Yes, yes, yes, I know. I am a slow reader, it should not be taking me so long to get to the end of Alex Keller’s sequel, Rewired and Alex, I apologise – I shall be with you soon!
As with his first instalment, I am fascinated. The Steampunk world is one which I am teetering into, as with most ‘geekery’ areas, I am aware but my knowledge is horribly incomplete. The more my mind wanders within Mr Keller’s pages, the more I desperately wish to know, the more I wish to read. There is such a beauty and elegant strangeness to this world, a clever balance of Victorian invention and futuristic gizmo; a historic science fiction if you will.
Of course I have read books which now would be classed as ‘Steampunk’ without necessarily realising the genre at the time. The description itself only reached my attention last year but this cultish medium seems to be creeping out from the underground everywhere I look. My post earlier this week showed the extent to which gears, cogs and gadget wot-nots are gradually edging into our peripheral vision – shoes, accessories and jewellery galore now sport vintage mechanic designs with that slight gothic twist which makes them intriguing and completely resonates with me. My recent browsing has splurged page upon web page of intricately designed nick nacks generating a wide web of literature inspired extras like I have never quite seen before. I do of course discount phenomenas like the Harry Potter franchise and also discount the reams of stationery created specific to children’s fiction. No. This feels different, a quiet revolution, pleasantly whirring away in the background, building so as not to be a flash in the pan.
Philip Pulman’s Dark Materials, Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines and countless Pratchett sit on our shelves. Pratchett aside (as I have actually to get around to reading some) I’ve read these books, I’ve loved these books and been enthralled by the mystical antics set in strange lands which eerily reflect something a little too close to home. I have also read a marvellous book by Robin Jarvis, Deathscent which I believe must fall into this category; a warped world with far fetched invention which threatens our existence. Although Deathscent centres around the isolation of a terrible alien entity, the steampunk elements I find wonderful. Queen Elizabeth the first still reigns at the young age of 150years, governing a broken, floating land bound together with chains of mind-boggling size, all pinned to the captial island of London. There are no animals in the outlands, only mechanicals, cleverly designed machines which take on the form and pattern of creatures we once knew. Made and managed by ‘farmers’, these creatures run on a balance of humours; the exact concoction down to the individual mechanic. Obviously, trouble awaits however, when these humours are outbalanced and the more potent elements unleashed.
It is a very good book, one which I no longer own as I forced it upon one of my able readers a few years ago – got him actually reading though, so job done! However, my favourite elements were definitely the warped history and of course these fabulous animals created with such human character that I actually shed a tear or two. But this is about as far as my knowledge goes – and its frustrating! I want to know more! I want to know which books I should be reading to gain a real Steampunk education. Also, would we class Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days as Steampunk? And 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? Retrospectively, of course.
I have become ever so slightly obsessed with this subject. I have actually woke each morning recently with remnants of mechanical based dreams swathed in coal fuelled steam from engines and locomotives floating the skies searching for some antidote to a malevolent plan. Nothing forms in any weight to write down as a substantial idea, but I find myself happily floating through my morning, imagining myself in Victorian gothic dress, heroine to some bizarre and twisted tale, carrying a decorative talisman of sculpted silver gears around my neck. I think I need to give some body to my yearnings, I think a little research and wider reading is in order – anyone with suggestions, most welcome!
Next time I head into the city I am going direct to Waterstone’s for I feel a little browsing is in order – clearly, I have not enough to read at the moment! I am interested to have a flick through this new book by Jeff VanderMeer, The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginery Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists and Strange Literature. I know die hard fans will possibly tell me not to waste my time on such a compendium, that there is a wealth of reading resource out there on which to build my own foundations in the genre. But I merely want to look, and besides, I like pretty books and I suspect this will fit into that mould.
For the time being, however, I’d best get a crack on and actually finished Rewired; a book which not only involves all these fabulous elements but pirates too – what more could a girl ask for?!!