Nothing wrong with a bit of whimsy, but I fear that it could be the death of Steampunk.
Why? I hear you cry. Alright, I don't, but you know what I mean. The why is pretty simple - if the superficial trappings of Steampunk are all that are perceived of the work, and the characters are cardboard Victorians with stiff upper lips and clockwork blunderbusses who say 'Bai Jove!' a lot, then you are doing yourself, the reader and the genre a deep disservice.
It can be done well. Read G. K. Chesterton's 'The Man who was Thursday', or George and Wheedon Grosmiths'The Diary of a Nobody', or Jerome K. Jerome's 'Three Men in a boat' as great examples. Mind you they are all real Victorians, which helps. Philip Reeve does it very well in 'Larklight', too, btw. But all of these works balance whimsy with a deeper subtext (even 'Larklight').
All I'm saying, really, is maybe write something that does you and the genre justice, that gives it depth, that shows that its more than just dressing up and funny accents and crazy gadgets.
Now don't get me wrong, I love a crazy gadget and a good pun as much as the next man, but sometimes you need a bit more than that. And I think Steampunk does, too.
Sometimes.

Views: 184

Comment by Stephen Swartz on September 9, 2011 at 6:17pm
It may seem to expose my great age to say so, but I think my first taste of Steampunk came in the original film version of "Dune" in 1984. I was immediately captivated by the antique decor of the castles, spaceships, cities, and so on. It was so vastly different form the sleek, polished, streamlined buildings and spacecrafts of most futuristic or sci-fi films. I'm sure it was not called "steampunk"--the term likely had not yet been coined--yet looking back I count that experience as my starting point. Then I went away, unfortunately, traveled around, hoping to see the aether parts of the universe, got trapped in interdimensional loops and only just returned--in time to see my views almost obsolete!
As a bit of a cinema buff, I offer myself for stage and screen if ever there be need of a rotting old man character. As the youth of today would probably say (I'm guessing, of course): I have that down.
Comment by Ray Dean on September 9, 2011 at 7:30pm
I love DUNE... a great movie.. if only because I had a huge love for all things Lynch and well.. "agent cooper" :D  wondering what you think were the steampunk tropes in the film... *pulling out my vhs tape*
Comment by Winfield H. Strock III on September 9, 2011 at 9:54pm
I too fell in love with the look of the '84 Dune movie.  I'd also recommend 'Dark City'; it's more noir  but I love it when a movie gets an eclectic look right.
Comment by Stephen Swartz on September 10, 2011 at 11:18am
Following up: They certainly did not use steam to power the spacecraft, so what I took as "steampunk" elements were chiefly the fashions worn (I recall some goggles) and the "art deco-esque" stylings of living quarters, spacecraft command centers, engine rooms, etc. And, though it may not perhaps be relevant, I liked that the final combat between the two rivals came down to a knife fight rather than more sophisticated weapons such as laser pistols or pulse-beam rifles. That seemed antiquated for a "galaxy far, far away" setting.
Comment by dave bartram on September 10, 2011 at 12:40pm
I wouldn't have called Dune's styling 'Steampunk'. Interesting thought though. My first tastes were a looong time ago when the term wasn't anywhere near to being coined. 'The First Men in the Moon', 'The Great Race', 'MOnte Carlo or Bust' all had stylistic elements we have come to associate with 'Steampunk'. And then, of course, there is 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'...
Comment by Stephen Swartz on September 10, 2011 at 5:39pm

Indeed, Mr. Bartram--and thanks for the other fine examples!

With "Dune," I was referring more to the aesthetic qualities than industrial fortitude. I believe that Steampunk has as much to offer in stylistic dimensions than as a strictly propulsive resource. What one finds in Victorian era fashions--and I am no expert, merely a casual observer of recycled material--is a fine blend of functionality and artistic integrity. I found that quality in the stage sets of "Dune"--before the word "steampunk" had been coined.

Now it seems as though I label anything that appears old and antique yet is intended to be futuristic or "alien" to be, in the greater sense, "steampunkesque" if not outright "steampunk."

What say the others to this statement?

Comment by dave bartram on September 11, 2011 at 10:15am

Interesting point. I would suggest that the Art Deco styling of Dune would be more in keeping with a 'Dieselpunk' label. Perhaps a confusion between Art Deco - a movement of the 1930s - and Arts and Crafts  - which largely defined certain notions of Victorian sensibilities.

I would also agree that the label gets chucked at anything with a vaguely retro kind of feel. Not the proper thing at all.

Comment by Stephen Swartz on September 11, 2011 at 10:51am

Indeed, there are ever more splinters of this punkish phenomena!

I do not profess to be an architect--nor a fashion maven. Thus, "art deco" is a term I have at my disposal for use in describing the artistic aspects of any decidedly un-artistic, functional thing such as buildings. I apply it in direct opposition to the glass and steel "modern" buildings of the modern era.
Dieselpunk does seem like a better comparison, now that I think back to the images I remember. However, is diesel allowed in a venue such as this?

Comment by dave bartram on September 11, 2011 at 11:14am
Who knows. Art Deco is a highly stylised form that came to prominence in what many call 'the golden age of diesel' - the 1930s. Think original 'Flash Gordon' or 'Buck Rogers' and the aesthetic used in Dune is clearly visible. Interestingly Art Deco came to prominence AFTER the birth of 'modern architcture' at the Bauhaus in Weimar Germany in the 1920s. The Bauhaus said buildings should be 'machines for living'. Much of the 'modern aesthetic to which you refer comes from the Bauhaus. Many of the teachers from the Bauhaus fled the Nazis to the US - where the ideas took very strong root.
Comment by Stephen Swartz on September 11, 2011 at 11:21am
Ah, perhaps I meant "post-modern" rather than modern! I recall "Modernism" was a good century ago, followed logically enough by POMO. I've heard it said that we are heading toward Futurianism. Seems to be a retro version of what the future was expected to be as seen through the eyes of those of the "Modern" period. So difficult to keep all of these pre- and post- things straight in an interdimensional voyager's mangled mind.
What goes around, comes around, no doubt.

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