Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Steampunk Summer

Most of my life I have been surrounded by Steampunk, though in ignorance. Partly because it was before the term came into being in the late eighties and partly because I was like Clara in The Guild and just referred to it as "the clocky windy stuff." I spent the Sundays of my childhood at my grandparents watching The Wild Wild West, though I will admit that my attention waned after the opening credits ended and I was more worried about how scary Doctor Who was and what lurked in the quarry out back that my grandfather insisted I go play in after watching some horrid creature emerge out of just such a quarry on Doctor Who. Yet I was left with Artemus Gordon who was the first truly Steampunk scientist out there, still cool years later in the lame movie reboot with Will Smith, Kevin Kline still brought it. Even in the eighties cartoon BraveStarr, I was aware on some level of the aesthetics this genre has: anachronistic technology that was futuristic visions of the Victorians where steam power rules. The future that never was. A nostalgia for an age that never existed. A world where dirigibles still reined the skies and weren't a thing of the past, referred more in history books as a folly, due to the explosion of the Hindenburg, not as a luxurious mode of transport.

Even as I aged I never really thought that there was an umbrella, or should I say parasol, that encompassed all these elements. I watched movies like Sleepy Hollow and never questioned Johnny Depp's magnificent headgear other than to think how awesome it was. I read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials and revelled in the alternate world but thought no more of it. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a decent comic, a crappy movie, which I saw twice for no apparent reason other than the world it created. I enjoyed what I liked but never sought it out. I read and watched more and more books and shows and movies that incorporated elements of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, horror, and speculative fiction that are all part of Steampunk, yet it went no further.

Then I started this blog. Then I found Gail Carriger. When I first saw the cover for Soulless it seemed to unify all these past ideas and feelings. All this knowledge of things I have loved where really just part of something bigger. Something called Steampunk. Going into Borders and picking up that copy of Soulless was the first step on a slippery slope. Now I can't get enough Steampunk. I actively search it out versus passively waiting for it to appear in front of me. I go to conventions and gatherings, I dress up, I'm trying to work my courage up to try a corset. I have embraced this world, and, I have to say, it embraced me. I have never met such wonderful, polite and nice people as I have since I fully discovered Steampunk.

My discovery seems to have come at the same time as others. Steampunk is, dare I say it, almost mainstream. It's everywhere from cartoons on Nickolodeaon, to blockbuster movies. Even the London National's production of Frankenstein had very overt Steampunk elements. The genre has blossomed into something I don't think anyone could have guessed. So, in honor of this genre, I have decided to devote the steamiest months of the year to the genre relying on steam. Please join me in raising a cup of tea, fine bone china with just the right amount of milk and sugar, to Steampunk! Throughout the summer there will be reviews, author interviews, giveaways, sartorial discussions and more Steampunk than you can shake your monocle at! Gail Carriger, George Mann, Cherie Priest, Lord Bobbins, Paul Magrs, Philipa Ballantine and more will be here to discuss this genre that has captured the imagination and the mainstream.

Please feel free to drop me a line if you'd be interested in participating in Steampunk Summer in a more active role!


There's a steampunk contingent at Burning Man. Have you been? The one time that I went in the early 2000s one of my favorite artcars was a nearly life size authentic pirateship-esque vehicle with little balconies jutting out on which stood men and women in full steampunk regalia posing and solemnly staring out into space as the contraption slowly made its way across the playa. Of course floating by in the other direction would be a flat of five Elvis impersonators, so everything is quite surreal as well.

I know there's a big contingent there only because one of my best friends goes as often as she can. I like the bizarre contrast and artistic idea, but I have a feeling the heat and the dust and I would disagree ;)

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