"The Politics of Steampunk" panel description: Does steampunk as a genre have a politics? Is it just light-hearted fun? Is it even science fictional? Does it perpetuate or challenge our ideas about science, technology, labor, race, gender, and empire? John Everett Till, mod.; Catherine Lundoff, Mark Tersteeg
Steampunk history and definition:
- Term coined by K.W. Jeter; derived from cyberpunk
- First creative circle consisted of Blaylock, Powers, and Jeter
- "The Difference Engine" probably the first big work in the field
- Wide range of precursors and influences from Dickens and Stevenson, to Baum's Oz, to Wells and Verne, to Moorcock's "The Warlord of the Air"
- Definition includes some or all of the following:
- 19th Century setting (often Victorian London, but sometimes U.S.A.)
- Gaslight Fantasy (e.g., inclusion of fictional characters such as Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, etc.)
- May play with period popular literary themes ("penny dreadful"), events (Jack the Ripper), heroes and villains (see Jess Nevins' "Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana")
- Anachronistic technology
- Urban fantasy elements, period fantasy influences (e.g., ghosts, spirits, werewolves, vampires), horror, detective literature, paranormal romances, erotica
- May be set in a post-apocalyptic or other world setting (e.g., Airship Pirates RPG and China Mieville's Bas-Lag novels)
- May also refer to costuming, LARPing, Roleplaying, music
So, does Steampunk have a politics or is it just fun?
- Is steam powering this, or methane? Steampunk or Flatulopunk?
- Science vs. handwaves? - awareness of history and science
- History of SF's development as a field - awareness that not everything here is new
- Problematic themes re race, class, gender, empire, colonialism, imperialism
Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (1851) was a major influence on Blaylock, Powers, and Jeter and inspired the steampunk they wrote
Frederick Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844) is another classic expose
The Intersection of Race and Steampunk by Jaymee Goh (aka Jha)
Silver Goggles by Jha
Bryan Thao Worra's blog has numerous posts on steampunk, including efforts to imagine a Lao steampunk
Steampunk Magazine - an online magazine that has also been anthologized; offers fiction, DIY articles, political analysis, reviews, and more
The Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer and S.J. Chambers (an anthology of art, fiction, and more!)
Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and The Iron Council by China Mieville. The Bas-Lag novels.
Morlock Night and Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter. Just republished by Angry Robot Books.
What Lies Beneath the Clock Tower (2011; Combustion Books) by Margaret Killjoy - a steampunk choose-your-own adventure type game/novel.
Catastrophone Orchestra (2011; Combustion Books) by Margaret Killjoy. Short stories set in 19th C. New York's Lower East Side.
Clementine by Cherie Priest. Visit her Clockwork Century website. A white ex-Confederate woman spy travels on an airship with an African American captain and crew.
The Bookman, Camera Obscura, and The Great Game by Lavie Tidhar. Srries published by Angry Robot Books. Karl Marx is a character.
Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee. Fantasy 19th C. European Americans attempt to colonize fantasy Alaska natives. Well-received.
Victoriana, Second Edition (Cubicle 7). A system where social class really matters for your character build; problematic treatment of race.
Clockwork & Chivalry. Strictly speaking, not Victoriana or Steampunk. More like Clockpunk. The English Revolution with Cromwell's mechanical warmachines on one side, and the King's Alchemists on the other. Also see their Airship Pirates alt history time travelling steampunk RPG, based on the band of the same name.
Etherscope (Goodman Games). Alt history Victoriana meets spiritualism and cyberpunk head on! Set in a hyperindustrial, gritty version of Manchester, so you know this one is for the proles - and with a good soundtrack.