Steampunk

Steampunk is both a subgenre of science fiction and, for some, a subculture or lifestyle.

Notable steampunk writers include K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers and  James Blaylock. Jeter, Powers and Blaylock were mentored by Philip K Dick.

It was Jeter himself who first suggested the term, perhaps not enitirely seriously, in a letter to his publisher:

”Dear Locus,
Enclosed is a copy of my 1979 novel Morlock Night; I’d appreciate your being so good as to route it Faren Miller, as it’s a prime piece of evidence in the great debate as to who in “the Powers/Blaylock/Jeter fantasy triumvirate” was writing in the “gonzo-historical manner” first. Though of course, I did find her review in the March Locus to be quite flattering.
Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like “steampunks”, perhaps…”

– K.W Jeter

PrintInfernal Devices

Other notable examples of steampunk include The Difference Engine (1990) by cyberpunks William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, and The Time Ships (1995) by hard-sf writer Stephen Baxter.

The Difference Engine (1stEd)Steampunk Trilogy

The influence of steampunk can also be found in the work of China Miéville and Paolo Bacigalupi

Precursors

Time After Time

Michael Moorcock‘s Warlord of the Air (1971) and Harry Harrison‘s A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (1973) are notable antecedants of steampunk, as is Brian AldissFrankenstein Unbound (1973), which was filmed by Roger Corman in 1990.

Warlord of the Air AceTransatlantic Tunnel AceX

Christopher Priest‘s The Space Machine: A Scientific Romance (1976) is a steampunk sequel to both H. G. WellsThe Time Machine (1895) and The War of the Worlds (1898).

The Space Machine PanTime After Time Panther

Nicholas Meyer‘s H. G. Wells-meets-Jack the Ripper movie Time After Time (1979) is also an example of steampunk. It was based on the novel by Karl Alexander.

Steampunk in comics

Adventures of Luther ArkwrightLeague Vol 1

Since the pleasures of steampunk are intimately tied to design it is not surprising that it should be a closely related to comics and graphic novels.  Bryan Talbot‘s The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire employ Talbot’s characteristically retro artwork to portray a British Empire still at its height.

Alan Moore‘s and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel series.

SMS, a comic artist for 2000ad and the British sf magazine Interzone is also notable for his steampunk imagery.

Steampunk in film and television

Contemporary films of classic sf either update the original story (as with Byron Haskin‘s The War of the Worlds (1953) or Steven Spielberg‘s version), or, if they remain relatively faithful to the text, necessarily incorporate design and other elements which can be viewed as steampunk. Films of this type include by Walt Disney Productions‘ 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1953, based on the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, 1870) with its beautifully designed submarine, Nautilus, and George Pal‘s The Time Machine (1960, based on the novel of the same name by  H. G. Wells, 1895).

At the Earth’s Core (1976), based on the 1914 novel by  Edgar Rice Burroughs and starring Doug McClure, Peter Cushing and Caroline Munro, is also an early example of steampunk in film and – despite its megre budget – incorporates some marvellous Victorian-style production design, notably that of the Iron Mole drilling machine in which the protagonists journey to the Hollow-Earth world of Pellucidar.

Guy Ritchie‘s Sherlock Holmes (2009) starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law is steampunk.

The series The Wild Wild West (1965–69, filmed as the Will Smith vehicle Wild Wild West, 1999) was among the earliest manifestation of steampunk on TV.

Several Doctor Who stories prefigure steampunk, notably ”The Evil of the Daleks”, ‘The Brain of Morbius” and ”The Talons of Weng-Chiang”; Steampunk design would later be incorporated into the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie, ”The Next Doctor”, and the redesigned Tardis of the Steven Moffat era.

BoneshakerDreadnought

Steampunk Music, Culture and Fashion

The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing

Now that's What I Call SteampunkConventional Weapons

Steampunk blogs include the British sites Brass Goggles and Coilhouse.

Clockwork CoutureShip's Mistress

SteampunkSteampunkess

Steampunk clothing can be purchased at many online outlets rejoicing in names like Clockwork Couture and the Steampunk Emporium.

The subculture itself has featured in an episode of the TV series Castle starring Firefly‘s  Nathan Fillion. The episode was called ”Punked”.

Punked

References
  • Aldiss, Brian (1973) Frankenstein Unbound
  • Alexander, Karl (1979) Time After Time
  • At the Earth’s Core (1976) Dir. Kevin Connor
  • Baxter, Stephen (1995) The Time Ships
  • Blair, Kirsty (2010) ”The Steam Arm: Proto-Steampunk Themes in a Popular Victorian Song” in Rachel A. & Brian Croxall (eds., 2010)
  • Bowser, Rachel A. & Brian Croxall (eds., 2010) Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies# 3.1 Special Issue: Steampunk, Science, and (Neo)Victorian Technologies
  • Bowser, Rachel A. & Brian Croxall (2010) ”Introduction: Industrial Evolution” in Rachel A. & Brian Croxall (eds., 2010)
  • Burroughs, Edgar Rice (1914) At the Earth’s Core
  • Cason Barratt, Caroline (2010) ”Time Machines: Steampunk in Contemporary Art” in Bowser, Rachel A. & Brian Croxall (2010)
  • Forlini, Stefania (2010) ”Technology and Morality: The Stuff of Steampunk” in Bowser, Rachel A. & Brian Croxall (eds., 2010)
  • Gibson, William & Bruce Sterling (1990) The Difference Engine
  • Harrison, Harry (1973) A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!
  • Jagoda, Patrick (2010) ”Clacking Control Societies: Steampunk, History, and the Difference Engine of Escape” in Bowser, Rachel A. & Brian Croxall (eds., 2010)
  • Jeter, K W (1979) Morlock Nights
  • Jeter, K W (1987) Infernal Devices
  • Jones, Jason B. (2010) ”Betrayed by Time: Steampunk & the Neo-Victorian in Alan Moore’s Lost Girls and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” in Bowser, Rachel A. & Brian Croxall (eds., 2010)
  • Kelleghan, Fiona (1988) ”Interview with Tim Powers”  in Science Fiction Studies #74, Volume 25, Part 1, March 1988
  • Moorcock, Michael (1971) Warlord of the Air
  • Moore, Alan & Kevin O’Neill () The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • Perschon, Mike (2010) ”Steam Wars” in Bowser, Rachel A. & Brian Croxall (eds., 2010)
  • Powers, Tim (1983) The Anubis Gates
  • Priest, Christopher (1976) The Space Machine: A Scientific Romance
  • Talbot, Bryan () The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009) Dir. Guy Ritchie
  • Time After Time (1979) Dir. Nicholas Meyer
  • The Time Machine (1960) Dir. George Pal
  • Van der Meer, Jeff with Chambers, S. J. (2011) The Steampunk Bible
  • Verne, Jules (1870) Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
  • The War of the Worlds (1953) Dir. Byron Haskin
  • War of the Worlds (2005) Dir. Steven Spielberg
  • Wells, H G (1895) The Time Machine
  • Wells, H G (1898) The War of the Worlds
  • Wells, H G (1901) The First Men in the Moon
  • Yaszek, Lisa (2010) ”Democratising the Past to Improve the Future: An Interview with Steampunk Godfather Paul Di Philippo” in Bowser, Rachel A. & Brian Croxall (eds., 2010)
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