Steampunk: The First Decade

Article focusing on steampunk during the mid-1980s through 1996, and especially on the literature that serves as the foundation for a genre that has since branched into fashion, music, and more.

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Using Visual Models for Effective WorldBuilding

The first season of The Frankenstein Chronicles hits the mark for a work that is not steampunk and has a lot to offer those who want to learn about effective worldbuilding.

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Quest of Thunder

Recently I reviewed Heir of Thunder by Karissa Laurel, the first book in the Stormbourne Chronicles. You can read that review here. The second novel in the series, Quest of Thunder, has just been released and I am excited to share the next part of Evelyn Stormbourne’s journey with you. Blurb Evie must restore her divine…

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Review: Nikola Tesla and the End of the World

Nikola Tesla and the End of the World Blurb When physicist Sophie Clarke builds a strange machine from long-lost scientific plans she unwittingly transports Nikola Tesla to modern-day London. Unfortunately Tesla brings another historical figure along with him: an autocratic automaton. Two brilliant scientists. A slightly unhinged enemy from the future. This could lead to…

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Heir of Thunder by Karissa Laurel

Author: Karissa Laurel Release: 2016 Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy Series: Stormbourne Chronicles Edition: Kindle Publisher: Evolved Publishing, LLC The Lord of Thunder has passed, leaving daughter Evelyn Stormbourne to overcome her kingdom’s greatest enemies, but first she must embrace her dominion over the sky. The Lord of Thunder’s sudden death leaves his daughter, Evelyn Stormbourne,…

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Viriconium

Author: M. John Harrison Release: December 18, 2007 Genre: Steampunk | Cyberpunk | Fantasy | Dark Fantasy | Sci-Fi Edition: Kindle Publisher: Random House LLC  Blurb A magnificent city existing on the ringes of the past, and on the brink of destruction, Viriconium • With a foreword by Neil Gaiman Available to American readers for…

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Sunless Skies Victorian Steampunk LitRPG Launches on Steam

After playing and reviewing Fallen London (read the review here) I eagerly awaited the next LitRPG game from Failbetter Games.  Sunless Skies launches on Steam Early Access on August 30, 2017. By the time this post publishes, it should have been available for about 12 hours. For the first week, the game will be available for…

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A Steampunk Writer’s Resource: The Victorian City

The Victorian City delves into the history of the era and provides a good base for any writer interested in creating a steampunk novel with Victorian undertones. I recommend it as a great place to start your research.

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The West that Wasn’t: Steampunk Inspirations

The concepts of wildness, independence, and freedom of the frontier West have long represented the American spirit for many writers. Frederick Turner described the frontier West as one of the defining elements in American national identity—the “dominant individualism” that Turner saw as a hallmark of American character: “The coarseness and strength, combined with acuteness and acquisitiveness; that practical and inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things.”

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From This City of Nightmares . . .

In 1987 K.W. Jeter coined the term “steampunk” in a letter to Locus magazine. Jeter used the term to qualify the neo-Victorian writings that he, James Blaylock, and Tim Powers, were producing. This term was in part a play on the term “cyberpunk,” which was a popular genre in the late 1980s. Steampunk is a genre of speculation, whether it is set in an alternative version of Victorian England, in an alternative American West, in a future where steam power rather than electrical current runs the world, or in a fantasy setting where steam power is in mainstream use. It owes a debt of gratitude for its creation to such authors as Jules Verne, Mary Shelly, and H.G. Wells: Their works are speculative and include many of the aspects that readers now associate with modern steampunk novels. In terms of world building, though, the genre owes an even larger debt to Charles Dickens and his depiction of Victorian England.

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Steampunk is More Than Its History

Is it necessary to have read H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine or Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to understand the steampunk aesthetic? Does anyone who attends an event dressed in Western steampunk attire need to view all of John Ford’s movies about the Old West and every episode of the Wild Wild West before partaking? Or is this prior knowledge only a part—a foundation—that can add to a person’s appreciation?

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George Eliot’s Influence on Alternate Histories

In the steampunk genre there are many Victorian Era authors who have influenced modern works. Many writers espouse names like Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, and H.G. Wells. Yet another Victorian Era writer, Mary Ann Evans, popularly known by her pen name, George Eliot, created works of fiction that explored the connection between the individual and society and explored the idea that a single decision or action could alter the course of history: This viewpoint has been explored at length by steampunk authors who create story worlds based on alternate histories.

