Not signed in (Sign In)
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    Luke Skywalker suffers from second artist effect, but I don't see too many people buying Gilgamesh action figures

    I would definitely buy a Gilgamesh action figure, especially if it came with a fully-poseable, anatomically correct Humbaba. Screw Skywalker, man.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010

    A revisionist mundane SF steampunk epic — mundane SF is the socialist realist movement within our tired post-revolutionary genre

    Do you think Mundane SF is a good name / tag for this movement, given your earlier thoughts on the matter?
  1.  (9099.23)
    I still maintain Mundane SF, as a name/tag. is the main reason no-one gives a shit about Mundane SF.
  2.  (9099.24)
    As a name Mundane SF is a pretty terrible thing to try and sell given the negative definition mundane carries. (Although how do you sell the idea of everyday, low-key and realist without saying mundane?) Steampunk has in its favour that it is an ambiguous, yet exciting, word with many possible interpretations and ways to sell the idea to people.

    You could also look at the New Weird which appeared as a phrase used by a group of authors about ten years ago and then failed to ignite any major mainstream interest when publishers tried to use it.
  3.  (9099.25)
    @Ginja - Lowkeypunk?
  4.  (9099.26)
    @ Ginja — Everyday SF? Honestly, most anything beats the term "mundane SF."
  5.  (9099.27)
    Luke Skywalker suffers from second artist effect, but I don't see too many people buying Gilgamesh action figures
    The original Star Wars was a space opera story most influenced by things that aren't space opera — Joseph Campbell, specific myths, '30s pulp SF, Kurosawa,WWII dogfight films, etc. — than by space opera of the time. The fact that you're comparing it to Gilgamesh is actually evidence that it *isn't* Second Artist — though I wouldn't say the same for the prequels or most of the expanded universe stories.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    Steampunk stuff is easy to pigeonhole, whereas New Weird is a lot stranger. Harder to replicate, and - from what I've read - almost impossible to have second-artist syndrome without borrowing a lot of ideas and setting.

    One of Stross's points was that the big online sites for SF & Fantasy push Steampunk. are currently having a Steampunk fortnight, which had a "how to dress Steampunk for parties" article. Because Steampunk is so easily encapsulated as to provide easy dress-up codes, whereas New Weird costumes might have involved dressing up like a demon rapist, junkie angel, or a Bosnian village population squished into a man shape, we're going to see more Steampunk. It's just an easier concept, and you can wear nicer things.
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
  6.  (9099.30)
    @Brandon Cyphered If you look at it as a space opera, then I agree with you. As a heroic epic it's a derivative work of other heroic epics, which is what I was talking about. But you make a good point that it's full of a unique combination of elements, none of which on its own counts as a truly original idea, but when put together creates something amazing, and in that recombination it seems to travel from "copy" to "original" for most people. So that makes it a terrible example, and I concede I shouldn't have used it.
  7.  (9099.31)
    @ John Skylar — If Gilgamesh had been set on Mars, I would agree with you about Star Wars being Second Artist of heroic epics. ;-) But, yeah — it's not a knock-off of one thing, it's a knock-off of *ten* things all put in the blender. Whereas after it came out, you certainly got Second Artist knock-offs of it that emulated the trappings rather than the original source material.
    in that recombination it seems to travel from "copy" to "original" for most people.
    That's the classic "nothing new under the sun" thing. Not like Shakespeare was working from original plots either — just more original than his imitators.

    As for "The New Weird"... to get a coherent idea of what that looks like, I'd argue you have to be familiar with the term and parameters of Weird Fiction were to begin with. And Weird Fiction is much less a part of the current cultural lexicon than cyberpunk is. And, yeah, it's more more amorphous — Steampunk's one of those microbrew genres with a set of very easy-to-recognize elements common to a lot of it. It's much easier to stereotype and reduce to a formula than Weird Fiction — but that also means it's easier to understand, and quicker to determine whether or not you like it at a glance.
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    Have been reflecting on this a bit. I love Charlie Stross's writing a lot, up to and including this article, but something in it just sits a little awkwardly with me.
    I think Second Artist deserves a little closer examination.
    The first artist sees a landscape and paints what they see; the second artist sees the first artist's work and paints that, instead of a real landscape

    what is the landscape being analogised with here? The way I parse it is something like: "A whole mess of cultural artifacts relating to the Victorian era, including structures, clothing, technology and media from or relating to the period."
    So, I think, in my humblest, that the analogy is on shaky ground. A painter's work does not become part of the landscape, a steampunk creator's work does. I reckon something similar also holds true for any writer of fiction, nobody can escape being influenced and assimilated by The Discourse.
    A pure and singular vision is a wonderful thing but I can't see anything wrong with looking around to see what other people are doing.
    Plagiarism is still reserved for a special class of absolute cunts of course.

