Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Aether Salon - Literature

This month, the Aether Salon presented Dame Kghia Gherardi, who spoke on the origins of Steampunk Literature.

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Dame Kghia Gherardi

Dame Kghia noted that author KW Jeter coined the term in 1987, describing the genre as "Victorian fantasies." She continued:
From artist John Coulthart, we get this explanation: 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 has always been first and foremost a literary genre, or [at] least a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy that includes social or technological aspects of the 19th century (the steam) usually with some deconstruction of, reimagining of, rebellion against part of it (the punk)…. 
Here is perhaps one of my favorites from author Beth Bernobich:  Steampunk is...a mood (fog-laden streets lined with cobblestones); a theme (a world standing on the edge between one age and the next), a tech level (horses and automobiles, clockwork creations, goggles and steam engines, and aircraft rising toward the stars), and more than a bit of madness…. 
Other definitions: 
Steampunk is...the love child of Hot Topic and a BBC costume drama.
~Gail Carriger, author of The Parasol Protectorate series 
Steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown. ~ Jess Nevins, author of Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana 
That said, I think Jeff VanderMeer and SJ Chambers has given us perhaps the most workable framework for steampunk literature today. And if you are trying to decide of a work falls into this category, this definition may help. First, it’s simultaneously retro and forward-looking in nature. Second, it evokes a sense of adventure and discovery. Third, it embraces divergent and extinct technologies as a way of talking about the future.
Dame Kghia provided a list of novels in the genre, under various categories:

"Proto-Steampunk" novels:
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
  • Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and The Steam House (188)
  • HG Wells, The Time Machine (1895) and Men Like Gods (1923)
Edisonade novels, targeted at boys and young men with the formula "a young American male invents a form of transportation and uses it to travel to uncivilized parts of the American frontier or the world, enrich himself, and punish the enemies of the United States.":
  • Edward Ellis, The Huge Hunter of the Steam Man of the Prairies (1865)
  • Henry Eaton, Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plain (1876)
  • Luis Senarens, Frank Reade, Jr. and His Steam Wonder (1879)
  • Ronald Clark, Queen Victoria's Bomb (1969)
  • Michael Moorcock, The Warlord of the Air (1971)
  • Harry Harrison, A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (1972)
First Generation:
  • Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates (1983)
  • KW Jeter, Infernal Devices (1987)
  • Peter J Blaylock, Lord Kelvin's Machine (1992)
  • William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine (1990)
Quiet Years: 1991-2007
  • Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age: Or, a Lady's Illustrated Primer (1995)
  • Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass (1995)
  • Paul de Filippo, The Steampunk Trilogy (1995)
  • Gail Carriger, The Parasol Protectorate
  • Cherie Priest, Boneshaker
  • Kim Newman, Anno Dracula
  • Clay Griffith, The Greyfriar
Mysteries & Detectives:
  • Lilith Saintcrow, The Iron Wyrm Affair
  • China Mieville, Perdido Street Station
  • Mark Hodder, The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack
  • PC Martin, Steampunk Holmes, Legacy of the Nautilus
  • T. Aaron Payton, The Constantine Affair
  • Cherie Priest, Dreadnought
  • Devon Monk, Dead Iron
  • MK Hobson, The Native Star
Airships & Pirates:
  • Chris Wooding, Retribution Falls
  • Michel R Vaillancourt, By Any Other Name
  • George Mann, The Affinity Bridge
  • Scott Westerfeld, The Manual of Aeronautics
  • Ekaterina Sedia, The Alchemy of Stone
  • Jay Lake, Mainspring
  • Cory Doctorow, Clockwork Fagin
  • Kady Cross, The Girl in the Steel Corset
  • SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers
  • Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, eds., Steampunk
  • Nick Geves, ed., Extraordinary Engines
  • Mike Ashley, Steampunk Prime: A Vintage Steampunk Reader
Graphic Novels:
  • Phil and Kaja Folio, Girl Genius
  • Sydney Padua, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
  • Brian Selznick, The Adventures of Hugo Cabret
  • Ian Edginton and D'Israeli, Scarlet Traces
  • Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Reference Books:
  • Jeff VanderMeer with SJ Chambers, The Steampunk Bible
  • Jess Nevins and Michael Moorcock, The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana
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Miss Bookworm Hienrichs

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L to R: Mr. Emerson Lighthouse, Miss Violet Solano, Miss Garnet Psaltery, Miss Tephi Zepp, Miss Robin Ishmere, Sir JJ Drinkwater, Miss Hysshia ap Suolla an Isala

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L to R:  Mr. Guisborn, Miss Sidonie Ancelin, me, Mr. Kelso Uxlay

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L to R, from the foreground chair: Mr. Simeon Beresford, Miss Solace Fairlady, Miss Stereo Nacht, Mr. Kelso Uxlay, Miss Polly Ellsmere, Mr. Linus Lacome, Mr. Sebastian Nevermas, Mr. Satu Moreau, Miss Cassie Eldemas

Dame Kghia's talk made it clear that I - along with much of the audience, it appeared - have some reading to do!

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