Thursday, May 17, 2012

Initial Thoughts on Steampunk

My most initial and general thoughts on steampunk address the genre's appeal. While it's simply appealing for its unique, Victorian-inspired style and nifty gadgets, there has to be something behind the aesthetic. I feel that the genre has a particular appeal in this age. I believe it's been noted (in The Steampunk Bible? perhaps? --double-check) that the genre romanticizes technology, and I wholeheartedly agree. While Marxism (and just plain old common sense) tells us that we are becoming more and more removed from our products and the work being done in production, steampunk gives us a way to re-imagine our technology-based, physically removed (from material production) lives. Certainly steampunk is a re-written past  (see Falksen's Steampunk 101:, but it is also a way to see anew our own situation.

The Victorian age was one of industrial advancements in the form of steam technology. Today we continue to advance technologically at an extremely fast rate. The difference is in the closeness to that technology. While the Victorian era may be a kind of parallel to our current situation for some of these aspects, it is the much more romantic component in the parallel--or so we perceive it to be. Many of its aspects are romanticized, but I think one of the most prominent is machines. The commonplace presence of technology in our present lives takes much of the novelty out of it. By (possibly vicariously?) re-imagining our technology in the setting or format of Victorian science fiction, we can regain some of the novelty or romantic notions about the current world.

Not only does this appeal come from a genre of literature and art but it also stretches into the whole culture identified by the idea of "steampunk." Along with the literature (or other art), the internet and hard copy publications have developed "how-to" articles for making or building everything from gypsy wagons and Victorian-decorated office cubicles to steampunk clothing and jewelry. The steampunk culture infuses back into the current culture a closeness to production. Furthermore, it opens avenues for using more intricate science in these projects, perhaps regenerating a love of making and knowledge that has otherwise become too detached from the "practical" world. We can then put our laptops into gorgeous wooden cases complete with gears and a key and find the material items of mass production and detached creation unique and beautiful again.

...But I need to ponder this romanticization of machines and the appeal of Victorian science fiction in this age more and pull together some research before I make any more definite conclusions.

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