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Working up a head of steam


Steampunk is another entry point into the Victorian era by way of a wormhole: a subculture movement that is the result of an "intersection of technology and romance," as it was reported in some East Coast newspaper this week. Philip Pullman's alternate version of the world--with zeppelins, golden compasses and anbaric-powered gadgets--in "His Dark Materials" taps into it; so do the stories of Jules Verne and the movie "Brazil"; William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's "The Difference Engine" anticipated it. At Jake von Slatt's Steampunk Workshop, you'll see an image of a personal computer framed in brass, looking more appropriate on the deck of an airship than in someone's home office.

"Steampunk_3I still haven't gotten a handle on it," Jake confesses about the steampunk movement. I agree with him. He adds: "But anything that brings together such a wide range of artists, makers and fans has got to be good."

Next month, Tachyon will publish an anthology dedicated to giving readers a sense of what it means to define steampunk as a vision of "Victorian elegance and modern technology." The book includes context--surveys of steampunk in pop culture--as well as stories by Joe R. Lansdale, James P. Blaylock, Michael Chabon and others, in addition to excerpts from influential works by Michael Moorcock and Neal Stephenson.

All I can say right now is, it's a great time to be a reader.

Nick Owchar

Photo credit: New Line Cinema

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As Eddie Munster liked to say, “Neato!” As Thomas Dolby’s blinded scientist couldn’t resist exclaiming, “Good Heavens, Miss Sakamoto - you’re beautiful!”; as the Moody Blues saw shining down upon them now:

Listen to the tide slowly turning…
From the ashes we can build another day

Some of us may soon find ourselves back to the future/forward into the past in a James West/Artemus Gordon minute [YouTube]:


The Wild Wild West TV intro (1965)
James West and Artemus Gordon are two agents of President Grant who take their splendidly appointed private train through the west to fight evil. Half science fiction and half western, the Artemus designs a series of interesting gadgets for James that would make Inspector Gadget proud.

Indie-music fans, cf. also Montreal's superb Victoriana-flaired band The Arcade Fire.

Low-stress-lifestyle blogger Ran Prieur, whose “100 things about me”


had me howling in self-recognition (#1, 2, 3, 7, 11, 18, 22, 52, 60, 69 and 91, with 86 and 96 as non-intersecting ribticklers extraordinaire, esp. the Ripley’s-style incredulous italics-with-exclamation closing 96), modifies the NYT take on steampunk:

"“The other day the NY Times had an article about Steampunk, but you can tell they failed to understand it because they put it in the fashion section. The correct and more radical category is technology. If you look past the Victorian frippery, Steampunk is a technological ethic that trades the factory for the garage, standardization for uniqueness, and 'progress' for a mix of tools from every age.”

Taking it away from the style thrust of the NYT article, unto the technological plane - and by implication, to the sociopolitical, not really touched on or quoting the protagonists on, which could link to, e.g., Blake, Ruskin, Morris, Chesterton, Belloc, Gill, Schumacher, &c., and the whole decentralist/appropriate technology schools. The yeoman ethos of Longfellow’s “Village Blacksmith” -

And he looks the whole word in the face

For he owes not any man

- and the Wright Bros. also came to mind.

Meanwhile, in the Great Minds and So Do We Dept., commenters over at the Reason “Hit & Run” blog


are all over the Wild, Wild West connection, recalling the series’ opening-theme sequence, above, to which my nine-year-old heart thrilled c. 1971, and does still thirty-seven years on.

Tachyon's Steampunk anthology is already on the bookshelves. In fact, I've already purchased and read it. Good collection. Later this year, Solaris Publishing (http://www.solarisbooks.com/) will be publishing their own anthology:

"Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology brings together original stories by the foremost writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Edited by Nick Gevers, this collection includes Jeffrey Ford James Morrow, Robert Reed, James Lovegrove, Marly Youmans, Kage Baker, Ian R. MacLeod, Margo Lanagan, Keith Brooke, Adam Roberts, Jeff VanderMeer and Jay Lake. " (http://www.solarisbooks.com/books/extraordinary-engines/extraordinary-engines.asp)


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