Escape Artists
October 25, 2014, 08:20:56 AM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News:
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: 1 [2]  All
  Print  
Author Topic: Discussing steampunk (was Re: What's good in Sci-Fi Lately?)  (Read 5016 times)
eytanz
Moderator
*****
Posts: 4685



« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2012, 03:17:05 PM »

I'm starting to worry I'll have to split out flying cars to their own thread. But just to say my personal last word on the subject; the dream of having a flying car that I can fly in total freedom and have amazing cross-country trips in is, indeed, wonderful. It's also a dream that assumes that flying cars will be a lot less ubiquitous than cars are now. In the 1950s, America's population was smaller, and most families had one car - and many had none. But the dream was that flying cars will replace cars. So, in 2012, we have to think what it would mean to replace cars, and that means that everything we find frustrating about our driving experience will be translated to our flying car experience.

I love driving, when I'm alone on an open road. I detest it when I'm crawling at 5 kph in the middle of traffic. The same will be true in the air.

Talia - as to the novelty of flying - with family on three continents, and a job that requires me to go to conferences, I average around 10 plane rides per year (5 round trips). I do enjoy looking out of the window, and I have seen some amazing sights (I once was flying over Greenland in a cloud free day, chasing the sunset. I have some amazing pictures taken out of the plane window from that trip, and they don't compare to the experience). But most plane trips are painful. If I used my flying car once a year on my trip to the Scottish highlands, I'd be excited about it. If I used it for my morning commute and to go to the supermarket, I stand by my earlier prediction.

So yeah, the dream of flying cars as a luxury item is a
Logged
kibitzer
Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
EA Staff
*****
Posts: 1983


Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice


« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2012, 08:39:24 PM »

Flying cars? Pfft. I'm waiting for my own personal jetpack or anti-grav belt!! Seriously, for sheer freedom, what could beat flying without the aid of an enclosing machine?

As an aside, there's a great story involving anti-grav belts called Terminal Velocity by Bob Shaw. You may know him from the short story "Light of Other Days".
Logged

InfiniteMonkey
Lochage
*****
Posts: 464


Clearly, I need more typewriters....


« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2012, 11:45:34 PM »


You can call this a failure because we haven't met a checklist of items that people half a century ago imagined their future will bring, but that's because their imagination was naive and impractical, not because our existence failed them. We don't have jetpacks and flying cars and robot butlers, but that's because jetpacks and flying cars and robot butlers are stupid. The reason I like steampunk is not because I yearn for them.


I don't really think it's because we don't have a list of toys. That was supposed to be shorthand for the bright, shiny Futurama that was sold at the World's Fairs (particularly 1939 and 1962) and the Jetsons (the beauty of the Jetsons of course was that things worked just as poorly in the future as they do now). And, well, the failure of the year 2000 to be The World of the Future and be pretty much like the years before it. And there's a part of me that wonders that there's a critique of that Wonderful Future in the alternate world of Steampunk.

I agree with the responders that feel part of the problem that these are not stories about the future. Unfortunately I also agree with the notion that this has to do with pessimism. And I can't argue with that. And the pessimism puzzles me. Honestly. We are so much safer as a world with the end of the Cold War. We are much more connected because of technology. OK, yeah, global warming, corporate domination, some things didn't work out all that well. But still...

I'm also not sure the falloff of space fiction is because we know what's in the Solar System, but more because we've stopped manned exploration. Now, this isn't a simple question - I think robot explorers are more efficient, but we're not really even doing that very aggressively. But we stopped. The SF geeks seemed to have forgotten that the important part of the "Space Race" was the Race part. We won. Why were we still running? We didn't really do it for exploration or settlement (not that those things are easy).

At bottom, it just seems to be a failure of nerve about the future.
Logged
eytanz
Moderator
*****
Posts: 4685



« Reply #23 on: January 06, 2012, 03:30:40 AM »

At bottom, it just seems to be a failure of nerve about the future.

