Isabel (kittiwake)'s Reviews > The Steampunk Bible

The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer
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's review
Jun 02, 2012

really liked it
Read in May, 2012

** spoiler alert ** STEAMPUNK = Mad Scientist Inventor [invention (steam x airship or metal man / baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot 

I put this book on my Christmas list after seeing it at the local bookshop and flicking through the pictures, and my brother bought it for me. Before reading it I was only really aware of Steampunk literature and the dressing up aspect of Steampunk fandom, and the book does start by tracing the roots of Steampunk back to Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, through Moorcock's Warlord of the Air trilogy to the first real Steampunk novels which came out of the friendship of three American authors in the mid-1980s Jules Verne also seems to have had an indirect influence on Steampunk, as several of the people interviewed for this book cited the 1954 Disney version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" as having sparked their interest

At first glance Steampunk may seems like a good excuse for dressing up in Victorian costumes accessorised with goggles , but the authors stress that the 'punk' part of the word is just as important as the 'steam'. Steampunk is not about a shallow glamorised version of an alternate Victorian era with emphasis on steam power, clockwork and helium-powered airships that aren't prone to exploding into flame; it also addresses the human and environmental cost of the industrial revolution, and issues such as colonialism and war.

Steampunk emphasises individuality and craftsmanship versus bland mass-produced objects, and many artists and makers have found inspiration there, from jewellery and clothing designers to designers of retro-futuristic ray-guns, and works on a colossal scale such as the colossal mechanical animals of the Jules Verne-inspired machines de l'Ile de Nantes and the art installation at Forevertron Park in Wisconsin.

The book's conclusion is that Steampunk is a vibrant sub-culture that can be approached from many different angles, and that it should be able to avoid stagnation by taking inspiration from other 19th century cultures apart from Victorian Britain and the American West.

So although "The Steampunk Bible" went on my wish list because of the pictures, the text turned out to be just as interesting.

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Reading Progress

05/12/2012 page 45
20.0% "I've just read the chapter about Steampunk's literary precursor, including Verne, Wells & Poe."
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