    On his main point, it would be great to see more politically, socially conscious SF and he's bang on I reckon that steampunk should really be very fertile ground for that.
      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    Its an interesting thing that every single person I've met who has been active in the steampunk community for the past ten years has almost the exact same attitude towards it that Stoss does. The other week I heard someone use the phrase 'steamsona' and I can only pray it was said in jest.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2010 edited
    I find it interesting that he'd like to see some anti-revisionism in the field. Until the 60's, nobody cared about the effects of colonialism. History textbooks still used phrases like "The White Man's Burden" and "Great White Race" up until the 1980's in some places. Then there was this huge liberalization of the scholarship, and for the past 20 years or so it's been professional suicide to no not immediately condemn the actions that were taken in the past. It's interesting that people just now seem to be getting around to trying to do the same thing in the genre. However, i'm not sure they should. If you want to read about the darkness of the period, you can read a history book. And why does it have to necessarily exist at all? Presumably many of the societal ills of the age would not exist in a world where you have robots and the like.

    Then again, maybe you would. The character Reaver in the newest Fable game exemplifies this pretty well. However, he seems to do it out of some sort of cruel enjoyment. I doubt a plant manager in London was using child labor because he got fulfillment out of it. He did it because it was cost effective, they were the only ones that could do those particular jobs (being small and all), and because it wasn't until late in this period that we saw children being recognized as such. At almost no point in history had children been seen as children; they were little adults. Up until the victorian era children worked farms, joined the military (officers in the British Royal Navy would begin training at the youngest age possible) and married at 13 or 14. Like it or not, the era was one of immense societal progress. Labor unions started to be formed, justifying wars for reasons other than glory and conquest became the norm, and more and more groups of people (even those in colonies) gained rights. Much of the slave trade and colonization up to this point started to be eliminated, often times to the abject annoyance of people in the regions. We know that between 1800 and 1850 (the very earliest portions of history steampunk borrow from) dozens of local rulers appealed to re-start the slave trade and to colonize their neighbors for political or economic reasons. European rulers began to end this. I should point out it was for equally selfish reasons (the British abolished the slave trade mostly to cripple European enemies who were making a killing off of the trade, especially the French, and then hid it behind a screen of calls of progress and rights), but the fact remains that it was progress nonetheless. It could simply be that steampunk has chosen, for whatever reason, to exemplify this over the darker, perhaps less savory and obvious, aspects of history.

    Or it could just be a rejection of distopianism in general. A lot of recent SF seems to be about the end of the world, giant alien invasions, and all of that, where in earlier eras it seemed to be written mostly to convey a sense of progress. Even fiction in general seems to have gotten darker, but I see this as especially true with Fantasy and SF. But darkness seems to be overtaking non-fictional fields too. As I mentioned above, my own field has gotten a lot darker. If I had lived in the 50's and been a medievalist, I'd have read and written about knights in shining armor fighting tragic wars against their brothers. If was was one now I'd be writing about European slaughtering innocent Muslims in the crusades, the plight of peasants, and the effects that mass plagues and genocides had. Maybe steampunk is simply trying to get back to a simpler, more black-and-white, and all around more happy feeling to the people that like it.

    Finally, on a personal note, I agree that the field has gotten too big. I think that's just a reflection of people being geeks. The same thing has happened with zombies. It's all zombies and steampunk.

    Rant and musings over...
  8.  (9099.35)
    A painter's work does not become part of the landscape, a steampunk creator's work does. I reckon something similar also holds true for any writer of fiction, nobody can escape being influenced and assimilated by The Discourse.
    How about we change "paint" to "draw" in Stross' explanation of Second Artist. The first artist draws a landscape; the second artist draws the landscape the first artist drew.

    Now, let's say the first artist is Jack Kirby.

    Does that work any better for you?

    Or let's keep "paint," but change "landscape" to "figure." And let's say the first artist is Leonardo DaVinci.
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010
    I think this piece by Nisi Shawl is a nice companion to the Stross post:

    In front of maybe two hundred people, I said you could call steampunk a reactionary literature. I vowed to do my bit to head off the danger by writing a steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo. I told Michael Swanwick he would beg on his knees to read it.