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    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    Okay, yeah, I've read The Difference Engine, China Mieville's novels, and some other things, but I'm wondering what you all think are the canon of the genre so far; the absolute must-reads.

    Also, Wikipedia is claiming there's some steampunkish things in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Thoughts on this? Worth reading at all?

    I know I'm gonna regret this. My to-read pile is huge as it is.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    The steampunk content of His Dark Materials is low. Flavorful, but not obtrusive. Or crucial to the plot. There are zeppelins instead of jetliners, and "anbaric" lights rather than electrical lights.

    Much, much more important is the fact that humans in the series' primary alternate world have a sort of externalized soul that takes the shape of a talking animal.

    That said, I enjoyed the books. They're supposedly YA, but are pretty darn sophisticated. And quite blasphemous, in a YA kind of way.
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    The Hollow Earth by Rudy Rucker. It came along about the same time as The Difference Engine, kind of helping to create the genre.

    It's got Poe (the writer not the singer) and a Rudy Rucker in it and they go to the center of the Earth. How can that be bad?
    • CommentTimeDec 2nd 2007
    Girl Genius? I mean, even if it's not required reading on the grounds of being steampunk 'canon', it's required reading on the grounds of being made of awesome.
    • CommentTimeDec 2nd 2007
    Seconded to Girl Genius...and as much as I dislike half or more of what Hollywood things I should be can't beat the eye candy in Wild Wild West, even if it's western not Victorian era
    • CommentAuthormunin218
    • CommentTimeDec 2nd 2007

    more books to add to my must read list.....

  1.  (96.7)
    You could also watch Katsuhiro Otoumo's beautiful, but flawed film, Steamboy. Of course, part of the fun of Steamboy is its absolute insistence that it take itself seriously, and its throwback plot and one-dimensional characterizations from pulp novels and magazine stories.
    • CommentAuthorrobb
    • CommentTimeDec 2nd 2007
    once upon a time in the 90s, there were full page ads in previews for some steampunkish (if the term existed then?) comic featuring the following:
    lizard man in a blue suit and top hat
    golden/brass metal steam powered man with handlebar mustache and missing hand
    a big turbine-like wheel as if dr. frankenstein made the stargate? time travel? teleportation?
    why do i feel like it was a neil gaiman comic under some publisher like malibu which has since folded?

    i've no idea whether it was ever even published. any ideas what it was? sound familiar at all?
  2.  (96.9)
    That would be TEKNOPHAGE and MR HERO, THE NEWMATIC MAN. Both being original concepts of Neil Gaiman which saw light in the mid-nineties as the flagship titles of the late Teknocomics line.

    The first six issues of TEKNOPHAGE are well worth seeking out, as it was a collaboration between Rick Veitch and Bryan Talbot. You should be able to get them each for a penny, I gather.

    Fun books. Well worth a read.
    • CommentTimeDec 2nd 2007
    I have not read it yet, but I've heard the Michael Moorcock's Nomad of the Time Stream trilogy is a founding work of the genre.
  3.  (96.11)
    It is, insofar as it's got zeppelins in it. And an achronistic Ronald Reagan in the revised version.

    Michael Moorcock also edited Before Armageddon, a collection of 'scientific romances' by actual 19th century authors. It's an interesting look at the state of the genre that the present genre has been inspired by, though it's not much like China MiƩville.
  4.  (96.12)
    I suppose that some of it depends on exactly what you wish to _do_ after reading the things. Some people are concerned with stylistic aspects, others with the socio-political significance. If you enjoyed the Difference Engine you may well be leaning towards the latter. I find that I have benefitted a lot from reading not only the scientific romances of the time but also general literature. It is all on Project Gutenberg after all. Start with Wells and Verne and then chase up the references.

    _Five Fists Of Science_ is pleasant light reading and of course there is the _League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen_ which may have been a bit too obvious for people to mention but is pretty essential.
    • CommentAuthorFlxzr
    • CommentTimeDec 3rd 2007
    Hmm, does Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake count as steampunk?

    Mievilles books remind me a lot more of the Gormenghast books than anything I can definitively class as steampunk.
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2007
    I wouldn't think of Peake as being steampunk, no.

    The trouble with labels is that most of the time they don't fit. Steampunk, as a label, didn't come into existence until Gibson and Sterling wrote The Difference Engine and Rucker wrote Hollow Earth. Reviewers, thinking that people need to put books into neat little boxes, came up with the rather appalling label of "Steampunk" because these writers had been previously saddled with the label of "Cyberpunk" and now they had written Victorian-era novels. Once there was a label, others felt compelled to have to fit books into this new box (whether they fit into it or the author would have wanted such a label) which is why we now have people trying to describe books written (in some cases) 40-50 years before the two novels in question as being steampunk. They aren't that.

    It's worse in role-playing. Any type of a fantasy setting with a bit of anachronistic technology (particularly those, of course, powered by steam) are dumped into this category as well. Which is why you find games like Unhallowed Metropolis (mentioned here) going to lengths to find themselves a label other than steampunk.

    I like Victoriana and Victorian literature but I will be happy when this whole "steampunk" thing goes out of vogue.
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2007
    When Bioshock came out, that's all you heard all over my home forum. "OOH IT'S STEAMPUNK!" "LOOK-A HERE, A STEAMPUNK GAME!" "WOW! IS THAT STEAMPUNK OR WHAT?!"

    Yeah, steamy as shit.
  5.  (96.16)
    well, you might be able to sneak robert rankin's 'the witches of chiswick' in there too. it's rather silly, naturally and borrows heavily off of more or less everything, as they tend to do. something tells me I'm not really selling it to anyone...
  6.  (96.17)
    So, is there a book that does for Steampunk what Neuromancer did for Cyberpunk?
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeDec 5th 2007
    That'd probably be The Difference Engine and Hollow Earth, mentioned above by cjh. I've not read Hollow Earth, but Difference Engine was a fantastic introduction to the concept, and has yet to be equaled in the years since its publication, similar to Neuromancer, which was also written by William Gibson, the co-author of the Different Engine.
    • CommentTimeDec 5th 2007 edited
    That'd probably be The Difference Engine and Hollow Earth, mentioned above by cjh. I've not read Hollow Earth, but Difference Engine was a fantastic introduction to the concept, and has yet to be equaled in the years since its publication, similar to Neuromancer, which was also written by William Gibson, the co-author of the Different Engine.

    And don't forget co-written by Bruce Sterling, one of the founding fathers (and chief proselytizers) of the "movement."
    • CommentTimeDec 7th 2007
    Just saw this anthology linked to from Boing Boing. Looks fun.