Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Of Clockworks, Corsets and Iron Horses

Picture from Gail Carriger.

Among my many interests, I am in love with Steampunk.

Steampunk is a sub-genre within fantasy/science-fiction, set in a re-imagined 19th century, usually around the time of the Victorian era, where advanced technologies have been created, but are still operated by steam-power and turn-of the century means. It's the fictional realization of the future, the way H.G. Wells and Jules Verne imagined it. It's industrial meets romance, cyborgs meets corsets, and computers meet dirigibles. I love the creative and novel ideas of steampunk. Just like when you eat something that is sweet and sour, and how those contrasting opposites make for an exciting dish, I love how steampunk blends Victorian romance with gearhead sci-fi fantasy.

Occasionally steampunk slips into mainstream culture. If you've ever read or seen The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Prestige, Stardust, Young Sherlock Holmes, or H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, then you've had a glimpse into the steampunk world. If not, then just Google "steampunk images" or "steampunk costumes" or search for "steampunk" on etsy and you'll see some exteremly fine, hand-made examples. (I must resist the urge to buy up all the steampunk jewelry on etsy. I love, love, love it!) The Steampunk Workshop also showcases some beautiful work. If I had a zillion dollars, I would commission one of their computer/keyboard mods like this one. Isn't it just wonderful?

Speaking of which, I'm pretty sure that one of their computers appears in a new TV show that I'm kind of in love with right now on the SyFy network called Warehouse 13. The show follows two Secret Service agents, Myka and Pete, who are reassigned to a mysterious government warehouse, where dangerous supernatural objects are kept, such as Lewis Carroll's enchanted mirror, Edgar Alan Poe's cursed writing pen, etc. For each episode, they are tasked to retrieve missing objects and investigate reports of new ones, all under the guidance of their super-smart, yet bumbling superior, Artie, and with the assistance of young gearhead genius, Claudia. The show is set in the modern day, but the artifacts they retrieve and the tools they use to find and store them definately have a steampunk flair. Check out the picture below of their "tesla gun", named after inventor and electrical engineer, Nikola Tesla. Appropriately enough, their tesla gun shoots a bolt of electricity that stuns the victim.
In some ways it reminds me of another show that I used to watch from the late 80's called Friday the 13th (no relation to the movies of the same name). In that show, all the objects in an antique shop were cursed, and in each episode the team tried to recover an object before it hurt anyone. That show had more of a horror twist, whereas Warehouse 13 has more of a sci-fi/steampunk twist. The season finale of the show airs next Tuesday (sorry I didn't blog about it sooner) but you can watch full episodes on SyFy Rewind online. If you've been watching this show, I'd love for you to leave me a comment. What do you think - is it fun, or does it cross the line into campy? What was your favorite episode? Favorite character?

It seems like steampunk might further be finding it's way to the mainstream, not just with this show, but with a new video game coming out from Disney called Epic Mickey. The game will be released for the Wii, and will be a trip through a fantastical dystopian Magic Kingdom. Below is a concept art image from the game.

If you've never heard of steampunk before, leave me a comment and let me know what you think. (It's okay to say it's weird.) Also, if you like the genre, I would definitely love any book or movie recommendations! Until next time, keep your goggles firmly on your head!


Laura said...

I think it looks pretty cool and I can certainly see why you are attracted to it, my Victorian-styled vampire-loving friend. :)

I have never heard of Steampunk, but the concept reminds me very much of Syd Mead art in that it is somewhat "organic" feeling.

Shawn White said...

Syd Mead sounds familiar...didn't he work on the art/set design for Blade Runner?

Laura said...

Syd Mead does conceptual and art design for lots of films, Blade Runner and Alien are a couple of the big ones.

hyacinthinemoon said...

I am so in love with steampunk too. I find it so funny that I have been working on a post about it for my blog too, but it isn't done yet. I have been discovering new things too...did you see the bus made into a steam punk camper? Also, I joined the steampunk society on fb and its pretty awsome. they have amazing resources.

D.L. White said...

I just signed up for the Steampunk group on Facebook. Thanks for the heads-up about it.

Gotta love Bladerunner!!!

Here's a cool video interview with the guy behind the Steampunk Workshop.

Jessie said...

I'm shocked that this movement is so popular. I mean, it's interesting and all, but wow. I had no idea.

Once again, D, you have opened my eyes to another sub-culture. Love you for that!

Not sure about loving steam-punk, although I think it's kind of cool to mix Victorian era romance with anything. The Victorian era can only make things better, yes? Also, your descriptions reminded me of the Thursday Next novels. Would they be categorized as steam punk?

chandy said...

I had meant to ask if you saw the Sunday Sweets Steampunk special on Cake Wrecks a few weeks ago...they had some good ones on there.

And, by the by, hows about writing some blog posts? I mean, I know you've been busy, but I've missed reading them! Looking forward to your return ;)

D.L. White said...

@Jessie - Yes, the Thursday Next books are definitely steampunk - with the dirigibles and re-imagined history. That's one of the reasons I really liked "The Eyre Affair", but I didn't want to show too much of my geeky true colors at the book club, for fear of you all saying, "Okay, Davina, you've crossed the weirdness line...we don't know if we can continue to associate with your level of nerdiness!" ha ha j/k

@Chandy - Yes, those cakes were super-cool! And how ironic that I wrote this post and just a couple weeks later, she posted those cakes! And thanks for saying you miss my blog. That's one of the nicest compliments I could receive. ;)