Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Steampunk. The Art of Victorian Futurism by Jay Strongman

This beautiful, glossy book is a visual treat for those interested in steampunk, the subgenre of science fiction that encompasses 19th century technology with Victorian and Edwardian elegance. Beautifully  illustrated with fascinating and gorgeous photographs and well written, Steampunk is treat to those who are fascinated by this genre.

From the Introduction here are a few quotes to tease your interest:

It's about a fictional place in time and space where Victorian and Edwardian elegance collide with gothic horror and modern science - a sepia-tinted world where My Fair Lady meets The Terminator."

There is also in Steampunk a nostalgic hunger for a period in recent history when much of the world, for the West, was still an unexplored exotic mystery waiting to be discovered and space travel was just a fanciful dream. But, more significantly, (and this is where we put the "Steam" into Steampunk) there is also a longing for an age in which machines were awe-inspiring steam-powered engines and magnificent clockwork mechanisms of gleaming brass, polished wood and shining steel...."
Many steampunk novels deal with the British military conquering foes using fantastic airships and other unique military machines.

Steampunk as an art movement deals with craftmanship. Many steampunk artists are focused on creating fully functional pieces of art with visible mechanisms in the Victorian style. This is in contrast to modern technology in which the "mechanisms" are micro-circuits invisible to the eye and where function isn't apparent. It just works because it does. This disconnect between man and machine has been increasing with each generation removed from the Victorian age.

"Steampunk not only relishes those possibilities, and attempts to capture them in word and art, but also tries to imagine the innovations of our present and our future as if the Victorians themselves were designing and manufacturing them."

The late 1800's were a time of monumental change in society especially in areas of science, technology and medicine. It was also an era of unlimited possibilities, where science was seen to have the potential to vastly improve the quality of life of mankind and where the limits were only the imagination.

As a subculture steampunk first showed up as a literary sub-genre in science fiction more than a century ago. The works of Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe were the forerunners of the literary movement. These early novels suggested that scientific knowledge could possibly "threaten and ultimately upset the natural order" p.15

Into this era came two streams of thought - that of Jules Verne and the other of H.G. Wells. Jules Verne and H.G.Wells were the pioneers of modern science fiction however, they had different approaches. Verne's novels tended towards the romantic aspect of exploration while Wells dealt more with the potential for catastrophe that technology and science might bring about.

Steampunk is now a subculture that includes art, fashion, design, music and print and that is what this book tries to show the reader. It is a showcase of objects d'art, diagrams and pieces constructed by various artists. Here is one example below:

Automaton (Other), 2006 Mannequin-robot 'torture machines' by Kazuhiko Nakamura

No comments: