Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Check It: Gears

with 6 comments

This review of Boneshaker by Cherie Priest is notable for a) rightly pointing out that Strange Horizons is awesome and b) kicking off a blogosphere discussion on hype. But let’s ignore both of those things and concentrate on the real issue here: when will steampunk die? We’ve had our fun but it has turned into a bit of a monster now. Even those involved in the movement like Steampunk Scholar sometimes worry about the ignorance of their fellow travellers:

Like so much of what I read on forums and twitter regarding steampunk, these statements are indicative of a movement that hasn’t so much forgotten its roots as never known them. While there are steampunks who have read the original three (Jeter, Powers, and Blaylock), who watched Wild, Wild, West when it had nothing to do with Will Smith or giant steam-spiders, there are those who seem to think that steampunk is the product of the last three years of what I would call the steampunk boom years. Few steampunks read, and even fewer have read early steampunk, or proto-steampunk like Pavane or Nomad of the Time Streams, to say nothing of the handful that have actually read Verne and Wells. So I’m not too surprised when steampunks display an ignorance for the literary origins of the sub-culture.

Others who have found themselves co-opted into the movement aren’t happy. Author Philip Reeve says steampunk stinks and he wants nothing to do with it:

It seems that I’m becoming part of a movement, in much the same way that a half-digested peanut does when it passes through your lower intestine… Steampunk is a genre cul-de-sac: it’s Science Fiction for people who know nothing about science; historical romance for readers whose knowledge of history comes from costume dramas. May it soon go the way of that half-digested peanut, and be flushed into oblivion.

The title of this post is courtesy of Kate Beaton’s Hark, A Vagrant. “I put a shitload of cogs and watches on my boot.” Indeed.

Written by Martin

14 June 2010 at 14:07

Posted in genre wars, sf

Tagged with , ,

6 Responses

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  1. I have a copy of Boneshaker that I have tried to start, and the worst thing about it is that it’s printed in brown on beige paper. It’s really hard to read not because of the words, but of how the words are presented. They went with hip old-timey stylings over actual good printing practice and the book suffered for it.

    Also, Jeter, Powers, and Blaylock are steampunk? I guess some of their books are, but certainly not their strongest novels… And I think they’ve mostly left that style behind…

    Josh Brandt

    14 June 2010 at 16:17

  2. I’m having flashbacks to the “cyberpunk movement” and Sterling’s attempts to denounce the horrible travesty of style over substance that it became.


    15 June 2010 at 00:01

  3. Check it: pistons on my mirrorshades.

    We have Cyberdog to sell tasteless apparel to old goths and ravers; we can but hope that in the future there will be Steamdog.


    15 June 2010 at 12:14

  4. Yeah, Jeter, Powers and Blaylock’s earliest novels were steampunk before it got designed, though most of the people who talk about them that way have never read any of them…

    But it’s a good example of how genre defining works often don’t fit comfortable in the genre they’re defining. Take _The Anubis Gate_, supposedly one of the inspiratual works for steampunk; doesn’t even take place in Victorean times, no rad steampowered gadgets or Difference Engines, no goggles…

    Martin Wisse

    18 June 2010 at 10:59

  5. […] [1] Both posts found via my namesake. […]

  6. Oh dear, Reeve – an author I greatly admire – has now deleted his post, presumably on the grounds he forgot what the internet was.


    18 June 2010 at 15:18

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