Australia’s First Steampunk Symposium

Hey guys, for all of you who have read my blog before, and if you are looking me up for the first time, coolios, I hope to not let you down and post waay more often than I have been… I’m sure someday I’ll get to one post a month!!!

Anyways its been a really great year for the Australian Steampunk scene as earlier this month I found out that as part of the annual Under the Blue Moon festival in Sydney, a Symposium would be held in the foyer of the Enmore theatre. Now when I found out this amazingly exciting news, I totally flipped out (probably had to do with the sheer amount of caffeine I had ingested an hour or two before- remember kids, quadrouple shot mochas are bad mmkay?). “Finally!” I thought, “Australia is going to do some Steampunkery stuff as part of an organised festival, yaaays!!!”

I then found out today that as part of Melbourne’s Fringe Festival, Clockwork Butterfly (local steampunk fashion label) would be hosting a “Steampunk Extravaganza” with burlesque, belly dancers and musical acts….

Best. Year. Ever.

You have no idea how excited I am that Steampunk is being recognised as a sub-genre in its own right down here in Australia, and it will be awesome to see these amazing artists and dancers perform and sell their wares at these two events. And I’m actually glad I live in the ACT- Sydney and Melbourne are so easy to get to from here! Win!

But anyway, enough about me having a crazy excited episode all over your screen. I’m truly sorry. Below are the details for these events…..

Under the Blue Moon Steampunk Symposium

Now before I get into the details of the event I realise I should probably tell you all what a syposium is, in case you didn’t know already. Dictionary says:

1. A meeting or conference for discussion of a topic, especially one in which the participants form an audience and make presentations.

So there you go, t’will be awesome the the max!

Oh and before I forget, the syposium is in the afternoon before an alternative fashion show in the eventide. Which will be amazing.

So go to the Enmore theatre in Newtown, Sydney, on september the 11th of this year. Tickets are available through ticketek and include entry to the symposium and the fashion show. Tickets are around $30 for early bird so buy them now!

Melbourne Fringe Festival thingie

Ok so this one is a one-off show on October the 9th at the Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne. Dorrs open at 7pm, tickets are $30 a pop if you preorder and $40 at the door, buy them through the official Fringe Website after September the 1st.

I hope all you intrepid Aussie Steampunks can make it to one or both of these events and I hope to see you there 🙂

Here are the official websites for more information:

Under the Blue Moon Festival

Melbourne Fringe Festival

Until my next transmission,

Captain R. Cook

Posted in Australian Steampunk News | Leave a comment

The Literary Movement of Steampunk

Ok so this is my first post, “the post that hurts the most”,  so hopefully it will strike a chord with someone out there and I’ll recieve some positive feedback/questions about my research into the beginnings of the literary movement of Steampunk.

The Muses

Steampunk literature just didn’t pop up out of nowhere. It has its roots in Victorian fiction, most notably the authors H.G Wells and Jules Verne, with a little Mary Shelley just to spice things up a bit. It is quite obvious how these three (just as an example, their novels are very famous) have had an impact on the origins of Steampunk literature and contemporary works. H.G Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) has probably the most impact on the literature mentioned in this blog. For those that haven’t read the book (or seen one of the screen adaptions) The Time Machine follows the protagonist, simply reffered to as the Time Traveller, as he travels into the future where the remnants of humanity are divided into two groups- the lazy and disinterested Eloi and the subterranian Morlocks, who we find out cultivate and eat the Eloi. Here we see a seemingly hopeless future that characterises much of the literature associated with Steampunk.

Jules Verne is most famous for his novels Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1869) and Around the World in 80 Days (1873). The fantastical machines that are seen in his works, especially in Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea are the grandfathers to machinations that the mad scientist employs in their devious schemes in contemporary Steampunk fiction.

As for Mary Shelley, not much needs to be said. As a genre that is influenced by Victorian gothorama the creation of intelligent and artificial life abounds in Steampunk literature. The main difference between Shelley’s Frankenstein monster and the modern “Frankenstein monsters” is that they aren’t generally made out of scavenged corpses. They are more “sophisticated”, a consiousness implanted in an artificial body, or a robot (mainly powered by clockwork and/or steam, obviously) that is programmed to perform a set of functions that give it realistic human traits. If the reader is interested in artificial life and its portrayal in movies/literature, I would reccomend they go see Metropolis, one of my person favorites which I’ll probably grant a post or two later, its a great early Science Fiction movie.

Early Steampunk- Michael Moorcock

Michael Moorcock is an English Sci-fi/Fantasy writer whose 1971 book Warlord of the Air could be called early Steampunk fiction. It is an alternative history of the world where World War One never happened and the Earth is dominated by Empires such as the British Empire. The beginning of the book is set in Edwardian England where the protagonist becomes lost in India following a skirmish with natives. He awakes in 1973, understandably confused. He soon falls in with the Anarchists who oppose the Imperialist and Colonialist ideals of the Empire and seek to bring an end to the rigid social structure of the time. I don’t want to give away the ending of the book, but I will say it is quite a twist. This book is the first in a 3 part series written by Moorcock, the other two titled The Land Leviathan and The Steel Tzar. Alternate histories are a common convention used in Steampunk fiction, and Moorcock’s Warlord of the Air is an excellent example.

“The Triad”

I have referred to the below three writers as “The Triad” because it was these three who perhaps had the greatest effect on making Steampunk an actual literary sub-genre. The term Steampunk was first used by author K.W. Jeter in reference of his work as well as that of his two friends, Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock. Interestingly, apart from all going to College together, they all were mentored by Philip K. Dick, the author of Do Androids Dream of Electic Sheep, better known as Bladerunner, which he dedicated to Tim Powers and his wife.

K.W. Jeter

The two texts that I will refer to in this post are the ones that are usually referred to as Steampunk. His 1979 novel Morlock Night is a sequel to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. In this novel, the Morlocks somehow steal the Time Machine and use it to terrorize Victorian London. This novel is widely considered to be one of the first examples of Steampunk fiction. Infernal Devices (1987) is an interesting and slightly bizarre novel set in Victorian England. It relates the unfortunate adventures of George the watchmaker that rotate around the strange clockwork devices his late father created. In his adventures he encounters an automaton, an almost duplicate of George himself that posesses greater sexual abilities than the real George and a surprising competence in the violin. Again, this “monster”, whilst incorporating some of the aspects of Mary Shelley’s monster is decidedly Steampunk in excecution.

Tim Powers

The Anubis Gates written in 1983 is a bit different to previously mentioned works as it has a bit more Fantasy aspects than the others, involving the use of magic. The Drawing of the Dark, his 1979 novel gives us an alternate history to the seige of Vienna, and is referred to as Steampunk more often than Anubis Gates.

James P. Blaylock

Blaylock’s contribution to this genre is The Narbondo Series, in which all but the first are set in Victorian London. The Protagonist Langdon St. Ives attempts to foil his hunch backed nemesis, Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, and his plans to destroy the world. Think Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Moriarty type stuff. Blaylock is probably my favorite early Steampunk writer, as his work is fast-paced and witty, the characters are believable and the machines are excitingly improbable.

So there you have it. Steampunk literature is a growing sub-genre still, with Scott Westerfeld and Michael Pryor being some of the most recent authors to have a go at this wonderfully creative genre. If you have enjoyed this article, please post a comment, and if you have questions please post as well, as I would be most delighted to answer. Also if you have anything you would like to see on this site, comment as well.

Until my next transmission,

Captain R. Cook

Posted in Literature | 1 Comment