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Worlds of Steampunk  

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Worlds of Steampunk Print Page

Worlds of Steampunk - Shields Library Exhibit







Shields Library presents an exhibit of the Worlds of Steampunk - Art, Culture, Fashion and Fiction in Fall-Winter Quarters, 2012-2013. The exhibit features a selection of books and other materials related to Steampunk.


What is Steampunk?

The term “steampunk” was coined in the 1980s to describe a subgenre of science fiction. It incorporates elements of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, clockworks and fantastic technology, and is influenced by Victorian esthetics. Steampunk themes typically look back to the scientific and technological advances made during the Industrial Revolution and in the late 19th century for inspiration. Like their antecedents, including the novels of Jules Verne (Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea) and H.G. Wells (The Time Machine), modern Steampunk fiction features dirigibles, balloons, everything powered by steam, and mechanical contraptions of all kinds.

Steampunk has grown beyond its roots in fiction to define an entire subculture. Subculture devotees have spawned a unique fashion style. The influence of Victorian or Edwardian styles of dress is clearly referenced and embellished with goggles, corsets, fancy top hats, and all manner of mechanical accessories decorated with wheels, cogs, gears, clockworks and other imaginative devices to form a distinctive style based on vintage looks and textures.   

Movies with Steampunk themes are a visual celebration of style, dress and imaginative fantasy elements.

Steampunk art is wildly inventive, with many artists working in metal, wood, graphics and combining many media to create objects. Objects restored from old devices for new and modern purposes and new gadgets with a Victorian or retro look and style are becoming very popular. 

Would you like to learn more? Please take a look in the display cases on the first floor of Shields Library. Most of the books in the exhibit are also available to check out from the library’s collection. We hope you enjoy the exhibit. 

For a thorough bibliography of Steampunk and associated research resources, link here: Worlds of Steampunk Exhibit Bibliography prepared by Roberto C. Delgadillo.

Exhibit prepared by Roberto C. Delgadillo and Marcia Meister, Humanities, Social Sciences and Government Information Services, Shields Library.


    Steampunk Essay by Nathaniel Williams

    The following essay by Nathaniel Williams, lecturer in the Department of English and the University Writing Program, was written for this exhibit and is on display near the exhibit cases in Shields Library.

    For a text version of the essay please link here.


      Featured Steampunk Books

      Cover Art
      The Difference Engine - William Gibson; Bruce Sterling (Contribution by)
      Call Number: PS3557 I2264 D54 1991
      ISBN: 9780440423621
      Publication Date: 2011
      The 20th anniversary edition of the classic steampunk novel With new commentary by the authors   1855: The Industrial Revolution is in full swing, powered by steam-driven cybernetic Engines. Charles Babbage perfects his Analytical Engine, and the computer age arrives a century ahead of its time. Three extraordinary characters race toward a rendezvous with the future: Sybil Gerard—fallen woman, politician’s tart, daughter of a Luddite agitat∨ Edward “Leviathan” Mallory—explorer and paleontologist; Laurence Oliphant—diplomat, mystic, and spy. Their adventure begins with the discovery of a box of punched Engine cards of unknown origin and purpose. Cards someone wants badly enough to kill for. Part detective story, part historical thriller,The Difference Enginetook the science fiction community by storm when it was first published twenty years ago. This special anniversary edition features an Introduction by Cory Doctorow and a collaborative essay from the authors looking back on their creation. Provocative, compelling, intensely imagined, this novel is poised to impress a whole new generation.

      Cover Art
      Dreadnought - Cherie Priest
      Publication Date: 2010
      Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy's husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she'll catch a train over the Rockies and - if the telegram can be believed - be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.
      Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. And that's just the beginning of this adventure filled with impossible machines, alternative history, strange creatures and a feisty heroine.
      Dreadnaught is the third in Priest's The Clockwork Century series following Boneshaker, book one, Clementine, book 2, and followed by Ganymed, book 4. was named Steampunk Book of the Year by Look for these Cherie Priest books in the library.

      Cover Art
      Infernal Devices: A Mad Victorian Fantasy - K. W. Jeter
      Call Number: PS3560 E85 I5 1987
      Publication Date: 1987
      When George's father died, he left his son a watchmaker's shop - and a whole lot more but George has little talent for watches and other infernal devices. when someone tries to steal an old device from the premises, George finds himself embroiled in a mystery of time travle, wild music and sexual intrigue.

      "This is the real thing -- a mad inventor, curious coins, murky London alleys and windblown Scottish Isles...A wild and extravagant plot that turns up new mysteries with each succeeding page." James P. Blaylock

      Cover Art
      Perdido Street Station - China Miéville
      Call Number: Shields Library PR6063.I265 P47 2003
      Publication Date: 2003
      Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to none-not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory. Isaac has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before fathomed. Though the Garuda's request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. While Isaac's experiments for the Garuda turn into an obsession, one of his lab specimens demands attention: a brilliantly colored caterpillar that feeds on nothing but a hallucinatory drug and grows larger-and more consuming-by the day. What finally emerges from the silken cocoon will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon-and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it invokes . . . A magnificent fantasy rife with scientific splendor, magical intrigue, and wonderfully realized characters, told in a storytelling style in which Charles Dickens meets Neal Stephenson, Perdido Street Station offers an eerie, voluptuously crafted world that will plumb the depths of every reader's imagination. This and other Mieville books in the library.

      Cover Art
      Steampunk - Ann VanderMeer (Editor); Jeff VanderMeer (Editor)
      Publication Date: 2008
      This anthology gathers a brilliant blend of fantastical stories. Steampunk originates in the romantic elegance of the Victorian era and blends in modern scientific advances—synthesizing imaginative technologies such as steam-driven robots, analog supercomputers, and ultramodern dirigibles. The elegant allure of this popular new genre is represented in this rich collection by distinctively talented authors, including Neal Stephenson, Michael Chabon, James Blaylock, Michael Moorcock, and Joe R. Lansdale.

      Cover Art
      The Anubis Gates - Tim Powers
      Call Number: Shields Library PS3566.O95 A58 1997
      This Philip K. Dick Award-winner took the fantasy fiction world by storm when it was first published, for the first time. Only the dazzling imagination of Tim Powers could have assembled such an insane cast of characters: an ancient Egyptian sorcerer, a modern millionaire, a body-switching werewolf, a hideously deformed clown, a young woman disguised as a boy, a brainwashed Lord Byron, and finally, our hero, Professor Brendan Doyle.

      Cover Art
      The Art of Steampunk - Art Donovan
      Publication Date: 2011

      The Art of Steampunk seeks to celebrate the world of Steampunk: a world filled with beauty and innovation.  A world in which steam power and technology intertwine to create machines that are not only functional and practical, but unique and striking.  
      This compilation contains stunning artwork of Steampunk artists from around the world.  The 17 artists featured on these pages, among the frontrunners of the Steampunk genre, have had their work displayed at an exhibition at The Museum of History of Science at the University of Oxford, UK and have attracted the media attention of BoingBoing, one of the world’s largest blogs.  Their artwork consists of everything from clocks and watches to light fixtures and jewelry, but every piece demonstrates hours of painstaking work and devotion from its creator.  You will find that the artists themselves are just as unique and colorful as their masterpieces.  Fully embracing Steampunk ideology, many have adopted a Victorian alter ego-a mad scientist persona to match the complicated intricacies of their artwork.

      Cover Art
      The Steampunk Bible - Jeff VanderMeer; S. J. Chambers
      Publication Date: 2011

      The Steampunk Bible is a compendium about the movement, tracing its roots in the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells through its most recent expression in movies such asSherlock Holmes.


      Williams Essay


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