In Which This Recording Killed Steampunk…Or Did It?

Suspenseful Cliffhangers

by Molly Lambert

STEAMPUNK! Is anything dorkier? Does a New York times style section story on a subculture mean it’s officially dead? Does the world really need more Victorian modded objects? Does the world really need more objects period? Do you really want to live in a nautical chamber located twenty thousand leagues under the sea? Is it weird that I still kind of do want to live underwater?

A Technically Adept Stoner’s Steampunk Bong Creation

Is it possible that Stoner Culture is even nerdier than Steampunk? Is combining the two, (as in the contraption above, called the Original Model 420 Pneumatiform Infumationizer) some sort of ungodly meeting of geekular netherworlds? Will they join forces or form gangs and fight to the death like The Warriors? If they rumble at Burning Man will the battlefield be littered with broken bong stems and bashed-in brass goggles?

Edwardian Star Wars Robot R2 S2 (the S stands for Steam)

Is the future now past? Does Malcolm Gladwell read This Recording for story ideas or is it a case of concurrent innovations? Whom can we blame for the emergence of Steampunk? Jules Verne? H.G. Wells? William Gibson for The Difference Engine? Christopher Nolan for The Prestige? Scarlett Johanssen for using The Prestige to demonstrate she can’t pull off a British accent at all? Is ScarJo using Ghostbusters for evil?

“My god David Bowie Tesla, what an enormous lightbulb!”

Is Scarlett Johanssen Hollywood’s Sasha Grey? Is Sasha Grey the sex industry’s Scarlett? Will Woody Allen abandon his gross crush on S.J. when he learns about S.G.? Or has he already abandoned her for the even younger more shiksa-y pastures of Evan Rachel Wood? Will I ever stop being creeped out by old perverts?

Back To The Future III is a Weird Western. So is Wild Wild West. They both happen to suck. However, Westworld rules.

How many other sci-fi nerd trends can we cross-breed with steampunk? Where will it end? With the Star Wars steampunk lightsaber? The Back To The Future style steampunk time machine? The Dan Clowes drawn cover for this week’s tech-themed issue of The New Yorker evoking low-culture touchstones like comic books, personal automatons, and robots playing poker? Is the internet collapsing in on itself like a black hole?

The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs = Steampunk Jurassic Park?

Were the Disney Imagineers way ahead of the curve when they redid Tomorrowland in a pseudo-steampunk manner some years ago? Or were they just paying tribute to designer Harper Goff who art-directed the 1954 Disney film version of early sci-fi classic 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (and later did the amazingly cool sets for Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory)?

the Old Jules Verne Submarine Ride, still in action at Disneyworld

Was closing the Disneyland Jules Verne themed submarine ride and replacing it with a much tamer and lamer Finding Nemo one a tragedy or merely a travesty? Is the Disneyland Resort in Japan way cooler than the American ones for having a Mysterious Island dark ride? Or is it because of Disney Sea, the entirely aquatic theme park featuring a fake Cape Cod, a volcano called Mount Prometheus, and King Triton’s Kingdom from The Little Mermaid?

Is Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant The Steampunk Iron Man?

What is the ultimate Steampunk vacation or fieldtrip? The Museum Of Victorian Science? A Dinosaur Safari at the Crystal Palace Park in London? The exquisitely ridiculous House On The Rock? The Winchester Mystery House? The Belvedere Castle in Central Park? The British Natural History Museum? Perhaps a journey to Treasure Planet? A time machine back to The Great Exhibition of 1851 to check out the Tempest Prognosticator?

London’s Crystal Palace Housing The Great Exposition Of 1851

Was H.G. Wells really such a strong believer in eugenics that The Time Machine is an allegory for it? Is it plausible to assume that Jules Verne was a homosexual pederast? Must all of my heroes turn out to be pedophiles, creeps, and scientific racists? Bringing it all back home, did you know that Woody Allen loosely based Sleeper on the H.G. Wells story The Sleeper Awakes?

Weird Musical Automatons at The House On The Rock

What questions still remain to be asked? Is This Recording more of an Edisonade or a Robinsonade? Is there such a thing as a scientific romantic comedy? Will a World Government ever prove sustainable? Will there ever be a real War Of The Worlds? Will we able to teleport objects (say, candy bars) through computer screens anytime soon? And will they be edible or evil?

Molly Rose Lambert is the senior editor of This Recording

SONGS FOR SOME FUTURES LONG SINCE PASSED

The Kinks don’t have a complete monopoly on music dealing with nostalgia, Victoriana, and bittersweet reveries, but they definitely helped write the book. Certainly Ray Davies knows a thing or two about saudade, especially the England-specific variety.

Last Of The Steam-Powered Trains” – The Kinks

Complicated Life” – The Kinks

Days” – The Kinks

Dead End Street” – The Kinks

I Go To Sleep” – The Kinks

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Robots Are Coming To Replace You

Eugenics And Anthropometry

Circus Theater Of Magic Castles

This Recording is 20,000 Blogs Under The Net

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13 thoughts on “In Which This Recording Killed Steampunk…Or Did It?

  1. Although many works now considered seminal to the genre were published in the 1960s and 1970s, the term steampunk originated in the late 1980s as a tongue in cheek variant of cyberpunk. It seems to have been coined by the science fiction author K. W. Jeter, who was trying to find a general term for works by Tim Powers (author of The Anubis Gates, 1983), James Blaylock (Homunculus, 1986) and himself (Morlock Night, 1979 and Infernal Devices, 1987) which took place in a Victorian setting and imitated conventions of actual Victorian speculative fiction such as H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine. In a letter to the science fiction magazine Locus, printed in the April 1987 issue, Jeter wrote:

    Dear Locus,

    Enclosed is a copy of my 1979 novel Morlock Night; I’d appreciate your being so good as to route it Faren Miller, as it’s a prime piece of evidence in the great debate as to who in “the Powers/Blaylock/Jeter fantasy triumvirate” was writing in the “gonzo-historical manner” first. Though of course, I did find her review in the March Locus to be quite flattering.

    Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like “steampunks,” perhaps … — K.W. Jeter.

  2. Which is better? The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at Disneyland or Disneyworld? I’d have to say World, but that’s based on sheer regionalism.

  3. Well the Disneyworld one is still Jules Verne themed, so it definitely wins over the Disneyland one which is now Finding Nemo. Neither one holds a candle to Disney Sea in Tokyo, which has a Journey To The Center Of The Earth dark ride which I’d give my left robotic arm to visit.

  4. No. Yes. Maybe. Good one. Yes. No. Yes. Definitely. Hmm. Yes. Yes. Yes and yes. Descartes. No. No. Yes. Yes. No. Oh No! Who is Sasha Grey? No. No. No. N + 1. [Etc.]

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