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Not-So-Dreadful Pennies & Steampunk Smashers

Whenever I travel I make sure to tuck several bright, shiny pennies into my handbag. Not because I want to spend them; after all, what can a person purchase for a penny in the current economy?* I carry them because I want to pay 50 times their worth to have them stretched by machines until…

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A Choice of Evils: How Roger Zelazny Created a Heroic Jack the Ripper

In 1888 a killer stalked the streets of London’s Whitechapel district, brutally and ritualistically murdering women. The killer, dubbed Jack the Ripper, captured lurid headlines and the imagination of the public. Fictionalized versions of his story started appearing as early as October of 1888, only a few weeks after the discovery of the first victim. Since then hundreds of stories have been written about Jack, his victims, and his legacy. No fictional treatment of the character, however, has ever been approached like the character of “Jack” in Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October. Rumor has it that someone bet Zelazny that he couldn’t write a story in which the reader rooted for Jack the Ripper as a hero. According to the rules of the wager, Jack could not be a “modified version” of the character where it wasn’t “really” Jack who committed the murders; the character had to be the 1888 serial killer who committed the crimes. Whether the rumor is true or not, Zelazny created a fascinating narrative with a host of characters from literature, history, and film—including Jack the Ripper, Dracula, Frankenstein, Rasputin, Sherlock Holmes, and more—in which a deadly game is played in a rural suburb of Victorian London.

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Unique Convention and Festival Accommodations

As springtime blooms in North America, conventions and festivals (especially outdoor festivals) start to appear in the calendar. Travel is certainly a consideration when planning what events to attend, as is finding a place to stay when you arrive. Many attendees plan to stay at the hotel associated with the convention centers, but there are more whimsical (and less expensive choices) available if one takes the initiative to search. One such inexpensive accommodation is available in downtown Chicago: Vincent Van Gogh’s Bedroom.

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A Revolution in Printing: How A Steam-Powered Press Changed the World

When discussing steam-powered machines and the Victorian Era, many focus on the revolutionary additions made to travel. Steam-powered locomotives or ships are considered groundbreaking innovations that helped to shape the course of our world. Yet another steam-powered ingenious device created during the reign of Queen Victoria had what some would consider an even larger impact on the world: A steam-powered printing press revolutionized the print industry and improved the literacy rate throughout the western hemisphere.

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French Steampunk: April & the Extraordinary World

April and the Extraordinary World is a steampunk animated film from the producers of the 2007 Academy Award nominated Persepolis. Its directors, Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci, have worked on classic animated movies like Persepolis and The Adventures of Tintin. It features the work of graphic novelist Jacques Tardi, who created one of the most famous French comic heroines, Adele Blanc-Sec, and stars Marion Cotillard, who won the 2008 Best Actress Academy Award. In a review for i09, Germain Lussier describes the movie as introspective and influenced by the works of Jules Verne, Douglas Adams, George Lucas, and Jayao Miyazaki (2015). The trailer looks fantastic and features Tardi’s signature graphic style, humor, social criticism as well as an intrepid young female protagonist.

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Book Review: The Victorian Steam Locomotive: It’s Design & Development 1804-1879

In the forward to G. D. Dempsey and D. K. Clarke’s (2015) The Victorian Steam Locomotive: It’s Design & Development 1804-1879, Dr. Pete Waterman begins by stating that even people who are enthusiastic about the age of steam power can sometimes be blasé about its history. It is hard in this day and age of technological wonders to comprehend the magnitude of the innovative process behind the development of the steam engine. In just over 90 years we moved from the simple idea of boiling water, to making steam to generate power, to the steam engine we know to this day. As Waterman explains, the engine design has not significantly changed since the Victorian era; it has been tweaked here and there, but essentially remains the same. For those of us who are steam train enthusiasts, we might say that it is hard to improve on perfection!

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Steampunk Sculptors Creating Art Through Recycling

Using recycled materials in art is not a new concept, but steampunk sculptors seem to be discovering innovative means of harnessing the abundant source of raw materials provided by the current culture’s disposable lifestyle. As steampunk sculptor Aaron Ristau explains, “products are obsolete within an ever decreasing amount of time, putting an increasing strain on our ability to deal with man-made waste” (qtd. in Von Slatt, 2009). The range of art being created is a testament to the creativity of artists who make use of “stuff” that had had a life already—a life that is often far removed from art.

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The Language of Flowers: A Victorian Tradition

For centuries people have attributed meanings to flowers, herbs, and various plants. Interest in floriography, or the language of flowers, soared during the reign of Queen Victoria. This cryptologic style of floral communication could “say” what members of the society dared not speak aloud: the rigid social constrictions of the upper class helped to create a “language” that is indeed beautiful to behold.

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Review: The Best of Spanish Steampunk

I received this anthology as a gift and opened it with a great deal of anticipation. Short, speculative fiction has been my favorite genre for many years and reading an entire anthology of steampunk stories would be a treat on a cold winter day. But as I read, I found myself to be puzzled: there were ghost stories, gaslight romances, alternate histories, and references to Victorian authors and their creations, but very few elements that reflect the steampunk aesthetic.

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Soar: An Animated Short Film Airship Adventure

Soar is one of those magical animated short films that demonstrate more storytelling ability than a feature film. It tells the fantastical tale of a young girl who befriends a tiny boy pilot who’s dropped out of the sky. Through the course of a single day, she must find a way to fly her new friend back home before he is stranded on Earth forever.

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The Asylum: Steampunk Destination Travel

Looking for an unusual steampunk-themed travel destination for 2016?

