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Steampunk Lecture Notes

Science fiction: Basic Timeline

Precursors and proto-Science Fiction

Many date back to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein but roots are deeper: The Odyssey, The Divine Comedy, The Tempest (according to Nabokov), Gulliver’s Travels

Verne and Wells
The Scientific Romance

Isaac Asimov divided the history of modern SF–works written after 1926–into four types of stories

1926-1938: Adventure Dominant
Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories

1938-1950: Science Dominant
Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction
Asimov, Athurc C. Clark, Robert Heilein

1950-1965: Sociology Dominant
The New Wave
Herbert, Zalazny, Harlan Ellison, J.G. Ballard, PKD, LeGuin

1966-Present: Style Dominant
Cyberpunk (the first of many “punks”) isn’t the only thing after 1966, but best suits our purpose.
–William Gibson and Neuromancer (1984)
Spawns a subgenre

–Gibson and the invention of cyberspace
—-Systems of control in tech, but the root is something more kind, more like a helmsman.

–What’s “punk” about it?
–The Sex Pistols and punk
—-Using a medium of control to decentralize power structures
—-The Hacker as Punk.
–Jesus as Punk in Snow Crash

Eventual assimilation into mainstream music/literature
–The later punk era, mohawks, leather and chains, etc.
–Same thing occurs with cyberpunk: can anyone say, The Matrix?


Contemporary SF Connections to Postmodernism (specifically the “punks”)
1. Examines/questions reality (cyberspace/history)
2. Self reflective (deconstructs utopian mainstream SF narratives of the 50s)
3. SF in general examines what is knowable (intersects with some of the major questions in postmodern thought)
4. Focus on the surfaces, prose, mirrorshades, The Look.



Source Material
Like cyberpunk, this subgenre draws heavily on narratives and repurposes them.

Steampunk Early Victorian History (PowerPoint)
Proto-SteampunkEdisonade (PowerPoint)

Steampunk Elements
1. Things Victorian: The steam bit
2. Self-aware narratives, in terms of the source material (Edisonade)
3. Inventor Genius (swiped from the Edisonade)
4. Tend to be Urban (contrary to the Edisonade)
5. Punk qualities

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