I do not disagree that a lot of the general Zeitgeist in speculative fiction these days is predicated on a pessimistic view of the future. But I think that singling out Steampunk as an indicator of this is odd. I mean, one of the other successful subgenres these days is post-apocalyptic SF - a genre which wears this pessimism on its sleeve, rather than as a deeply veiled subtext. Supernatural fantasy is also highly successful in nearly all its forms, a genre that even more than steampunk is about escapism and alternatives to reality; especially the current popularity of Urban and Romance novel fantasy that take place in alternate versions of our present.

So I don't disagree with your general premise; but I think it's an explanation of the whole state of the field, not a subtext that's special in any way to steampunk specifically - and, as I argue above, of all the sub-genres that are in fashion these days, steampunk is the one that arose as a response to how mundane technology has become, not a direct response to the lack of faith in the future. Would steampunk have arisen if there was still a commitment to future in space? I think there's a good chance it would have; but I can't deny that the current pessimism about the future is a fertile ground for it, because it left a gap in SF that needed to be filled with something.

To put it another way, I think you have cause and effect reversed - you point out earlier than old-fashioned SF has a hard time to be published, and claim that it's, at least partially, because of the popularity of steampunk. I say it's the other way round - people don't want to publish old fashioned optimisitc SF, and Steampunk, being the sub-genre that is among the least pessimistic without being overtly optimistic, is benefiting.
Logged
kibitzer
Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
EA Staff
*****
Posts: 1983


Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice


« Reply #24 on: January 06, 2012, 04:57:51 AM »

Anti-grav belts, I say!!

You and your over-analysing.
Logged

Fenrix
Curmudgeon
EA Staff
*****
Posts: 2480


Have you found the Yellow Sign?


« Reply #25 on: January 06, 2012, 08:50:09 AM »

The anti-grav belt is the purest object of individual freedom. But it is a wild freedom that we have less of a frame of reference for.

One thing for the flying car's appeal is the relatability of it. Everyone has been in a car, and most people have driven/purchased/dreamed of some car or another at one point in their life. Even for folks who are not auto nerds, there's some marketer or an auto nerd in your life that has instilled or shared some piece of the dream in you. In addition, I think the flying car carries more appeal because it is freedom that wraps the passenger with the sense of security that cars provide. Auto manufacturers have been working as engineers and marketers to firmly associate safety and cars for many decades. Granted, installing safety features in flying cars would be more challenging as crumple zones and air bags won't cut it.

With regards to steampunk, we can't discount the overall cultural changes that is has brought along as well. I can't count the number of pure steampunk costumes at cons, and then you heap all the fusion steampunk costumes on top of those. Anything popular enough will receive bandwagon jumpers (writers and fans) that will degrade the perception (or quality) of the sub-genre. I have also noticed that all of the 80's and 90's goths that didn't want to assimilate into suburban life have jumped into steampunk with both feet since emo ruined the whole dressing in black thing, and goths already had a bunch of Victorian in their closet. I imagine that's had an impact on the perception. The mainstream will have trouble accepting steampunk if the best mass-market example they have is a Will Smith summer blockbuster.

From a fandom perspective, probably the best thing for steampunk has been Firefly/Serenity. Still not mass acceptance, but definitely a better presentation.
Logged

I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
Anarquistador
Matross
****
Posts: 267


Servant of Fire


WWW
« Reply #26 on: January 10, 2012, 08:09:47 AM »

Would you consider Firefly to be steampunk, then? I never thought of it that way, but I can see that. I just don't think of the Old West when I hear "steampunk;" I think of crazily-overbuilt retro contraptions. But I guess that could work too.
Logged

"Technology: a word we use to describe something that doesn't work yet."

- Douglas Adams

http://www.thereviewpit.com
http://thesuburbsofhell.blogspot.com
Fenrix
Curmudgeon
EA Staff
*****
Posts: 2480


Have you found the Yellow Sign?


« Reply #27 on: January 10, 2012, 04:50:02 PM »

Westerns with future-tech or steam-tech are just the American-centric version of the steampunk genre. The Victorian era generally runs from early 1800's through the turn of the century. This corresponds with American westward expansion, the Alamo, the gold and silver rushes, the Civil War and ends with the turn of the century or the Mexican Revolution. Victoriana is more Anglo-centric, whereas Westerns are American-centric.

