Steampunk Summer #2: Being a Bookworm

Steampunk Summer #2: Being a Bookworm

In the middle of all things creative is media: created by writing, recording, painting and so on. Steampunk requires quite an elaborate set up and huge chunk of its creator’s time, so fruits of its media are very rich. Lets start with one media that is still strong today in general, powered by imagination and essential to steampunk:

Written word 

Like we mentioned in the first installment of the Steampunk Summer, it is predominantly influenced by works of H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley and Jules Verne, whose ”20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” novel (and later a movie adaptation), served as one of the genera precursors on the silver screen. However, we should not skip over Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Mark Twain, Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens and many other renounced writers that influenced the genera.

20,000 leagues under the sea

The definition of steampunk came from K.W. Jeter in the 1980’s. A bit before that arrived first novels that influenced formation of steampunk. Jeter was one of the few authors that shaped the genera and one of his more known novels is ”Morlock Night”, published in 1979, a sequel to H.G. Wells’ ”The Time Machine”. Also, from the 70’s is notable trilogy by Michael Morecock ”A Nomad of the Time Streams”. Third book came out in 1981.

Things started to move

80’s weren’t massively fruitful, but Jetter gave us ”Infernal Devices”, Tim Powers published ”The Anubis Gates” and James P. Blaylock wrote ”Homunculus”. Today, those works are serving as a great starting points for fresh steampunkers. Things started to huff and puff in the 90‘s, especially with ”Lord Kelvin’s Machine” by Blaylock and ”The Difference Engine” by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Everything blasted of at the turn of the century, but let’s not get carried away just yet.

golden compass

1995 was the year that gave us ”Northern Lights”, better known in North America as ”The Golden Compass”, that was also adapted into the movie. That is first novel by Philip Pullman in his ”His Dark Materials” trilogy. There are dozens of stand alone novels, trilogies and book series that were published in and after the 90‘s, and mentioning them all would be quite a long list, so I’m gonna point out more popular series. Just in case you don’t want to wander as a lost puppy in the sea of steampunk literature.

Series, in case you want more

For the lovers of horror there is the ”Anno Dracula”, series by Kim Newman. First installment was published in 1992 and it has four novels including more than 10 short stories and novellas. In 1995, the ”Steampunk Trilogy” by Paul di Filippo was the first one to use term steampunk in its title. Leaving the 90’s, and for those who like to laugh out loud, we have ”Ned the Seal” trilogy by Joe R. Lansdale. Unfortunately the third book is not out yet, and it’s publishing date is officially unknown.

ketty jay

If you are missing little TV show called ”Firefly”, then you’ll love ”Tales of Ketty Jay” by Chris Wooding. Series started in 2007 and features crew of misfits on an airship. Fourth installment in the series will be published later this year. Lastly, but in any case not the least important in this sequence, is one of the most steampunky series out there. ”Jackelian series” by Stephen Hunt. Victorian-esque world with a hint of magic that is praised by critics and readers.

One-off, and… off

There are a lot of new series that sprung in the last five years and many of them are fan-favourite. I will let future to decide which ones will stand the test of time. But, from stand alone novels that I did not mention, I must point out ”Perdido Street Station” by China Mieville. It is best known for playing with boundaries of genera, showing how it can be flexible.

girl genius

One of my favourite steampunk books (even before I knew what steampunk is) is ”Girl Genius” by Kaja and Phil Foglio. Well, it is actually web comic book series, that is published online and in print. Award winning, it gives you visuals to all that mad steam powered technology. Other web comic that I recently started to read is ”Freak Angels” by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield. Less updated than the previously mentioned one, it is allocated in future with X-man elements.

Phew, I hope I did not bombard you with all the choices, but that only shows versatility of the steampunk literature. From dark and gloomy, to wacky and funny, there is a pick for everybody. Just take one book, or e-reader in your hands and start the journey.


Hrvoje Hrsto

Hrvoje is BA audio engineer graduate from SAE Institute in Ljubljana, currently freelancing and writing. His interests are music, television and all things geeky.

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