Friday, December 14, 2012
Steampunk, An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film, and other Victorian Visions!
The other day I was became aware of a new Steampunk titled, “Steampunk, An Illustrated History of Fantistical History, Fanciful Fiction, and Other Victorian Visions“. I admit to being intrigued by the retrospective of a retrospective genre, and must admit to being pleasantly surprised upon taking the opportunity to review the book.
First, the physical presentation of Steampunk, An Illustrated History, is exceptionally well done. A very nice inlaid cover with the prototypical Steampunk icons (airships and cogs), the interior of the book is also a gorgeous work to behold.
Divided into numerous sections, the author, Mr. B. Robb, takes the challenging effort to attempt to illuminated the disparate threads from which the beloved genre has evolved. Beginning by meshing early literary icons (e.g. Wells, Verne, et al), with the amazing real engineers and inventors of the era (e.g. Tesla, Babbage, Brunel), and follows a comprehensive narrative which includes insights into socio-economic tribulations of the era, and how they affected the form of Steampunk.
Continuing through the modern literary era with the current writers who have worked towards expanding and adding depth to Steampunk, Mr. Robb makes an Herculean effort to catch the many threads of Steampunk in the “modern era”, including classic literary novels, and later, reviewing the vast array of graphic novels in which Steampunk has a staring role.
Delving into “moving pictures”, the range of visual Steampunk is explored from the earliest incarnations of “Victorian Romance” (a la “A Trip to the Moon”), following its progression through the mid century production (such a “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, “The Master of the World”, and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”), and reaching modern classics such as Hugo, The City of Lost Children, and The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, the author does a yeoman job of not only touching on directly apparent Steampunk works, but also reflecting the impact that associated genre movies (e.g. cyberpunk, pulp era serials), infuse into the Steampunk genre. A trip to the small screen was inevitable, but again, well done, with homage paid to some of the lesser appreciated works of Steampunk television (e.g. The Wild Wild West series, and Briscoe County Junior).
I was quite impressed with the depth and seriousness that Steampunk, An Illustrated History, and would certainly recommend it as a key addition to any Steampunk collection, be the reader a complete novice or experienced individual in the genre. In fact, to whet one’s palette, I might also recommend a few additional reviews as well, for this literary keystone to the genre…