold. But in my memory, my eyes looked in that arm once, as in a dream, and as I now recall, that wondrous edifice had tumbled down, the pretty girls and ardent youth had turned to more archaic pleasures; the bloom of youth replaced by painted lips and painted lids; putrefaction had worn the edges of that flesh.

    Perhaps it would be better to consign it to a place where others may not so readily gain access to it. Is there somewhere you could suggest? An attic perhaps.

  2. April 18, 2010 11:55 am

    Four hour sessions are about the norm. It’s common that, for a larger piece, you’d go in for the outline one day and the color a few weeks later. Apparently your artist just misjudged time.

    I also love steampunk but I’m pretty picky about it. I found a rad laptop skin of an old type writer and I thought that would be pretty steampunk but the actual skin they had which was labeled steampunk sucked.

    Your tattoo is rad. I imagine most genres could be represented by a tattoo of some sort. With fantasy, a lot of people get tattoos of nonhuman characters (good and evil) from their favorite stories. I’d love to get a tattoo representative from one of my stories or genres but I’m sort of short on space now. 😉

  3. April 18, 2010 3:58 pm

    That’s quite simply a breathtaking tattoo, Paul!

    As to how you’d represent other genres…I’ve seen ‘rotting, decaying’ tattoos to signify zombies, while elegant script of quotations can be used for the classics.

  4. April 19, 2010 1:16 am

    I’m scared to death of needles so wouldn’t consider getting a tattoo, but what would represent Marxist horror? How about the gears of a machine bleeding?

  5. April 19, 2010 8:30 am

    Paul, that tat is cool! I hate I haven’t stopped by here in awhile, but I need to…
    Great writing.
    I’ll submit something soon!

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