Billed as the largest and longest running steampunk festival in the world, the Asylum takes place this year August 26th to August 29th in the historic City of Lincoln (“Welcome to the Asylum, 2015). Many of the venues that house festival activities have ties to Victorian England and lend an authentic sense of time/place to a festival which celebrates, in part, a reimagining of that era. But steampunk is more than a neo-Victorian celebration, and additions like a costume parade, professional tea dueling, “illicit” market, and craft zones add flair to the proceedings.

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Steampunk Tea Parties: A Holiday Tradition

Steampunk-themed tea parties are particularly popular in North America during the winter. Knowing a bit about the history of tea and the rituals surrounding its consumption can help a participant enjoy the experience. There are also some traditional resources and touches of whimsy that can help you host a party of your own.

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Steampunk Coloring Books & Events

Coloring is an activity that many people would associate with childhood, but recently the activity has found a different demographic. Adult coloring books are topping bestsellers’ list worldwide, but it is not simply due to the enjoyment of the activity. Medical researchers have studied the therapeutic properties that the simple act of coloring in a drawing can provide; these health benefits include a decrease in stress and anxiety. And there are a wide variety of books available, including those dedicated to steampunk.

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Review: Onyx City by P.J. Thorndyke

He brought to light the awful reality of the sweatshops where tailors stitched clothing for fourteen hours a day; dulling their eyesight, clogging up their lungs with stuffy air and cloth fibers, denied even the shortest of breaks so that their targets were met. Wives must bring them tea and bread and drop it down their throats while they continued to work. He spoke of the match girl’s strike of July, of their exposure to the terrible white phosphorus that rotted their jaws. The speaker even touched on the poor women who were so desperate that they must sell their bodies on the street and face murder at the hands of the demented individual who stalked Whitechapel by night.

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150 Years of Wonderland

There have been many versions of Alice’s story through the years, including (but not limited to) the Disney animated version, the Resident Evil franchise, and the most recent version by Tim Burton. The character of Alice has appeared in many different television programs, including Warehouse 13. The images of Alice and her Wonderland compatriots appear almost everywhere on household goods, clothing, and technology.

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Steampunk & Mimimalism: Quality and Beauty

I was browsing NPR and came across an article on steampunk called “Did Steampunk Forget The Meaning Of The Word Dickensian?” by J.J. Sutherland. This post is not about the article, but about the wonderful comment made in response to the article by Eben Mishkin. It reads in part: Steampunk is romanticized; it is not…

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A Documentary of Airships, Adventure, and Illicit Romance

Graf Zeppelin 1929 Around Globe Trip, Full Documentary This is an interesting documentary from the BBC about the around-the-world journey of the Graf Zeppelin in 1929. The Graf Zeppelin was one of the more successful of the German airships and made the journey from Lakehurst, NJ, on August 29, 1929, around the world, and back,…

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Book Review: Golden Heart by PJ Thorndyke

The Golden Heart, by PJ Thorndyke, is the first book in the Lazarus Longman Chronicles. This is a gripping steampunk adventure set during the time of the American Civil War. Lazarus Longman is an archeologist working for the British Empire. By order of the government, he is searching for the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola.…

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Unexpected Benefit of Minimalism: Steampunk Fashion Accessories

While going through some boxes I had put away (and I have not looked in those boxes in years!) I found two pieces of jewelry that my grandmother had given me during my teenage years. Back then I was a science fiction/fantasy fan and she thought I would like these two pieces she found in an antique store.

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The Winter Garden by Kara Jorgensen

The Winter Garden, by Kara Jorgensen, is book Two of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. It is not necessary to read the first book in the series before enjoying this novel. **Possible Spoilers Ahead** The Winter Garden is a neo-Victorian style novel. Immanuel Winter, a student at Oxford, rescues a young woman, Emmeline Jardine, after…

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Coffee Related Steampunk Destination Travel

More than Just Gears: Steampunk as a Lifestyle Aesthetic Steampunk is still a work-in-progress. It is still evolving. There are new stories to be told and new writers to be discovered that will add their distinctive voices to the mix. I am simply one author among many talking about how to create a story world in…

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Steampunk and Orchids

The Chicago Botanical Garden held its annual Orchid Show this spring and I was pleased to see some Neo-Victorian/Steampunk inspired displays. I hope you all enjoy!

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Toward an Understanding of the Steampunk Aesthetic

For me, the steampunk aesthetic is perhaps best defined by the object-based work of its fans. The literary tradition can be traced back to the Victorian Era works of H.G. Wells and Jules Vern, or in the more recent era to authors William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and their ground-breaking novel, The Difference Engine, but…

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The Hybrid Temporality of Steampunk

In literature, steampunk falls under the genre of speculative fiction. Steampunk can refer to modern narratives set in Victorian England or the American Old West. It can also be set in a futuristic world that incorporates aesthetic touchstones of the late Eighteenth Century and early Nineteenth century periods in either country. Steampunk allows authors and…

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Steampunk Holiday Greetings

As the Christmas Holiday approaches, I hope that you all enjoy your time with friends and family. Chris (Note–this is an actual hotel in a city near where I live. Is it any wonder that I love steampunk when I can see such beautiful buildings throughout the year!)

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