Tuesday, August 30, 2011

'Steampunk Bible' takes readers on tour of Steampunk books, movies and music

My taste for things old-fashioned, science fiction, fantasy, adventure and alternate history has recently led me into the new and growing world of Steampunk, where all of the above and much more are combined in an endless and entertaining world of waiting-to-be-discovered (and enjoyed) books, movies and music.

For those of you unfamiliar with Steampunk, I present you with a modified version of the Wikipedia definition:

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history and speculative fiction that is usually set in Victorian times and features anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them. Think Jules Verne meets H.G. Wells with healthy doses of Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tossed in.

I say all this to say that I recently had the pleasure of reading “The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists and Strange Literature” by Jeff VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers.

Released on May 1 by Abrams Image, this 224-page book “is the first 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 as Sherlock Holmes,” according to the book’s official Web site, steampunkbible.com.

“Steampunk evokes a sense of adventure and discovery, and embraces extinct technologies as a way of talking about the future. This ultimate manual will appeal to aficionados and novices alike as author Jeff VanderMeer takes the reader on a wild ride through the clockwork corridors of Steampunk history.”

I especially enjoyed the portions of the book that discussed the origins of the Steampunk movement, early Steampunk writers and their works. As I read, I found myself making mental notes about other Steampunk books to read later, especially early Steampunk-ish books like “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”

The portions of the book that talked about Steampunk music and movies were also highly interesting. There aren’t many true Steampunk movies or television shows on the market (yet), but I’m definitely planning to drop those mentioned in this book into my NetFlix queue.

I’ve already checked out many of the bands mentioned in the book on YouTube. Some aren’t my cup of tea, but others are pretty cool. I found more than a few to be discordant, but some are highly entertaining and worth listening too, particularly Abney Park.

Many Steampunks are really into the fashion and do-it-yourself aspects of the movement, and I understand that these are two of the main things that draw people into Steampunk. Not so much for me, but to each his own. I have to admit that many of the costumes are pretty awesome and the 150 color photos between the covers of this book really brings it all to life in full, vivid detail.

In the end, I really enjoyed “The Steampunk Bible” and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about Steampunk.

How many of you have had the chance to read this book? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

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