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.
Continue reading “Steampunk Politics Anno 2010”
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.
Continue reading “The Original Steampunk Cinema”
A little-known chapter in the history of aeronautics is the attempt to reach the North Pole by airship. Continue reading “To the Pole by Balloon”
Carol McCleary is the author of The Alchemy of Murder (our review here), in which real-world heroine Nellie Bly must save Paris with the aid of Louis Pasteur, Jules Verne and Oscar Wilde.
She talks with us about her inspiration for the novel and her plans for the next one.
Continue reading “Interview with Carol McCleary”
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.
Continue reading “Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel”
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.
Continue reading “Leviathan”
Nellie Bly is a free-spirited woman. Anything a man can do, she can do as least as good and she won’t stop at anything to prove it.
This doesn’t sound too strange, were it not that she lived in the United States of the turn of the century, where the social situation of women wasn’t exactly what it is now.
Continue reading “The Alchemy of Murder”
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.
Continue reading “The Court of the Air”
Peasants, widows and royalty all wanted to serve Mother Russia in the Great War. Some were nurses, others support troops, but on occasion women would put Mosin-Nagant rifle to shoulder and fight quietly as front line troops.
Cossacks and Siberian sniper units were reinforced by female recruits, but the concept of all-female infantry units was viewed with skepticism. Yet with the fall of the Tsar Nicholas II regime in the spring of 1917, and the war against Germany lingering, the Provisional Government needed fresh bodies to send to the frontlines.
And from the vast Russian multitudes a select number of women stepped forward to become soldiers in the 1st Women’s Battalion of Death. Hundreds of women, between the ages of 18 and 40, would turn out to be inspected by the tough commanding officer: Captain Maria Bochkareva. Yet few would pass muster.
Continue reading “Battalion of Death: Russia’s All-Female Fighting Force”
Not the Agatha Christie novel, but those who have read the Stephen King story Rose Red will find this piece of architectural confusion vaguely familiar.
The story begins in Connecticut when heiress and widow Sarah Winchester consulted a spiritualist for advice following a depression brought on from the deaths of her only daughter in 1866, her father-in-law in 1880 and her husband, wealthy gun magnate William Winchester, in 1881. She had assumed that the Winchester family was cursed from the deaths that had occurred.
The medium she consulted was reputedly psychic and told Sarah Winchester that the family were indeed cursed — by the spirits of the people killed by the Winchester rifle. The medium advised her to move west and build a new house for herself and the spirits.
The twist was that if Sarah Winchester was to ever halt construction on the house, she would also die. Continue reading “Crooked House”