Sunday, December 13, 2009
The question of “magic” in Steampunk has perplexed me for quite a while. Steampunk tends to focus on alternate technologies (e.g. steam, cavorite, clockwork devices, ect) as part of the rationale behind the “amazing vehicles”, vice the tradition use of magic to attain the same results (e.g. spells, incantations, and the like). Most associate magic with fantasy genres of fiction, and not usually Steampunk fiction. However, I’m guess that China Mieville’s works (e.g. Perdido Street Station, The Scar, ect) began carving out an acceptance of “magic in Steampunk” as a more recognized option for Steampunk writings. To briefly recap the prevalence of magic in Steampunk, described a bit more in detail at: (http://voyagesofdrfabre.blogspot.com/2009/11/results-of-latest-poll-and-next.html)
No Magic = No magic (38 votes / 21% of respondents)
Rare, if any at all = Essentially stage magic, slight of hand, but nothing beyond this limitation (70 votes / 38% of respondents)
Some Magic = Mythos (the Cthulhu mythos generally), mythical beings (e.g. vampires, Frankenstein beings, ect) (45 votes / 25% of respondents)
Magic is Common = Magic and the Supernatural is known to the general populace, but is only available to a select few. (21 votes / 17% of respondents)
Very Common = Magic is an integral part of Steampunk, an essential part of the genre (6 votes / 3% of respondents).
The first two categories would at first blush seem to be one in the same, but I would argue that at a minimum the second (“rare, if any at all” category) would have more a focus on the unexplainable (e.g. a al Harry Houdini / magician), where the average person can see something unexplainable, but know that there is a realistic, understandable secret (e.g. in Steampunk, some kind of device to assist the magician), vice the use of prototypical “magic” to achieve an end.
The “some magic” certainly fits those who enjoy the more “unexplainable” aspect of the Victorian / Neo-Victorian / Steampunk genre. Starting with the classic Frankenstein (reanimation + electricity ok, a bit of grave robbing and “Abby normal” brains as well), Vampires (which aren’t exactly Steampunk, but are certainly of the Steampunk (late Victorian) era), and continuing to the Cthuhlu mythos. The last category seems to have really enmeshed itself with the classic Chaosium Game’s “Cthuhlu by Gaslight” (1988).
The last two categories garnered less votes that I had originally believed they would, as I theorized the description of the Steampunk/Magic backgrounds (specifically Mieville’s) would hold more sway – but I was wrong, apparently. (I figured about of the total vote – though 20% combined is somewhat close, I suppose).
Well on to the next question, one I’ve started a bit late in the season, but I’ll go ahead with anyways. While awaiting for a televised sporting event to start, I began watching the Dickens’ holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol”, with the Christmas ghosts visiting an old miser, set in the Victorian era. I happened to be enjoying the MGM 1938 version, with Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge. Upon visiting the Wiki for it, I had no idea how many times it had been remade on film (21 times to be exact). So which version of “A Christmas Carol” is your favorite? The choices on the list (and their descriptions) are
1938 film version, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge
1951 film version, “Scrooge”, with Alastair Sim as Scrooge
1971 animated version, with Alastair Sim as the voice of Scrooge
2009 CGI film version, with Jim Carrey as Scrooge
Other – encompasses any other versions of the film (yes, including musical versions, the “Muppet Christmas Carol”, and not to omit “Barbie in a Christmas Carol” – not Steampunk, but I assume there are fans of it.)
I’ll keep the voting open up to the end of the year, so please take the opportunity to vote!