Dark Carnivale

Welcome brass hinged ladies of adventure and extraordinary gentlemen. Put on your goggles the airship will soon be leaving the mooring. Now I know that some of your dear parents do not think that proper ladies and gentlemen should engage in such vulgar activities but we shall be engaged in a difficult race to the South Pole. We are reliably informed that Field Marshal Von Shwerin’s Zepplin departed Prussia this Tuesday last so the honor of England is at stake. Raise your glasses in a toast with me before we cast off: To a worthy foe, our bonnie ship and Good Queen Victoria. May British airships always rule the sky

I remember reading Blaylock’s Homunculus and thinking it was pretty cool. I read Tim Powers and K.W. Jeter too. The three of them pretty much invented the subgenre of science fiction called Steampunk. Polished brass, gleaming copper, bright glass and lots of clockwork, it’s a re-imagined history, it’s retro futurism with a Victorian aesthetic. It’s movies, TV, music, video games, art and fashion. Author Cherie Priest writes that steampunk is “a reaction to the school of design that says all tech must look flat shiny and inscrutable; it’s a rebuttal of disposable culture and wasteful consumption.”  I thought it was just science fiction, when did it become a lifestyle?

Steampunk isn’t just a sub-genre now, it’s a trend. Play Bio Shock for a chance to explore the underwater city of Rapture and battle the quirky mechanical drones there. Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. had enough wooshing steam and clockwork devices to qualify. Have you seen Warehouse 13? Those prop computers are actually working art by the technofetishism artist Datamancer. I’m not quite sure what the Underground Industrial Gothic music scene is. It either involves banjo heavy metal or electric violins. Women of adventure can go to Clockwork Couture to find the proper outfit for an airship voyage to the poles or circumnavigating the equator. It’s romantic technology, it’s all around you.

Yes this is functional computer

Fans have been reimagining all sorts of objects as steam powered mechanical devices. Go look on e-bay if you don’t believe me.  Your pocket watch might double as a time machine or your dad might leave you a golden compass. The Steampunk look reflects the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Goggles, clockwork DIY devices and baroquely engraved or embroidered items are added to the traditional corsets, gowns, frock coats and top hats. You can even have a Steampunk i-pod (All functionality of the iPod remain intact an a hidden USB cord retracts from the base to either a wall charger or your computer . There are hidden pressure plates that when touched send a strobing “static charge” into the quartz crystals on either side of the magnified viewing portal) to match your pocket watch with the works showing. Crafting and handmade retail sites like Etsy.com report that that they’ve seen growth from the trend. Steampunk is currently one of the top ten most-searched items at Etsy.

Then there’s the music. I’m not really sure what the Underground Gothic Industrial music scene is. I don’t think the people who make steampunk music know either.  It seems to range from banjo heavy metal to the more mainstream industrial dance old world traditional songs of Abney park. There even is Hip Hop steampunk with the opera’s of Dr. Steel. Just exactly what is carnatic fusion music? I’ll have to ask Purrdey if she’s ever heard of Sunday Driver they seem to be popular in the UK steampunk scene. The lead singer Chandrika “Chandy” Nath composed some of their songs while monitoring ice floes near the ice pole.

That reminds me. My pocket watch has just chimed and the Sherpa are waiting for me to board. The hardy little men make the best air crews. I’m quite sure we’ll beat Field Marshal Von Shwerin to the South Pole.

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4 Responses to Dark Carnivale

  1. Jenny Beans says:

    I have not read any steampunk yet, though I suppose that puts me pretty far behind the bandwagon. Knowing me, I’ll fall in love with it when it’s not popular anymore and dive in like it’s a swimming pool of cool water on a roaster of a day in hell.

    • chikuba says:

      Try Perdido Street Station by China Miéville.


      “Miéville has explicitly attempted to move fantasy away from J. R. R. Tolkien’s influence, which he has criticized as stultifying and reactionary (he once described Tolkien as “the wen on the arse of fantasy literature”

      Ok don’t throw the book at Loki now.

      • Vickie McCarty says:

        So is the “Golden Compass” by Phillip Pullman a form of steampunk literature?

      • chikuba says:

        It’s got some steampunk elements but Golden Compass is essentially Phillip Pullman’s response to kid lit the Chronicles of Narnia in particular. Remember how everyone on The Well loved it? When it gets down to having to read certain kid’s books because of your ideology you’re going too far.

        The movie sets are totally and 100% steampunk though.

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