When the going gets tough, the tough rewrite history


Have vampires been sucking your essence away leaving you tired and numb? Do you suffer from long sleepless nights of zombies infesting your mind? Are you searching for that hero’s quest only to meet a horrendous death?

Then have I got the solution for you.

Close your eyes. That’s it. No peeking now. Just keep them closed and think back to a different world. In the dark you hear a humming, a heavy base weighing you down as it reverberates through you. A door materializes before you, shimmering in gold light as you cross the threshold. Your feet clack on the cobblestones as you step into a world that is familiar, yet unknown. There is a scent in the air, an energy that tantalizes you with hope. A slight roar is heard above you as a dirigible passes overhead, its sheer size inspiring wonder and awe. Clank, clank, clank, the sound of hammering pulls you down the street, passing street children carrying gears and spare parts. You nod your head in greeting as elegant ladies and gentlemen stroll pass you in clothing reminiscent of Victorian wear, only something seems off. Merchants drive past in horseless carriages dragging heavy carts of … of *something* large into the city square. The energy in the air increases as excitement grows. He is coming, they say as they hurry along the street to follow. You are pulled along this new stream of people that had formed around you. The bump and grind against you in their haste and you realise the oddly about them. They aren’t all human.

Intrigued? This is the world commonly referred to as Steampunk. Considered a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy, it creates an alternative history where technology is based on steam, cogs and gears as opposed to our modern cybernetic technology. In and of itself, this is a rather poor definition since the basis of Steampunk is about defying the very boundaries that Steampunk itself creates. While its origins are in 19th century London, Steampunk has expanded to include such places as Paris, the United States and Japan; into the skies, under the seas, the far reaches of space and buried beneath the earth. But don’t take my word for it. Create your own definition. Here are some works to get you started.

morlock nightMorlock Night is written by K. W. Jeter, the man who first pioneered the term Steampunk. Written as a sequel to H. G. Wells The Time Machine, the Morlocks have taken control of the time machine and have gone back to London to cause mayhem. It then falls on the ancient heroes of King Arthur and Merlin to appear in Victorian London to save the day.

ON STRANGER TIDESOn Stranger Tides emphasizes the fantasy aspect more then the steam of Steampunk,  yet Tim Powers manages to bring to life an alternative time narrative where pirates and voodoo take center stage.Jack is on a voyage to the new world, when the ship is attacked by pirates and Jack is forced to become a member of the crew. Later, he learns that all pirates are under the command of the pirate empire ruled by Blackbeard, who is building an army of the living and the dead in order to find the fountain of youth. Those pirate fans out there will recognise the plot for The Pirates of the Caribbean films here.

steampunk history
Feeling a little overwhelmed and in need of a map? I would highly recommend Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian Visions. There is a lot of material here giving both the origins of Steampunk and ideas as to what the future might hold. With examples from literature, graphic novels, manga, film and music to cosplay, television and role playing games, there is something to be found for fans of any genre.

– Katherine

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