Recently, everyone and their grandmother are trying to place steampunk in the grander scope of things. Most of pop culture has poked at it at this point. Many in the SF/F community gives the subculture a passing nod (or are slowly edging away, since, being early adapters by nature, quite a few in sci-fi are tired of it already).
Still, questions about steampunk have set people in pursuit of the deeper meanings behind the aesthetic movement. Two years ago, Intel’s futurist Brian David Johnson wanted to answer the biggest one about steampunk’s rise: “Why now?” He was joined by a cultural historian James Carrott and they filmed a documentary, which permutated into a book by the same name: Vintage Tomorrows (or two books, actually. Steampunking Our Future: An Embedded Historian’s Notebook is the free e-book companion you can get online).
I had the pleasure of meeting them at NYCC a couple of years ago to hear their idea first-hand: steampunk has the potential to be a counterculture. I’m actually on the fence about this (surprised, right?). Because, as much as I love the subculture, radical change isn’t a given to participate. Lo and behold, however, when a copy handed on my desk awhile back, I gave their research a gander.
[How to fall in love with a subculture in 10 easy steps -- Read the rest of Tor.com]
[Note from Ay-leen: Cross-posting P. Djeli Clark's blog The Disgruntled Haradrim]
Sometime in the 1930s, a black journalist is kidnapped in Harlem by the charismatic Dr. Henry Belsidius, leader of the Black Internationale–a shadowy organization determined to build a Black Empire and overthrow the world of white racial hegemony with cunning and super science. Journalist George S. Schulyer’s fantastic tale was written in serials in the black Pittsburgh Courier between 1936 and 1938 under the pseudonym Samuel I. Brooks. It quickly found a loyal following among African-American readers, who saw in Dr. Belsidius and the Black Internationale a heroic, sci-fi tale of black nationalism, triumph and race pride. The newspaper was surprised at the serials’ growing popularity, and pushed for more–sixty-two in all. Yet no one was as surprised at the story’s success than George Schulyer who, disdaining what he saw as the excesses of black nationalism and race pride, had written Black Empire as satire.
Okay, for those who know me, I’m very into non-western steampunk. And I enjoy kung fu comedies. A good steampunk film isn’t just pretty-looking with quirky tech, but addresses shifting social and cultural values in light of early industrialization and urbanization. A good kung fu flick has me cheering at the melodrama, holding my breath (or my abs or my head) in sympathy to whatever punches kicks or wall-breaking tumbles the characters go through. At New York Comic Con this past weekend, I attended the screening of Tai Chi Zero, which promised the best of both.
[Read "Finally a Chinese Steampunk Movie that Unquestionably Is Exactly That: Tai Chi Zero" on Tor.com]
I was at a reading for Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan when he mentioned off-hand that it would be a trilogy… with an illustrated guide to the world he was building, in the style of the Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World.
Now, there are a lot of reasons that I liked the Spiderwick guide—I’m a big fan of Tony DiTerlizzi, for instance—but the deep reason is that I’m gonzo for apocrypha. Those sorts of bits and extras that deepen worldbuilding, whether they are art books like Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Art of the Animated Series or in-world mythology like The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The icing on the cake with The Manual of Aeronautics is that Keith Thompson does the art for it, as he did for the series.
[Read "The Manual of Aeronautics: The Art of the Leviathan Trilogy" on Tor.com]
Filed under Essays, Review
[Note from Ay-leen: Never forget, October 3rd....]
So… we recently asked cartoonist and Friends With Boys author Faith Erin Hicks if she had any strong opinions about steampunk. The answer quite literally speaks for itself!
What you’ll read below is Faith’s intense and lovely comic strip letter celebrating the existence of Fullmetal Alchemist. Once you’re done squeeing in boisterous agreement, you can check out Faith’s comic strips about The Hunger Games, Prometheus, and way, way more here. She and Prudence Shen are also currently serializing a new graphic novel about cheerleaders versus robot builders at www.nothingcanpossiblygowrong.com!
[Read the full comic review on Tor.com]
Filed under Essays, Review
I first saw the work of artist Kehinde Wiley at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s still there. You walk in, and on the left wall is an immense mural of a figure that looks somewhat like Tony Starks (Ghostface, not Downey Jr.), on horseback crossing the alps–a reworking of Jacques-Louis David’s 1800 oil-painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps orBonaparte at the St Bernard Pass.
Filed under Essays, Review
Note: This review is cross-posted with permission from the Airship Ambassador.
When AetherFest’s chairmen, Pablo Vazquez and Cameron Hare, invited me as a guest to AetherFest in San Antonio, Texas, I instantly thought of three things:
“The stars at night
Are big and bright,
Deep in the heart of Texas!”
And then Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure when he went to find his stolen bicycle in the basement of the Alamo (Note: Alamo website plays music and sounds).
And finally this:
Oops, wait, wrong city.
Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series about S.J.’s steampunk adventures in Florida. Read Part 1 here.
Abney Park at the Florida Steampunk Society Exhibition East, Daytona Beach Resort, Florida.
The main event was Saturday night. Opening with Cog is Dead, an intermission performance by local artist Perego, the audience was thoroughly warmed up for headliners Abney Park. This was my first time seeing the “quintessential” Steampunk band live, and I was really impressed with how the band’s energy fed into the audience and vice versa.