Much like the discussion on Amal et Mothar's story and its place in steampunk, I think the genre covers a time period and a style moreso than a specific anglophile geography.

I would locate The Wild Wild West, The Adventures of Brisco County Junior, and Firefly all in the steampunk genre. The first two are set in the west with wild technology. The last is set in the west but temporally located in the future. However, it follows a standard story progression of civil war veterans disillusioned with the war heading west to make their fortunes. All my recollections of the engine room coordinate with that as well, with lots of brass and bronze.
Logged

I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
InfiniteMonkey
Lochage
*****
Posts: 464


Clearly, I need more typewriters....


« Reply #28 on: January 11, 2012, 07:18:32 PM »

I wouldn't include Firefly as steampunk. But that's because of my avocation, which makes me very ... particular... about definitions and categories (steampunk is something set in a different 19th century, not something from the 19th century set in a different future).

On a more positive note, I really liked the comments that Dave read from Daniel Abraham for this week's Podcastle. Completely different from my take, but very interesting. I won't even try and mess them up with a paraphrase.
Logged
DKT
Friendly Neighborhood
Editor
*****
Posts: 4605


PodCastle is my Co-Pilot


WWW
« Reply #29 on: January 13, 2012, 03:13:26 PM »

Here's what Daniel said:

Quote
Steampunk has been identified with the fashions associated with it, but when I look back at stories like The Difference Engine, what defines the subgenre isn't the gears and levers.  It's the impulse to reframe contemporary issues and ideas in an imagined 1880s just the way epic fantasy reaches back to an imaginary 1300s.  Vampire of Kabul may not have any steam engines, but its adventure and derring-do hopefully stir up echoes of our present age and a lot of the decades in between.

Also worth reading, since I don't think it's been pointed out in this thread, but I know I pointed it out when we ran Amal's story last year: Towards a Steampunk without Steam.

January 24th PodCastle has another Very Different steampunk story running, this time by Patty Templeton. It's set in the U.S., but not the Wild West, and I'll be really interested to see how people react to it. (I think it's a hoot, personally.)

I think the recent Steampunk! collection edited by Gavin Grant and Kelly Link (of which Clockwork Fagin was in) made a point of NOT having any of the stories set in London, although I haven't actually read the anthology myself. 

All that to say, I think it's interesting how Steampunk is expanding past the idea of 19th century England, and how that's varying this subgenre. I think that's a good thing.
Logged

DKT
Friendly Neighborhood
Editor
*****
Posts: 4605


PodCastle is my Co-Pilot


WWW
« Reply #30 on: January 13, 2012, 04:31:27 PM »

Oh, hey. Speaking of Amal's story, you could nominate it for Tor's Best of 2011 Stubby Awards.

Actually...I should post that list of award eligible short stories soon.
Logged

kibitzer
Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
EA Staff
*****
Posts: 1983


Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice


« Reply #31 on: January 14, 2012, 08:44:53 PM »

Here's what Daniel said:

Quote
Steampunk has been identified with the fashions associated with it, but when I look back at stories like The Difference Engine, what defines the subgenre isn't the gears and levers.  It's the impulse to reframe contemporary issues and ideas in an imagined 1880s just the way epic fantasy reaches back to an imaginary 1300s.  Vampire of Kabul may not have any steam engines, but its adventure and derring-do hopefully stir up echoes of our present age and a lot of the decades in between.

I remember thinking when I listened to that ep, that that's one of the best definitions of steampunk I've heard.
Logged

stePH
Actually has enough cowbell.
Hipparch
******
Posts: 3789


Cool story, bro!


WWW
« Reply #32 on: February 08, 2012, 09:58:12 PM »

"It's steampunk... the Euro-trash of nerddom."
Tinkerballa, The Guild (season 5)

[jump to 5:55]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUJNgje18bg
« Last Edit: February 08, 2012, 10:01:58 PM by stePH » Logged

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising
Pages: 1 [2]  All
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.20 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!