Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel

Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel

Patience is a virtue many modern men and women lack. Patience, to most, can be tested when queued up at Starbucks or waiting for your email to load. Yet the patience of most folks is the blink of an eye when compared to the creative endurance of artists Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett.

The husband and wife have put together the stunning Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel. The hardcover artbook, all 168 pages and 350 color illustrations (along with numerous black-and-white photos, sketches and scribbles), covers the fictional (yet lovingly pitched as real) life of Boilerplate, a robot soldier and adventurer, creation of inventor Professor Archibald Campion.

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Leviathan

Leviathan

The era of steampunk ends with the First World War. While authors have played with twilit eras of brass and steam existing deep in the twentieth century before, these tend to be aberrant epochs, places where the life of the Gilded Age has been unnaturally prolonged. When the war breaks out, as it does in Ian R. MacLeod’s House of Storms (2005), and as it is implied to do in Stephen Baxter’s Anti-Ice (1993), it symbolizes the end of an age, the final verdict of a world too frivolous to last, yet too innocent to deserve the coming judgment.

However, Scott Westerfeld, a specialist in young-adult science-fiction, who made his mark with the popular Uglies series, has taken a different tack. Rather than positioning the Great War as the end of steampunk, Leviathan imagines a war that has been colonized by the steampunk aesthetic.

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Casshern

Casshern

The live-action film Casshern (directed by Kazuaki Kiriya, 2004) is based on the 1973 anime of the same name. This fact is a sore spot for fans of the original, who generally seem to be unanimous in their dislike of the filmic remake. On the other hand, fans of the movie may not enjoy the anime upon viewing.

I have to admit that I’ve only seen a few fragments of that original 1970s animation, but I think I’ve seen enough to say that I actually enjoy both, for their own reasons.

Needless to say, the 70s anime is generally bright and campy. The film is, however, dark and extravagant (perhaps to excess). This already forces a wedge between the two, which is driven deeper by some drastic changes to the plot.

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Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon

Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon

When one says that Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon is set in an alternate history Japan where the Taisho era (1912-26) has continued on into the 1930s, one might expect this alternate history setting to play heavily into the plot of the game. “How would Japan be different if the Taisho era had not given way to the strong militarism of the 1930s that foreshadowed Japan’s involvement in World War II?”

For better or worse, this is not the case. The story is, instead, highly reminiscent of detective novels of that era, such as the Kindaichi series written by Seishi Yokomizo, but with the addition of the standard theme of all Shin Megami Tensei games: demons, devils, and dark magic.

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Wolfenstein

Wolfenstein

The Wolfenstein series has been around since 1981 for the Apple II computer. Things have much changed since then, though, and the games have seen many incarnations across numerous platforms with ever different plots.

The latest is for the Playstation 3 and fits in with the more modern plotline of Wolfenstein’s canon (which builds on the 1990s game Wolfenstein 3D and the later sequel, Return to Castle Wolfenstein) and like them is a first-person shooter.

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The Court of the Air

The Court of the Air

For the most part, steampunk is a versatile subgenre. The tropes and themes commonly associated with it, the trappings of era fiction and the wonders of industry, can be applied and reimagined in any number of settings. Today, literary steampunk can run the gamut from straightforward Neo-Victorian adventure to imaginative alternate history to the wildest flights of high fantasy.

However, there is always a risk of carrying things too far.

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