Steampunk is a subgenre of literature and involves Victorian science fiction. Think about technological inventions powered by cogs, wheels and steam. Think steam powered airships, rockets, submarines, weapons. One way to think of Steampunk is “an alternate time line to history.” This is not only a subgenre of literature it is also a subculture of followers who sometimes adapt the lifestyle and persona full time or just on weekends for fun. What the heck is Steampunk?
Steampunk gadgets have come into the real world. People have “Steampunk’d” everything from computers, desks, telephones, cell phones watches and guitars to cars, motorcycles, and whole houses. These objects can vary from a grungy look of a forgotten antique to the shiny overwrought newness of a Victorian gentleman’s club. Think brass and copper, glass and polished wood, engraving and etching, and details for the sake of details, called “findings”. So, Steampunk is also a design aesthetic. Look for Steampunk objects and ideas on Pinterest and Amazon and Etsy. “Steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown.” – Jess Nevins This aesthetic carries over into personal style with both clothing and jewelry being made in a “Steampunk” style. The clothes are not exactly Victorian, adding in technological bits or hints of a more adventurous life than a typical Victorian citizen likely enjoyed. So, Steampunk is a genre and a design aesthetic.
Steampunk is difficult to categorize and define. Steampunk has always been first and foremost a literary genre, or at least a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy that includes social or technological aspects of the 19th century (the steam) usually with some reimagining of or rebellion against parts of it (the punk). Unfortunately, it is a poorly defined subgenre, with plenty of disagreement about what is and is not included. For example, Steampunk stories may: Take place in the Victorian or Edwardian era but include advanced machines based on 19th century technology. Include the supernatural and fantasy. Include the supernatural and forego the technology (e.g. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers 1987), one of the works that inspired the term ‘Steampunk’. Include advanced machines, but take place later than the Victorian period, thereby assuming that the predomination by electricity and petroleum never happens. Take place in an another world altogether, but featuring Victorian-like technology. “It’s sort of Victorian-industrial, but with more whimsy and fewer orphans.” - Caitlin Kittredge
Most of us are already familiar with Steampunk although we probably did not know it. Think 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, To the Moon and Back, The Time Machine, Around the World in Eighty Days. Steampunk followers revere Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens and well as Nikolai Tesla. The term “Steampunk” allegedly originated in 1987. The term represents “steam” powered devices and “punk” for an alternate way of looking at the world. Most of Steampunk has a British flavor. But there is also “dustpunk” from the early American west…think “Wild, Wild West” with Jackie Chan and Will Smith. Even Sherlock Holmes has elements of fantastic devices and inventions and a case could be made for Holmes as a Steampunker.
There are probably plenty of other combinations, but that’s Steampunk as a genre in a nutshell. Steampunk has also cross-pollinated its way into other genres, so there is Steampunk romance, and Steampunk young adult fiction. And it isn’t just written fiction anymore. There are Steampunk games (e.g. Bioshock II), Steampunk graphic novels (e.g. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Amulet), and even Steampunk movies (e.g. Sherlock Holmes) and TV shows (e.g. Warehouse 13). There is even Steampunk music and Steampunk performance art.
Tesla, Poe, Verne and Dickens appeal to Steampunkers
Steampunk Authors Cherie Priest has written a book called Boneshaker that would fit well with this genre. Sequel is Dreadnought. Author Phillip Reeve is known for his Steampunk writing. A few novels include Fever Crumb, Web of Air, Larklight, Starcross. All of the books in the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket are loosely considered Steampunk. I always promote these as Victorian “black” humor. Author Phillip Reeve is known for his Steampunk writing. A few novels include Fever Crumb, Web of Air, Larklight, Starcross. All of the books in the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket are loosely considered Steampunk. I always promote these as Victorian “black” humor.
The “Classic” Steampunk authors No list of Steampunk authors would be complete without the classic writers: Jules Verne H.G. Wells (anyone know what the initials stand for??) Wouldn’t these writers be surprised and maybe pleased to know they initiated a new genre of literature?
Graphic Novels The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi is a Steampunk series specifically created for younger readers. Steampunk fans will particularly find fascinating the flying ship and the house that can walk. Many classics by Verne and Wells are now in graphic novel format.
More Authors and Titles Cassandra Clare: Infernal Devices series, Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, Mathew Kirby: Clockwork Three Brian Selznick: Invention of Hugo Cabret; This is loosely considered Steampunk by some reviewers but it is based on historical fact. Scott Westerfeld: Leviathan, Behemoth, Goliath
Resources for Steampunk The Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer is a great beginning resource to get started with Steampunk. The subtitle is “An illustrated guide to the world of imaginary airships, corsets and goggles, mad scientists, and strange literature”. That pretty well covers Steampunk!!. Café Press is a good source for t- shirts, posters and other fun stuff. www.cafepress.com www.cafepress.com Also seach Pinterest, Etsy, and Amazon for fun shirts, jewelry posters, and findings. http://www.amazon.com/The-Steampunk- Bible- IllustratedScientists/dp/0810989581/ref=sr_1_ sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332776248&sr=8-1- spell
Reader Beware One word of warning to readers and selectors of Steampunk: MOST of the literary selections available are aimed at adult readers. There is a considerable amount of eroticism contained in Steampunk adult literature and illustrations. I have made some big blunders in purchasing that have quickly been sent on to greener pastures.
THE END! Thanks for sharing this Steampunk presentation with us today. It has been lots of fun preparing it!! Pick up an annotated bibliography on the way out. Watch for this presentation on the MASL website and share with colleagues.
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