Move over “paranormal romance”: Steampunk is about to replace you as the next big thing in Young Adult literature, starting with Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. You might be surprised to know that the idea behind steampunk has been around much longer, before the term was coined by author K.W. Jeter in 1987, when he wrote a book called Infernal Devices.
OK, so what is steampunk? Here’s a general definition:
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction frequently featuring elements of fantasy, that came into prominence in the 1980s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used — usually the 19th century, and often Victorian-era Britain — but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions …. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” of such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or digital mechanical computers; these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or with a presumption of functionality.
The earliest works of literary steampunk include Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Vern and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Those books influenced a circle of writers in the 1980s and ’90s to revive science fiction by incorporating mechanics into Victorian-era settings.
Clockwork Angel is the most recent incarnation of steampunk, but it’s not alone. Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan is also an example. Here’s the trailer; it shows you what steampunk is all about:
There are also a number of steampunk graphic novels, including Grandville by Bryan Talbot.
Later this month, writers will converge at CAN*CON (The Conference for Canadian Speculative Arts and Literature) where this year’s theme is steampunk. Events include a steampunk social, panel discussions and workshops, all centered around the genre. They have a nice write-up here.
Movies & Music
The most notable movies and television shows include:
- Sherlock Holmes, 2009
- Warehouse 13, 2009
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 2003
- Wild Wild West, 1999
- Abney Park
- Doctor Steel
- The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing
- Rasputina (who I actually saw in concert when they opened for someone else. I remember goth girls playing cellos. They got booed.)
- Unextraordinary Gentlemen
- Vernian Process
- Sunday Driver (UK)
- Kinetic Steamworks is a self-described group of “industrial artists curious about what came before the advent of petroleum power, electronics, and the automobile culture.” They even throw an Edwardian Ball.
- Tim Wetherell has made some notable pieces, including a clockwork … er, clock.
- The Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, England, recently held the world’s first museum exhibition of steampunk art. An excellent new article highlighting the artists involved and the movement in general was recently featured on www.moreintelligentlife.com.
And for some really cool steampunk wallpapers, check out the aptly-named Steampunk Wallpaper.
For me, this is the really fun part. Combine one part girly with one part bad-ass and you get steampunk fashion — or is it retro shadowhunter? Hmmm …
I’m seriously in love with the bloomer pants (and I can see Charlotte wearing the purple dress! And the third picture — Magnus Bane, anyone?). Anyway, here are some great resources for steampunk fashion:
- Clockwork Couture
- Steampunk Emporium
- Steampunk Threads
- Steam Punk Fashion Blog
- There are also a number of great steampunk groups/applications on Facebook, including this one.
For the comments: What on earth do you make of all this?! Is this a trend you’re interested in? Would you read it?
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Don’t forget – author announcement & chat TODAY with Cassie Clare: