Classic Steampunk Books And Movies

Steampunk Spans Books, Movies And Fashion

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What Is Steampunk

Steampunk is sub-genre of science fiction with a large and growing following. The genre is a highly visual and stylized retro-science fiction based on theoretical what-if scenarios and alternate timelines. The stories are often based in the past, usually in the old west, Victorian England and other early times. Plot lines and stories explore what if things were different? What if the knights of medieval Europe had access to steam engines? What if science of the Victorian age had advanced to a level similar to what we have today? What would all this look like?

Steampunk is also all the art, literature, movies and fashion associated with this genre. There is a growing sub-culture that embraces steampunk as a lifestyle. Characters in book and film are often dressed according to the fashion of the period but modified as if they were steam engineers, scientists or some other technologically advanced personage. Leather gloves and aprons, overcoats, top hats and goggles are all part of steampunk fashion. They are used to accessorize an outfit based on period dress.

What Does Steampunk Mean

Steampunk is a word coined in the mid'80's. It was first used to describe a type of science fiction that was based on older technology, such as steam. The word first appeared in a letter from author K.W. Jeter to Locus magazine. In the letter he referred to himself and other authors as writers of "gonzo-historical" fiction. This fiction is represented by what-if, alternate history scenarios in which technology has moved along a different path than the one we currently know.

Steampunk has since grown to include a number of hybrid genres including horror, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, alternate history and others. Works may focus on scenarios based on futuristic technology from a historical perspective, alternate timelines or history changed by time travel. Works often include steam powered machines and other fanciful equipment operated by clockworks, diesel (diesel punk is also a sub-genre) or springs.

The Steampunk Museum

Classic Steampunk Novels

There are a number of novels, though written long ago, that retroactively fall into the category of steampunk. These novels, also called classic steampunk, are actually science fiction written from the perspespective of an earlier time. If you think about, once our own technology advances far enough, science fiction from this time could be considered steampunkish.

  • Frankenstein, (1818)Mary Shelley : Written in the early parts of the 19th century this book explores the newly developing sciences of medicine and electricity. Scientist and experimenter Dr. Frankenstein uses a wildly hypothetical machine to resurrect a man using fanciful mechanical machinery. Unbeknownst to him there side effects of the procedure that lead to the rest of the story. Frankenstein may be the first novel to exhibit qualities that are now termed steampunk.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, (1870) Jules Verne : Jules Verne is one of the foremost writers of early science fiction and a pioneer in the genre. His books, such as 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1870), are in depth examinations of the possibilities inherent with newly developing technologies. Written from the perspective of a seagoing Englishman of the mid 19th century this book was the pinnacle of steampunk before steampunk had a name. The Nautilus was wickedly advanced yet still functioned on steam, valves and gauges like real machinery of the time.
  • The Time Machine, (1895) H.G. Wells : Wells is considered to be one of the fathers of modern science fiction. This story, written in 1895, embodies what modern steampunk strives to achieve, an account of futuristic scientific discovery based on the perspectives of Victorian England. This, along with The Invisible Man and The War Of The Worlds, are among the pillars of modern sci-fi and a great read for steampunk enthusiasts.
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,(1964) Ian Fleming : Yes, that's right, Ian Fleming, the author and creator of James Bond. His story of a magical car was so captivating it has been made into musicals and movies. The story revolves around Caractatus Pot, inventor of whistle pops. He buys an old car and tinkers it into a flying machine that take the family on a grand adventure.

Steampunk Novels From Amazon

Modern Steampunk Novels

The Difference Engine, William Gibson Bruce Sterling : Portrays a Victorian England changed by the invention of an advanced computing machine. Charles Babbage is well known as one of the fathers of modern computing, this novel postulates on what if Babbage had succeeded with his dream of creating a programmable computing machine. Winner of numerous awards for science fiction and fiction.

Warlord Of The Air, Michael Moorcock : Story of an Edwardian era British soldier stationed in India. After entering an old temple he finds himself transported nearly 70 years into the future. He is picked up by a massive airship in a 1973 that evolved along a much different timeline the one we know. This is the first in a three part series and is one of several books first referenced as steampunk.

Mortal Engines , Phillip Reeves : A post apocalyptic story of new world order and the struggle to regain a sense of the past. Residents of earth find themselves picking through the remains of past society in order to find bits of technology. Scavengers, archeologists and guilds rule the world in this four part award winning series.


Steampunk Goggles

Just what are steampunk goggles? Steampunk goggles are one of the most iconic and recognizable portions of a steampunk costume. Out of all the possible choices for designing a steampunk costume goggles are the one you will most likely find in each and everyone.

Characters in steampunk fiction usually wear some form of goggles. This is for two reasons; protection and enhancement. Eye protection is a requirement for steampunks because of the dangerous nature of working with steam engines and other highly advanced mechanical technology. Steampunk goggles can also enhance vision with a wide variety of embellishments like night vision or x-ray vision.

Steampunk goggles are usually made from materials that would be common before the invention and widespread use of plastic. Goggles are usually, but not always, binocular... that is the eye ports are separate. Brass, leather, rubber and rivets are all common features of a great pair of steampunk goggles.

Goggles Can Turn Any Costume Into Steampunk

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Classic Steampunk Movies

There is evidence of steampunk-like themes in film dating back to the early days of the industry. Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) is the earliest recognized film and a precursor to many other works. In the film a Romeo and Juliet type story line unfolds in a futuristic society dominated by wild technology and rampant classism. Since then steampunkish themes have emerged in film and television. The classic wild west TV show, The Wild Wild West (1965-1969), is only one of many more recent examples of the genre.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea(1954) Walt Disney production starring Kirk Douglas, Peter Lorre and James Mason as Captain Nemo. This is a film adaptation of the original Jules Verne work. The set designs, costumes and other gadgets portrayed in the film are the basis for much of what is considered to be steampunk fashion and style today. Goggles are evident hear as well, primarily on the diving suits.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) Albert R. Broccoli and Ian Flemming. This film is based on the original book and stars Dick Van Dyke as Caractacus Potts. The story, sets, costumes and machines are firmly steampunkish and have also helped to set the standard for current steampunk fashion. Caractacus is the most obvious wearer of goggles in this movie as he tinkers with Chitty.

Mad Max, Beyond ThunderDome(1985) George Miller and George Olgivie. This film, one of my all-time favorites, is on the fringes of steampunk and cyberpunk. In the story a wanderer in post apocalyptic Australia finds himself ensnared by the ruthless leader of a town fueled by crude methane powered generators and pieced together technologies. Goggles and other eye protection are used in this movie as well, particularly towards the end during the chase scenes.

The Adventures Of Baron Von Munchausen(1988) Terry Gilliam. This film recounts the outragous tales of Baron Von Munchausen. In the movie he enthralls his audience with stories of his exploits against the Turks during the Ottoman War. The story embraces many themes common to steampunk; alternate history, whimsical machinery operated by clock works, science fiction and style from the 1800's. Steampunk goggles make appearances in this movie on more than one occasion.

Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow (2004) Kerry Conran. This film was the spectacular debut for the talented Conran. This film is set in an alternate 1939 based on a different progression of technology. The skies are filled with giant airships and the characters have futuristic weaponry reminiscent of the Flash Gordon movie. The classic steampunk accessory goggles are highly visible in this film and worn by several of the main characters.


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Comments 1 comment

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

Very interesting and I know my partner will like this one too;So thanks for sharing and I look forward to so many more by you.

Eddy.

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