Airships and Goggles A Steampunk Primer

Celebrate the Book | Susan Schafer, TSCPL | Steampunk!

Steampunk:  “What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.”  Sub-genre of speculative fiction set in a Victorian-type setting.  Steam and clockwork technology!


  • The Steam Man of the Prairies – Edison technology $.10 novels
  • Frankenstein, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells – 19th century speculative fiction.  Known techs: steam, clockworks and electricity
  • Michael Moorcock, Ronald Clark, Tim Powers, K. W. Jeter – Cyberpunk.  Negative view of impact of technology.  Enslaves, bad for society and humans.  1967-1987 – “Victorian Fantasies” – term steampunks coined in 1987..
  • William Gibson The Difference Engine – based on Charles Babbage math machine (1821).  Built in 2002.   Conspiracy theorist feel to it, says Kelly Fann (who read it).
New and Not-to-miss Series and Books:
  • Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld – Leviathan, Behemoth, Goliath – Allied powers = Darwinists.  Clankers = Central powers.  Alternate WWI.  YA Literature – teen POV – with adult appeal.
  • Clockwork Century series – Cherie Priest Boneshaker, Clementine, Dreadnought, Ganymede – alt US history with Civil war still going on!    Seattle destroyed by a mining machine that released a poisonous gas, creating Zombies = “rotters.”  Underground society – western type town (think Dodge).  Read the series in order – follow up books based on secondary characters, but there is an overarching story.  Hard to get a copy of Clementine – based on publishers.  Available on Kindle.
  • Mark Hodder Burton & Swinburne (TV writer in the UK) – Spring Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man. Light mystery, Victoria dead and Albert King, so the story is of his investigators.  Twist of Sherlock Holmes.  Funny with good characters.  Older young adult and adult audience.
  • Felix Gilman The Half-Made World and Jean-Christophe Valiat Aurorarama – World building – Recommended for adults b/c of the concepts involved.  Fantasy/western/steam punk and magical realism (Gilman’s book).   Valiat’s book feels like you have missed out an a history of the Arctic – Utopian society corrupted.  Slow start – world building, New Venice and its decaying beauty – sets up for last 1/3 of the book and follow ups.  Female characters written as week, says reviewers.
  • Ann and Jeff Vandermeer – Steampunk, Steampunk II, Steampunk Bible  Short stories and good overview of the genre.  Kudo’s to Diane Trinkle at Nortonville – she has the Steampunk Bible in NExpress.
  • Boilerplate by Paul Guinan  | Steampunk Style Jewelry by Jean Campbell | Steampunk: The art of Victorian Futurism
  • Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Detectives, Erotica, Sci Fi and Westerns all have Steampunk sub-genres! Iron Duke, Soulless are two I’ve read.  New Meljean Brooks – Heart of Steel
    • Corsets & Clockwork | Mechanique  | New Amsterdam | clockwork heart | Heart of Veridon | All men of Genius | The Hunter by Theresa Meyers | Phoenix Rising A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel | China M. Perdido Street Station
Music Groups:
  • Abney Park | Clockwork Dolls | Dresden Dolls | Doctor Steel
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea | Around the World in 80 Days | Chitty Chitty Bang Bang | The Golden Compass | League of Extraordinary Gentlemen | Mysterious Island | The Prestige |Sherlock Holmes | Wild Wild West | Van Helsing and the new Three Muskateers (has an airship in it)
TV and Radio:
  • Wild Wild West, Voyagers, Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
Web sites:
Where do you put these?

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