Mauro Cerati artwork

Nothing to See Here, Steampunk Is Doing Fine!

My “Who Killed Steampunk?” story from April continues to make the rounds with an unfortunately common reaction being to stick one’s head in the sand. Many people seem to believe that because they’re still doing steampunk, or because there is a well-attended steampunk event in their region, the entire movement must be doing fine.

The introduction to a recent op-ed by performer Professor Elemental in The Steampunk Explorer goes so far as to reassure readers that not only “everything is fine,” but steampunk is “better than it ever was in fact.”

It contains no evidence for this “fact”. I’m not even sure it’s what Elemental believes. In his op-ed, he recognizes that blogs and message boards have disappeared (although I think he’s overly optimistic when he writes, “Fewer blogs and message boards about steampunk means there are fewer blogs and message boards, not less steampunk”), that events have been canceled, and he has noticed the same attitude I blamed in April for “killing” steampunk: a tendency to scrutinize every steampunk costume, creation and story for signs of Eurocentrism, imperialism, misogyny and racism.

As Elemental puts it:

Subcultures like ours don’t do well under extreme scrutiny.

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Carnival Row, Season 1

Carnival Row

Carnival Row, Amazon Prime’s neo-noir Victorian SteamGoth fantasy series, has come to the many fortunate enough to be able to watch it. Combining the worlds of the fae and humanity has never been so well done.

A lot of it is hitting a little close to home: immigrants trying to build a new life after fleeing their wartorn homelands, intolerance, discrimination, ghettos. It’s clear the creators took a good look at human history — Victorian, World War II-era and contemporary.

It shows, not just in the storyline, but in the cinematography. The wardrobes, the uniforms, everything. This is the best fantasy with horror elements since Penny Dreadful (our review here) and it is a shame it isn’t more easily available, because it has a strong story with a talented cast.

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Lantern City concept art

The Art of Lantern City

Lantern City was an ambitious attempt to create a trans-media steampunk experience. Set on a parallel Earth where the majority of the population is oppressed by a ruling class that literally lives above the rest, the franchise focused on an underground resistance movement.

The project spawned an illustrated novel (2013) and comic book series (2015-16), but a planned TV series never got underway.

Luckily, we still have the concept art!

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Amsterdam Damrak Boulevard design

Unbuilt Amsterdam

Amsterdam could have had a Parisian-style boulevard.

Around the turn of the last century, the city council accepted proposals for a new commodity exchange. It initially favored a design sponsored by hotelier W.P. Werker, who would have demolished a whole street of buildings between the Dutch capital’s central railway station and the Royal Palace on the Dam Square to create something of a miniature Champs-Élysées.

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Ephemeral States of the Russian Civil War map

Ephemeral States of the Russian Civil War

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, many states were proclaimed in the territory of the former Russian Empire. Some were ethnic minorities looking for autonomy. Others were warlords claiming legitimacy through the veneer of a state. Others yet were proto-Soviet republics that were later incorporated into the USSR.

PisseGuri82” has created a beautiful map of these ephemeral states of the Russian Civil War.

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Wild Wild West Con Tucson Arizona

Are Steampunk Events Really Thriving?

When I excluded events from my analysis in “Who Killed Steampunk?“, critics said I was overlooking the most thriving part of the steampunk movement. Book sales may be down; blogs and magazines may have closed; Hollywood may have lost interest in the genre, but conventions, some said, are booming.

I’m not much of a convention-goer, so I wouldn’t know. But if conventions and other events are where steampunk lives now, I ought to look into it.

So I did.

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Panji Andrian artwork

Revisiting Nostalgic and Melancholic Steampunk: Correcting the “Varieties of Steampunk Experience”

It’s been a long time since I left the steampunk scene and an even longer time since I should have. Yet as someone who writes a blog on historical film and literature should know, the past is inescapable. Hardly a month goes by when I’m not alerted by aggregators of academic journals — which I use for my offline life as a history and science educator — that my name has popped up in a paper about steampunk. Invariably these papers are referencing a piece I did over a decade ago in SteamPunk Magazine titled “Varieties of Steampunk Experience”.

Unfortunately, every single academic paper I have seen reference my piece has misinterpreted it, and misinterpreted it in almost exactly the same way. 

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Moorlander

Moorlander

Industrial rivalry, plots for murder, intrigue, politics and a world where wondrous devices are engineered: Moorlander has it all.

At first glance.

The first in a series by Robert T. Bradley, this book takes you into a world where plots unfold all around the main characters.

The author has absolutely done his best to create a fully developed world with fleshed-out characters. It’s great that we’re not lacking backstory. But there is too much of a good thing.

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