Friday, January 11, 2013

The Steampunk Bible

The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists and Strange Literature
by Jeff Vandermeer and S.J. Chambers [809.387 Van]

In his opening chapter to The Steampunk Bible, editor Jeff Vandermeer recalls the definition of Steampunk that he came up with a few years ago as the genre was first gaining in popularity:
STEAMPUNK = Mad Scientist Inventor [invention (steam x airship or metal man / baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot.
Steampunk as a term has only existed since the late 1980s, but Steampunk as a form of written or visual entertainment has existed in a variety of forms for decades. Imagine the 1960s television series The Wild Wild West, with secret service agents James West and Artemus Gorden going after mad scientists trying to take over the late 1800s America with steam-powered robots. Or picture feature films such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, set in Victorian times, but involving famous historical and/or literary figures using technologies that are decades ahead of their time. Steampunk is also something of a social movement -- involving people who don't read the books or watch the movies that have been heavily influenced by Steampunk trends. There is an extensive subculture of fans who like to dress up in Steampunk finery and roleplay as if they were living in a world patterned after the visual stylings of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with retro-futuristic submersibles, electric rayguns, plucky female airship pilots, crazed mad scientists and high adventure in the late 1800s. The Steampunk Bible does a terrific job of providing readers with a detailed background on Steampunk's origins, and what the current movers and shakers in the world of steampunk are up to. Crammed with gorgeous color illustrations, this lovely book will engage your imagination for hours, as you contemplate how you can add bits of clockwork gears or ornate keys to your wardrobe for a touch of "out of time" -- or you can look back at the many elements of literary history which featured elements that were precursors to today's steampunk -- the "steam man of the prairie" featured in early American dime novels, for instance. The Steampunk Bible was a 2012 Hugo Award nominee in the non-fiction category -- and well-deserved its nomination. If you're familiar with the Steampunk genre, you'll definitely enjoy this one. If you're unfamiliar with Steampunk, I recommend this book as an exemplary introduction to an increasingly popular subculture in today's world. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to check out the Thrilling Airship Adventures: The World of Steampunk booklist from my Nov/Dec 2012 booktalk at Bethany and Gere branches. Another very similar book that came out a year after the Steampunk Bible was entitled Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian Visions -- I also recommend this one!] -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library [Subscribe to Scott's monthly booklist newsletter It's All Geek to Me! - on the Books, Movies & More newsletter sign-up page].

[Also available in downloadable audio, book-on-cd, downloadable E-book and Large Print formats.]

[ official Steampunk Bible web site and blog ]

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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