There are so many false body parts in Steampunk! Why do you think that is? Do any of your characters have mechanical body parts? Why?

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I think it is a throw back from Steampunk's literary sibling: Cyperbunk. In Cyberpunk, there are often mechanical prosthesis, often enhanced with strength or hidden weapons. Many people like to do tongue-in-cheek parallels between the two.
And lets face it, steam-powered prosthesis are just freaking cool!
With the cosplay and steampunk balls, mechanical limbs are a easy and impressive way to add interesting details. It is much easier to add something to a costume than to take something away.
There's also the fact that steam-based engines and the machines they run can be enormously dangerous. Lots of people suffered injuries or worse when working in the factories of the Industrial Revolution, so it stands to reason that the Gentlemen and Lady Adventurers, Tinkerers, and Irrepressible Knights of Science of the steampunk world might have done themselves a harm while experimenting with such technology, irrespective of the amount of dueling and other casual violence of the period.
Or is it the thrill of the macabre, and a metaphor for man's fear of machines taking over and reducing human control?

Or the loss of heart and soul that seems to be inherent in industrial stories? That man is becoming more like a machine, just going through the motions?

I can tell I worked too long at a science museum when the prosaic explanation comes to mind before the poetic one.  *wry grin* 

I would say that how macabre a prosthetic is depends greatly on what kind of prosthetic it is, upon what character it exists.  Darth Vader's prosthetics are scary and certainly reflect that kind of fear of the loss of humanity. Captain Hook's hook is emblematic of his cruelty and crooked nature.  But what about heroes with prosthetics?  Badges of honor or some kind of mark of distinction?

 

Lia Keyes said:

Or is it the thrill of the macabre, and a metaphor for man's fear of machines taking over and reducing human control?

Or the loss of heart and soul that seems to be inherent in industrial stories? That man is becoming more like a machine, just going through the motions?

One character is totally mechanical, another is 80% or so :) I think it's a fascination with replicating and possibly making the lost part better than it was

I have a warrior woman with a prosthetic eye (and maybe a few other body parts as well). She's scary...

In The Burning Sky, my airship pilot Taziri suffers a burn when the hangar is set on fire by criminals. Because of the progression of the burn, she ends up needing a brace on her left arm to protect the damaged skin/tissue and to help support her hand due to muscle loss.

In the sequel, this medical brace gets punked out.

I thought it was important to acknowledge the reality of living and working around dangerous machines. You can suffer very traumatic, very permanent injuries, assuming you survive.

 

I think it's a combination of a few of these theories but there definitely seems to be a lot of strong overtones for the loss of humanity in many stories with heavy prosthetics. Look at the story of the tin man in Oz (btw, if you haven't seen Whitestone's short film about the Tin Man, you should--it's excellent! http://vimeo.com/11431902)

 

As for the story I'm working on--so far, I haven't yet added any mechanical body parts, except for one character who is a fully mechanical woman. Of course, one of the main themes I'm playing around with is that of humanity and what defines it so it's very likely a couple of other characters will have some mechanical parts, as well. Plus, since they're Knights/soldiers--the likelihood of needing prosthetics is high in a career like that.

Amputation was a common medical reaction to tramatic injury in the Victorian age, and between war and accidents involving the unfamiliar industrial equipment of the era, there was a whole lot of trauma goin' on.

I think the more advanced the prosthetic, the greater the triumph of man and intellect over the chaos of the natural world. 

Besides, it looks totally bad-ass.

Well, yes, except that most of the time the trauma was man-made and not a result of the chaos of the natural world. Industrial accidents and wars are man-made. Man's desire to transcend and control the natural world is at the root of much of the chaos we perceive in the world. Isn't that what books like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were exploring?

Scott Taylor said:

Amputation was a common medical reaction to tramatic injury in the Victorian age, and between war and accidents involving the unfamiliar industrial equipment of the era, there was a whole lot of trauma goin' on.

I think the more advanced the prosthetic, the greater the triumph of man and intellect over the chaos of the natural world. 

Besides, it looks totally bad-ass.



Lia Keyes said:
Well, yes, except that most of the time the trauma was man-made and not a result of the chaos of the natural world.
Scott Taylor said;
True, the cause of the trauma was man-made, but the result, a damaged or missing limb, is a failing of the natural body to remain servicable in the face of technology. So, is the mechanical replacement of a failed organic system a triumph of science? Even if science made it necessary in the first place?

I can't bring myself to call a crutch a "triumph of science" no matter how shiny that crutch may be. It will always be a reminder of something that went wrong. It's a second-rate replacement, not an upgrade.

And it's not that the organic system "failed" so much as it was destroyed. It's hardly your leg's fault when a tiger bites it off or a car runs it over.

Scott Taylor said:



Lia Keyes said:
Well, yes, except that most of the time the trauma was man-made and not a result of the chaos of the natural world.
Scott Taylor said;
True, the cause of the trauma was man-made, but the result, a damaged or missing limb, is a failing of the natural body to remain servicable in the face of technology. So, is the mechanical replacement of a failed organic system a triumph of science? Even if science made it necessary in the first place?

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