Steampunk Suggestions
March 11, 2005 11:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm a newbie to the Steampunk genre looking for suggestions. I've been starting on some of the early speculative SF stuff, like Jules Verne, Wells and Burroughs. Where should I go now?
posted by Dante5Inferno to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You may (or may not) enjoy China Mieville's Perdido St. Station.

It's sort of steam punk and sort of fantasy (but in a non-sucky way).

It's roughly Victorian England, but humans are not the only sentient beings. In the mostly-human bustling metropolis of New Crobuzon, science, magic and religion all compete and mingle to produce technologies and problems.
posted by Capn at 12:10 PM on March 11, 2005

I would also suggest Mieville.

It's been a while, but "Iron Dragon's Daughter" by Michael Swanwick is, I think, both steampunk-y and good.

Hmm. I can come up with a lot of fiction that has some Steampunk elements, but little actual Steampunk-centered fiction.
posted by selfnoise at 12:21 PM on March 11, 2005

Yup, Perdido Street Station was the first thing that came to mind.

Also, James Blaylock's Homunculus .
posted by Wolfdog at 12:23 PM on March 11, 2005

I figure you've already read The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, but just in case you haven't. Also, see the nice Wikipedia entry on Steampunk for more work that can be categorized by or connected to it.
posted by safetyfork at 12:24 PM on March 11, 2005

Also: check out this long list of steampunkness:

Looking at the list, I am reminded of Alan Moore's wonderful "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" comics. Might want to check those out.
posted by selfnoise at 12:28 PM on March 11, 2005

and this Trilogy was fun
posted by amberglow at 12:36 PM on March 11, 2005

I'm in a similar phase, but more interested in games and movies. So I'll ignore the literature (other than to note that the early stuff like Verne is available free at Project Gutenburg.

Everyone I asked, no matter who they were, all seemed to say "Oh - you should check out 'Last Exile'". So I did. It's an anime series (which I'm not really into) so not quite what I was expecting, and the first few episodes were a bit confusing, but then I was hooked, it's a great series. (You have to watch the episodes in order though - it's one story told in 26 half-hour episodes.) I highly recommend it! The series on DVD costs over a hundred dollars, but if you have any friends who are into downloading anime, I guarantee they'll already have it - this was the high-budget flagship series of 2003.

Almost but not really steampunk, 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow' is a recent movie worth checking out, a kind of pseudo film-noir set in what I'll call "airships and aces" setting with 1950's golden-age scifi technology - the future as imagined by people in the early half of the 20th century.

In a similar vein to Sky Captain is 'Crimson Skies' (PC game, about air-pirates, airships-n-aces again), lots of fun, but pretty close to reality. There are lots of games far closer to real steampunk though, but I don't play enough to know many.

"The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne" is a BBC steampunk TV series. The first few episodes weren't great (as seems to be the case for most TV series - takes a while to find their stride), but it got better.

"Wild Wild West" is a crap hollywood steampunk film, but hey, they wear some nice outfits :-)
Recently there was also "Around the world in 80 days" with Jackie Chan, the Governator, etc. It recast Phileus as a visionary steampunk inventor. But it also really sucked.

Plus, of course, there are all the film adaptions of the speculative SF novels you're reading. A couple of years ago there was a high-budget remake of "The Time Machine", (and obviously there are all the classic ones, like Disney's 20,000 leagues, but I'm not so into those either)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:41 PM on March 11, 2005

This has been on my "Must mine for books to read" list for a while now, it might be helpful to your search too.
posted by fvw at 12:43 PM on March 11, 2005

I really haven't read, seen or played anything from the genre (aside from loving League, Wells, Verne and the Burroughs Mars stuff). Is the Steampunk Trilogy the best place to start? Difference Engine? I think I'm more inclined towards the sci-fi rather than the fantasy (ie magic aspect). Thanks.
posted by Dante5Inferno at 1:54 PM on March 11, 2005

Aw man. I see a request for steampunk recommendations and I'm all huffed to come in and recommend China Mieville... only to find that it was done in the very first comment. Oh well.

