Tuesday, May 4, 2010
One of my friends, Richard Harland, has had a lot of success with his new YA steampunk book, Worldshaker. There is something very alluring about steampunk. It takes us back to an Antique Future.
Before I ever knew the term steampunk existed, I loved Sir Arthur Connan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books. There's Dickens works which are still being made into movies. And my favourite would have to be the satirist Saki. I discovered him in my early twenties and loved his dry wit. My favourite story of his is 'Sredni Vashtar', a very dark tale indeed. And then there is 'The Open Window' which must be a classic of horror stories. Then there's Jules Verne, Mary Shelley, Mark Twain and HG Wells, only none of these writers were deliberately writing steampunk.
For movies that are deliberately steampunk think Wild Wild West, Steamboy, The Prestige and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Those should give you enough visuals.
For a list of modern authors who could be termed steampunk see here. I would add Mervyn Peake, I think his Gormenghast trilogy is very steampunk in it's setting and characters.
The steampunk subgenre has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Here is an article on 'The Victoria Steam Exposition ... a celebration of a growing subculture called steampunk -- which unites Victorian era esthetics and futuristic inventions with modern literature and fashion.'
There is even a Steampunk Magazine. So if you are into steampunk and you can't get enough of it, this is the place to go.
So what is it about steampunk that draws people in?
Is it the quaint machinery? See some examples here.
Is it the repressed sexuality of Victorian England, combined with those corsets and garters? See some of the costumes here and here.
Is it because readers are tired of dystopic futures and want something whimsical and fun?
Are readers tired of epic fantasies set in medieval-lite worlds?
We can look back on the Victorian era, conveniently forgetting the oppression and injustices. Enough time has passed for the fusty old Aunts, who never married because they couldn't marry below their station, to die off. We can look back and enjoy a time when science was brave and exciting and the world looked like it was going to get better every year. When the world still contained mysteries and wonders. And a tennis player could be so incensed by the lack of skill at the Olympics that he could jump the net, pick a racquet and win a gold medal.
For anyone interested in writing steampunk, Richard has done a blog here on the topic.
And I'm finishing up with a delightful image, the steampunk Dalek!
Now, has the steampunk genre snuck up on you like it did for me?