Arabian Nights painting

In Defense of Victorientalism

Reactions to the Victoriental issue of the Gatehouse Gazette (March 2010) have been pretty fierce. The opinions of those provoked by it may best be summarized by Ay-leen, who noted that using the phrase “Victorientalism” to imply a “positive, transcultural blend” of cultures is “misguided.”

Others have been less nuanced in their renunciations of what they assume to be our position.

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Institute of Radio Engineers banquet

Steampunk Politics Anno 2010

As a genre, steampunk was hardly political. Cyberpunk, in its reverence of alienated hackers and all sorts of outcasts, might carry some political weight, but the very term “steampunk” was coined as a joke (by author K.W. Jeter in 1987) and never meant to describe the sort of movement we know today.

Because of its newly-acquired subculture status, steampunk has made bold fashion and design statements, but it struggles to find an ideology. While some recognize anarchist potential in putting the “punk” back in steampunk, others emphasize that steampunk is inherently apolitical. Others yet seek a middle way by interpreting the “punk” as a broad rejection of modern-day consumerism and the loss of individualism associated with twenty-first-century industrial society.

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Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station

The Original Steampunk Cinema

In general, the history of cinema seems to be more significantly linked to dieselpunk and cyberpunk as opposed to steampunk. This isn’t surprising, considering cinema isn’t considered to have entered its prime until the 1920s, around the beginning of the “dieselpunk” era.

However, it’s important to remember that in 1895, the Lumière brothers held their first public film screening, some thirty years before the Golden Age of Silent Film.

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Howard Hughes

The Aviator: The Life and Legend of Howard Hughes

Much of the Howard Hughes legend was well dramatized in the hit Hollywood film The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. With some alterations for narrative, the film was a great success and provided the viewer with a good understanding of Hughes and his eccentricities.

However, the film ends well before Hughes himself passed away in 1976 and left many details of his life uncovered. Continue reading “The Aviator: The Life and Legend of Howard Hughes”

The Invisible Frontier

The Invisible Frontier

While dieselpunk is commonly associated with a pulpy, noir-and-Jazz America, there remains a fascination in the subgenre for the crepuscular world of Interwar Europe.

It was a time of artistic ferment and architectural genius, of electricity and of the machine entwining themselves into the fabric of urban life, of cultural clashes and sexual politics, of ambitious administrators uttering proclamations and of humbled citizens trying to find a place in the brave new world.

It is this brief epoch, and the imaginative potential it nurtured, that finds a new home in the ethereal world of Les Cités Obscures.

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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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