Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Get Steamed!

Steampunk - a Just Another Paranormal Monday Feature

We're kicking off 2012 at Just Another Paranormal Monday with a roaring start - right into the
mechanical, manical and other-wordly realm of gizmos, gadgets and the probability of bending time.

Some of our readers might ask themselves - What is Steampunk? Well, according to Webster it is --
a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam
power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world.

So, being the consumate seekers of knowledge we've dug up some dirt and asked fiction author, Joe Vadalma to assist us with a bit of research - here's what he found:


by Joe Vadalma

Because this is Steampunk week on Just Another Paranormal Monday, I've been asked to do a piece on this subgenre of science fiction and fantasy. Actually, the only Steampunk novel I've ever read was The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. This novel is an archetype of the subgenre.

For you who do not what Steampunk is, it is closely related to Alternate History and may even be considered a subgenre of a subgenre. To quote Wikipedia, "Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used – usually Victorian era Britain or the 'Wild West' era of the United States – that incorporates elements of science fiction or fantasy. Works of Steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic inovations as Victorians may have envisioned them ... This technology includes fictional machines as those found in the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne ..." The term Steampunk was coined by a Science Fiction writer, K.W. Jeter, in a letter that accompanied to a submission of his novel Morlock Night.

In The Difference Engine, Charles Babbage, the man who originated the concept of a programmable computer, builds a steam driven computer that is equivalent in processing power to a modern computer. This, of course, changes history, making England the superpower that the United States is today. It is an interesting novel and well worth reading.

Several movies have been made in the Steampunk genre. I'm only going to review the ones I've actually seen. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was released in 2003. The League consists of the following fictional characters from late nineteenth century novels: Captain Nemo from Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the vampiress Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's Dracula, an invisible man, Tom Sawyer, grown-up and a US secret agent, the ageless Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray and Doctor Jeckell/Mr. Hyde from The Strange Case of Doctor Jeckell and Mister Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. A motley crew to say the least. The villain of the movie is Professor Moriarity of Sherlock Holmes fame. Personally, I didn't care for the movie, but I dislike movies with superheroes fighting nefarious villains. It's all too contrived and predictable.

The TV series Doctor Who may be considered Steampunk with his time traveling phone booth. The few episodes I've actually seen were watchable but not memorable.

Here are some other Steampunk movies I have seen and my assessment of them:

Time After Time – H.G. Wells uses his fictitious time machine to chase the serial killer Jack the Ripper to the twentieth century and falls in love with a bank clerk. A silly sort of romantic comedy.

The Golden Compass -- takes place in an alternate universe where each human's soul is embodied in a companion animal called a daemon. The story concerns Lyra, an orphan living in a fantastical parallel universe in which a dogmatic theocracy called the Magisterium threatens to dominate the world. When Lyra's friend is kidnapped, she travels to the far North in an attempt to rescue him and rejoin her uncle. Interesting but aimed at a young audience.

Van Helsing – I really liked this movie. It was a fast paced thriller where the vampire killer from the novel Dracula is sent to Transylvania to destroy Dracula so that the captured souls of an ancient family called Velarius can be freed. Meeting the last of the Velarius family, a young woman called Anna, Van Helsing and his group are repeatedly attacked by the vampire brides of Dracula. Meanwhile Dracula himself has captured Anna's brother who is a werewolf and is experimenting on him in his laboratory. Aided by Frankenstein's Monster (who has never forgiven Dracula for killing his creator Dr Frankenstein), Van Helsing must overcome repeated danger in order to help Anna and her family. Much fun.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Several versions of Jules Verne novel have been made. The best one was released in 1954 with Kirk Douglas.

Hellboy – Although I usually loath superheroes, I liked this one where the son of the devil fights crime. Perhaps it was because it did not take itself too seriously.

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells novel made into a movie. Okay. I'd give it 31/2 stars out of a possible 5.

The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen – is a man who simply cannot help telling wildly exaggerated stories of his bravery and adventures. He has gained a reputation as a liar, but when he meets a little girl who truly believes in his legendary exploits, he is inspired to live up to his reputation in order to help her and her home town which is being besieged by the Turkish army. The quest involves a variety of adventures including a trip to the moon in a hot air balloon, an encounter with the the Goddess Venus and her husband Vulcan, being swallowed alive by a sea-monster and a first hand encounter with death. Although aimed at a juvenile audience, I enjoyed this movie.

Wow! Some really great stuff - thanks, Joe! To add to this we also dug a little deeper and found these great web sites:

Barron Halfpenny


Steampunk Emporium


Steampunk Magazine


Steampunk Lab


Clockwork Couture


Steampunk Guide


A Weekend at the Asylum - 2012


Steampunk Festival - 2012


SheVaCon 20′s theme for 2012 is ‘Victorian Fantasy’


As you can see there is a whole wide world of amazing and aluring things to get steamed about. We hope you continue to join us through January as we wander through this amazing genre!

Happy Reading ~ K.

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