BEYOND BONESHAKER: THE EXTENDED STEAMPUNK UNIVERSE
19 December 2012
By Jamie Gibbs
If you’ve any sense at all, you’ve already devoured Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker and should be making a respectable dent in Dreadnought too (and the rest!) Priest is the undisputed Queen of Steampunk, and her Clockwork Century series has become synonymous with the genre. But what happens afterwards? How can you get your steampunk fix once the books run out? Not to worry, because there is a cornucopia of steampunk awesomeness available from every cultural aspect to whet your appetite.
A brief recap
Just in case you aren’t aware of it, steampunk is the ultimate 'what-if?' scenario -- what if the technological innovators of the Industrial Revolution kept on innovating? What if modern concepts were created using the steam and mechanical power of the 19th Century? This is the world of steampunk; an alternate history where zeppelins rule the skies, mechanical marvels dominate the land and the science-fiction musings of Victorian authors become a reality. Steampunk started out as a purely literary genre, but has since exploded to a wide variety of outlets.
Attune your ears to the grinding gears
Just as Lord of the Rings inspired the likes of Led Zeppelin and Blind Guardian to create music based on the Tolkien’s mythology, steampunk fiction has leaked into the music scene. Traditional literary steampunk is usually divided between the dark, gritty ‘Wild West’ steampunk set during the American Civil War, and the vast, imperial eccentric steampunk of Victorian Britain. If you want your steampunk tunes to have an American flavour while you’re reading through Boneshaker, then take a listen to Steam Powered Stories by The Cog is Dead for a collection of dark, country-folk blended musical tales. If you’re looking for something a little more eccentric while you flick through the Victorian tales of H.G. Wells or Jules Verne, then you can’t go far wrong with The Indifference Engine by Professor Elemental to hear a Victorian explorer rap about the joys of tea, zeppelin riding and a monkey butler named Geoffrey.
Clothes maketh the man
Steampunk might have its roots in the written word but it’s now better known for its aesthetic subculture than anything else. You just have to look at Cherie Priest’s curated Pinterest board to see a diverse range outfits that have been influenced by steampunk and Victorian-era design. Take some top hats, waistcoats, corsets and stockings; add in some brass goggles, gas masks and steam-powered cybernetic limbs and you’ve got a the steampunk look down. It’s a hard look to master; you can’t just glue some gears on something and call it steampunk, as this video explains.
It doesn’t stop with clothes, either. The retrofitting scene is perfect for steampunk aficionados who want to pimp their home with a look that’s equal parts SF, industrial and vintage. Just search for ‘steampunk’ on places like Etsy and you’ll find everything from steampunk money clips to 19th Century apothecary labels for your jam jars. If you’re more ambitious you can convert your laptop, e-Reader or phone into a steampunk wonder using polished glass fittings, a solid wood and leather casing and plenty of brass cogs and gears for decoration.
As a fashion statement, steampunk isn’t subtle, so there’s little point in looking the part if no one is going to see how awesome you look. You need to hit the town in style and party like it’s 1899. The Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey and Steamcon in Seattle are two of the most popular steampunk conventions in the world, so likeminded dames and gents can cavort with some of the biggest names in the genre. For us Brits, we’ve got the Weekend at the Asylum in Lincoln (located in an abandoned Victorian mental asylum) and the Waltz on the Wye in Chepstow. Much like Medieval and Renaissance Fairs, steampunk conventions are a fun way at tipping your hat to a bygone era, but with the added bonus of throwing in some sci-fi imagination into the mix. As a result of these conventions, steampunk theatre has also grown in popularity. One of the most well-known today is the League of S.T.E.A.M; a group of steampunk Ghostbusters who specialise in those pesky neo-Victorian spirits and who frequently make their presence known at the likes of San Diego ComicCon each year.
If you’ve become enraptured in the world of steampunk from reading the likes of Cherie Priest, you’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s time to tighten your gears, don your top hat and cane and board the zeppelin; you’re in for a wild ride.