I'm currently reading _Iron Council_ and it is packed with more neat ideas in any given page than a lot of authors manage in a whole novel.
posted by Justinian at 1:56 PM on March 11, 2005

Try out Stephenson's _The Diamond Age_ for a good modern steampunk novel (and close to my favourite novel ever). It's a bit more futuristic than most in the genre but still has that wonderful Victorian feel about it.
posted by adrianhon at 2:41 PM on March 11, 2005

Difference Engine is a good place to start, or Perdido St. Station. (all of Mieville's stuff is incredibly rich and full--excellent)
posted by amberglow at 3:28 PM on March 11, 2005

If you'd like to start a new fad--let's call it anti-Steampunk, I'd recommend Wells, When the Sleeper Wakes. It's a lesser-known of his sci-fi works, which astounds me. In it, he predicts television, the atomic bomb... all sorts of stuff. It reads like a modern-day Rip Van Winkle.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:30 PM on March 11, 2005

(Where Modern Day = Victorian England / the FUTURE!)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:30 PM on March 11, 2005

You might try Gulliver of Mars by Edwin Arnold. Also some things by O.A. Kline, Planet of Peril, and I think he did some Burroughs "Mars" ripoffs.

I went on a Burroughs etc. binge back in junior high school days. I still don't have the heart to get rid of them. Never heard of the "steam punk" genre before.
posted by marxchivist at 4:42 PM on March 11, 2005

Another vote for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The comic book, not the travesty of a movie.
posted by O9scar at 5:00 PM on March 11, 2005

martha wells
posted by dorian at 5:04 PM on March 11, 2005

I think Martha Wells and China MiƩville are kind of going in opposite directions with the whole steampunk thing. Actually, I'd say Wells isn't steampunk because there's no "punk"; it's just pseudo-Victorian-era SF/fantasy. (She writes very enjoyable books, IMHO, but not steampunk.)

If we're allowing comic books, there's always Girl Genius, for the lighter side of steampunk.

I kind of think steampunk never really solidified as a genre. The Difference Engine was written by Official Cyberpunk Authors, so it had to be some kind of *punk; and books that people liked for some of the same reasons they liked tDE were then also called steampunk.

As always I recommend popping over to rec.arts.sf.written if you like to talk about this kind of stuff.
posted by hattifattener at 5:29 PM on March 11, 2005

Steamboy, the new film by Akira director Otomo is very entertaining and beautiful to look at, but didn't add a whole lot of fresh ideas.
posted by muckster at 9:50 PM on March 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

Burroughs wrote steampunk? I'm not familiar with such work(s). Could someone drop a title my way?
posted by Neosamurai85 at 11:50 PM on March 11, 2005

Burroughs wrote steampunk? I'm not familiar with these "Mars" work(s) or any other steampunk by him. Could someone drop a title my way?
posted by Neosamurai85 at 11:55 PM on March 11, 2005

Neosamurai85, that would be Edgar Rice, while you might be thinking of William S.?
posted by gentle at 12:14 AM on March 12, 2005

Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates isn't exactly steampunk -- closer to magical realism with a sci-fi twist -- but it is alternate history, so it should fit. It's about a group of people who, to test a theory of time travel, goes back in time to the early 1800s to attend a lecture by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Gleefully literate (there's the brilliant portrayal of Coleridge and a hilariously logical explanation of the origins of his Ancient Mariner, but there's also Lord Byron hanging around), it's an amazing novel, carefully research and ingeniously plotted -- Powers, when he's at his best, as he is here, is a highly visual, energetic writer, and one of his best tricks is conjuring a sense of time, setting and atmosphere using very few words. It's one of those books you should not read a review or plot summary about before reading -- I've been careful not to reveal anything significant here.
posted by gentle at 12:26 AM on March 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed Stephen Baxter's Anti-Ice. Britain discovering a naturally occuring 'anti-matter', giant land yachts, trips to the moon - it has it all!
posted by PenDevil at 2:24 AM on March 12, 2005

Thanks gentle, I was. William S. was what I read a lot of in high school, so my brain fogged out the obvious. Side note: is there a way to delete messages you post accidentally? I must have hit 'Post' instead of 'Preview' last time around. Peace.
posted by Neosamurai85 at 7:27 AM on March 12, 2005

any other alternative history novels that would fit in the steampunk genre?
posted by Dante5Inferno at 6:51 PM on March 16, 2005

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