Steampunk: victorian visionaries etc by Brian J Robb
I consider myself to be a dyed in the wool Steampunk, but my focus is primarily on the gadget and devices area of the genre. Not surprising as I am first and foremost a designer and maker of said devices. Nevertheless I do have more than a passing interest in other areas of steampunk such as costume, music, film and literature.
So having just read “Steampunk An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and other Victorian Visions by Brian J Robb.” I’ll share my thoughts; it’s a handsome looking tome. I may be fascinated by technology, even the cyber variety including the myriad forms of E reader available, but you will never get me to part with my books.
A shelf full of books is a joy to behold and if the books are attractive in appearance so much the better, it adds to the reading experience for me.
This is the sort of book I want to find and examine.
The greater part of “Steampunk: An Illustrated History…..” is given over to the literature of steampunk, when it started, who started it, how and why they came to do so. We have a foreword by James P Blaylock, one of the triumvirate of authors who are generally acknowledged as the culprits responsible for the inception of Steampunk back in the 1970s. The other two being Tim Powers and K W Jeter.
Blaylock acknowledges the influence of childhood reading matter such as Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Jules Verne and Edgar rice Burroughs. I’m sure many of us would cite similar influences. While referring to the creation of the term “steampunk” by Jeter in a letter to Locus magazine in 1987, Blaylock goes on to acknowledge the difficulty in actually defining the genre. Therein lies the rub! Essentially every steampunk has his or her own idea of what is or isn’t genuine steampunk; however we seem to have enough common ground to come together as a “body”, and as this book is essentially an overview there’s something for everyone.
Back to the book, the visual appeal is by no means confined to the outside, the pages throughout have been given the “slightly foxed” look of an old book and naturally illustrations and photographs of the people, buildings and vehicles from Victorian times which have exerted such a strong influence are sepia toned. There are many reproductions of the work of the artists, designers and makers and musicians who currently enliven and influence the current steampunk scene. In short there’s plenty to look at for the aficionado.
There’s also a chapter devoted to the fair sex, perhaps I should rephrase that, some of these Steampunk heroines pack a fearsome punch! This section of the book naturally examines the place of the female within the steampunk genre. From actual people such as Ada Lovelace friend of Charles Babbage and a visionary thinker in her own right, to the aforementioned “Girl Genius” Comic book character.
I could discuss all the references from literature and the world of film, music, art, graphic novels, etc. But I’d end up writing a book.
This book covers a lot of ground, from the earliest to the latest works which might be acknowledged as steampunk. From Georges Mêliés short film from 1902 “A Trip to the Moon” to “Hellboy” based on the Mike Mignola comic book.
Everyone I could think of gets a mention, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, Dr Who, Girl Genius, Terry Gilliam, Hayao Miyyazaki, and a great many more I’d never heard of, but I enjoyed learning about them. I now have a much greater knowledge of and appreciation for the people who have made valuable contributions to the genre. If you’re a steampunk or you’ve only just found out it exists and you want to know more, this is a book well worth reading.
I admit that due to spending so much time in the workshop wrapped up in my own world of steampunk gadgets I was ignorant of so much the genre, now I have a list of books to read, films to watch and bands to listen to. The History is a valued addition to my library.
So get yourself a copy, put some more coal on the fire, make a pot of tea, settle down in your armchair and enter the world of Steampunk.
You can get a copy from Amazon.com