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Thursday, March 18, 2010
8:05 PM | Posted by Maureen | | Edit Post
What’s not to love about the quirky little genre of steampunk? It has goggles! Colored goggles, goggles with multiple lenses, goggles that telescope, goggles that glow, goggles that light up… And corsets! Leather, cloth, short, long-lined, buckles, laces, over the boobs, under the boobs… Corset coats, corset jackets with puffy sleeves, with cogs and wheels and springs and… Wings! Yup, wings that pin on the jackets or wings that ride on your back or wings that frame a watch that you wear on your wrist or on a collar or on a necklace or… And dirigibles!
And steam! Steam and derby hats and perch hats and feathers and laces and KRAKENS! There were so many krakans! Pins, necklaces, in art. Sigh. I died and went to kraken heaven. (I bought a pen, though I may take some paint ta the beast and turn him into the Albino Kraken of my newest manuscript.)
Why are there kraken? Well, here lies part of the roots of steampunk as a genre. According to some, steampunk began with Jules Verne and Captain Nemo’s Nautilus (Undersea adventures, ahoy! And giant squid, of course. A close relative of the Kraken). Or was it H. G. Wells and his time machine? Maybe Arthur Conan Doyle and the age of deductive reasoning. Or Poe and the gold bug. (I find myself wondering if my fav, Edgar Rice Burroughs write anything the steampunks would consider worthy… Pellucidar? Hmmmm!)
Was it the patent of James Watt (hope I got that name right) in 1794, which locked up the innovation of the steam engine, thus ensuring the development of electricity as the primary tool of industrialization in the long term? Is this the inspiration which became a catalyst for steampunk? The loss of possibilities for steam to innovate?
(One of steampunks over-riding themes is that the steam engine is the driving technology of everything.)
I attended the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition last weekend, held in Emeryville, CA. Which is right next to Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco. Got ya geographically centered now? OK!
I knew of steampunk as a small side genre of science fiction for a long time. Or that is certainly how I viewed it. I had no idea it was undergoing an evolution of its own all these years. It has grown to encompass so many sidelines, it’s really impossible to peg.
This, of course, means I am in love. Me and steampunk, we be sisters. We be sweet sisters. Because steampunk has no absolute identity. It’s an aesthetic. It enjoys the trappings of the Victorian era. With steam pirates, with explorers, with inventors and innovators and makers and writers and artists and anarchists.
Yes! Anarchists! I do so love me some anarchy! Everything is better with the spice of anarchy in the mix. I gets me panties in a twist at the idea of a bit a’ anarchy.
Steampunk, historically, is set in the Victorian era. With Victorian sensibilities, fashion, manners, protocol and…the political and social woes of the era. Colonialism, class struggles, the industrial revolution and the displacement of the agrarian interests. A very anarchistic era!
Modern steampunk…ah, doesn’t that sound strange? … knows no real boundary. I sat in on two panels, one full of literary types who discussed the overriding themes of the genre and a panel discussion the literature of the movement. There is futuristic steampunk, steampunk set strictly in Victorian England, western Americana steampunk – remember Wild, Wild West? And it seems to be growing and mutating constantly. (Reminds me a bit of romance in that!)
There is a recent influx of paranormal in the genre. A natural inclusion considering when Bram Stroker wrote “Dracula” and Mary Shelly wrote “Frankenstien” … add in Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson and paranormal is a legitimate member of the family.
The Traders Concourse was a dream. Oh! If I’d had the cash. The costumes wandering the hallways were inspirational! The conversations! Where else could you hear two men discussing iocane powder (The Princess Bride), Warehouse 13 (The SciFi Channel) and a venture to provide dirigibles for commuting from Sacramento to San Francisco? (reality)
And steampunk is making forays into romance. Yes, pirates! Sitting on the second panel was Gail Carriger, the intrepid author of Soulless, a steampunk paranormal romance that has taken the fantasy world by storm. And yes, it is a romance. Ms. Carriger had the gumption to speak brave words to this room of fantasy/scifi/steampunk aficionados… For steampunk to survive and reach a broader audience, it may need to ally itself with…romance!
The room moaned, groaned… I stood up and shouted at them all, “Oh, grow up!”
(OK, I didn’t, but I wished I had.)
I briefly spoke to Ms. Carriger after the panel, telling her about the two panels scheduled at RT on steampunk. She knew of them and had offered to attend RT and take part. The fools of RT turned her down. (Fools, yes, I feel strongly about this. Why they turned her down, who turned her down… I would like to poke a finger in their eye.) She smiled at me and held her first book close. “This is romance and I’m not ashamed of it.”
What a charming woman! I invited her to come by the blog today, and perhaps in time I can convince her to guest. As far as I can see, she in a visionary. And she fills me with hope for my strange genre adventures. The entire convention filled me with hope for my odd little children. I don’t know if I am a budding steampunk author. I have my doubts because, as we all know, I am a lazy pirate and doing research into the particulars of history and science necessary to see me accepted into the genre…not likely going to happen.
But! I can be me pirate self, sail about the fringes and fire the occasional cannon into the steampunk world. Maybe plan a raid now and again, plant some seeds of piratitude with my stories that may turn some goggles my way, entice some adventurous souls into trying out some fringe steampunkery.
Steam pirate? Pirate punk? Here I come!
So, have you heard of steampunk at all? Read it? Were you a fan of Wild Wild West? The new movie Sherlock Holmes? What do you think of goggles as a fashion accessories? Corsets? Bustles? Parasols? Perch hats? Have you ever discovered a new genre that sings like a siren to your writing soul?
And the men, btw, looked delicious. All dressed in Victoriana, top hats, vests, pocketwatches, spats… Sigh. Go by Gail’s site and you’ll see pictures from the convention. I, being a flustered twitter-pated bartender, managed to erase all my pictures from my new camera. Sigh.
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