A new age of steam
Steampunk, a modern mix of Victorian technology and sci-fi, is becoming a major influence in books, fashion and on the big screen
Sunday 21 February 2010
It's a classic tale of boy meets girl, except he dabbles in nanoelectromechanics and she is the aether gun-toting captain of a steam-powered airship. Welcome to the future of romance.
Katie MacAlister's Steamed: A Steampunk Romance is the latest hit in the genre that is rocketing up the US bestseller charts and tipped as the next big trend for the UK literary love scene.
Romance writers are capitalising on the growing popularity of the fictional genre, which mixes steam power with science fiction in alternate realities. But it is not just in bookshops that 2010 is set to see a new age of steam: a burgeoning subculture is making its mark from the cinema to high street fashion.
Enthusiasts mix the aesthetic of the steam era with modern creativity, donning brass goggles, pith helmets, corsets and pocket watches to complement modified sword canes, Flash Gordon-esque ray guns and "Victorian" jet packs. Vision Express announced in December – when Sherlock Holmes hit the big screen – that it was reintroducing monocles to cope with unprecedented demand.
"It's about taking the best of the steam period, which we define from about 1830 to the end of the First World War, but using it to look at a bright new future," said "Major Tinker", chairman of the Victorian Steampunk Society. "It is also trying to revisit some of those values – things like a rejection of crass commercialism and the idea that things should be disposable. Punk started as a rebellion. Our rebellion is a rebellion against chav society."
Steampunks, he added, embrace good manners and polite behaviour. The Asylum, the UK's first steampunk festival, attracted 400 people to Lincoln last September, with 1,000 expected this year.
Dylan Fox, administrator of the UK Steampunk Network website, takes inspiration from sci-fi writers including Jules Verne and H G Wells. He claimed people were turning away from the generic nature of electronic goods. Exhibits at the world's first exhibition of steampunk art at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford include Dr Grymm's Eye Pod, a working iPod with eyeball control and gramophone dock.
Jim Bennett, director of the museum, who said the exhibition was the most popular in its 85-year history, described steampunk art as "retro but imaginative". "It's not a nostalgic reaction to the way things used to look but it's an updated development of Victorian technology," he explained.
Steamed, MacAlister's first foray into steampunk romance, entered The New York Times bestseller list this month. The fan of steampunk-inspired comic series and the film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen said the sub-genre was "getting a lot of vocalisation right now". Other forthcoming titles include Nathalie Gray's Full Steam Ahead and Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series.
Barbara Jones, romance buyer at Waterstone's, said it was "early days" for steampunk romance in the UK but she expected it to become very popular over the next few years. "Steampunk in general is fun and adventurous, as well as being rooted in all things Victorian, which is very popular here but also, crucially, in the US, where most of the strong romance fiction trends start."
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 2 Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014: In defence of Mesut Ozil - the Arsenal midfielder works magic in the shadows
- 3 Do you know this man? Amnesia sufferer found in park pleads for help in identifying who he is
- 4 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
- 5 Tony Abbott embarrasses Australia by praising Japanese WWII military, ‘getting on the sake’ and posing for ‘crotch-shot’ photo opportunity
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Jennifer Lawrence face palms Emma Watson at Christian Dior show in Paris
Mick Jagger denies being World Cup curse and reason for Brazil’s embarrassing defeat
Gingers face extinction due to climate change, scientists warn
Do you know this man? Amnesia sufferer found in park pleads for help in identifying who he is
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
British jihadist calls for 'flag of Islam' over Downing Street and Buckingham Palace
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: An established leader in the Trading Syste...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + Job Satisfaction: Harrington Starr: Project Manage...