Gimme books to use as research for a steampunk faux-non-fiction book
July 6, 2017 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning on writing a steampunk fiction book disguised as a non-fiction history book. I don't want to go into the details of what it's about, but I would sure like research material on it. As cool as I find steampunk, I want to make sure the book reflects the society, culture, politics, problems and 'feel' of the Victorian era. What are some great books on Victorian history (or actual historic Victorian books) that would be beneficial to writers of steampunk? Specific details below.

I would like to particularly focus on the first half of Victoria's reign, so from roughly 1830-1870.

Bonus if said books examine the following threads:

- Literature and art (Global, but perhaps with a focus on British colonies)
- Colonialism, particularly, but not restricted to British India
- Board games and to a lesser degree, sports
- Society and social attitudes
- The intersection of technology and art/culture
- Social and cultural differences across the world
- Women in the 19th century
- Gender and sexuality in the 19th century
- Racism
- What it was like setting up and growing a business in the 19th century
- Patents, copyrights and intellectual property related stuff
- Language, style and other details that would help make the text more 'authentic'
- Any other particularly interesting, but perhaps obscure things that happened in the 19th century

I would also appreciate any 19th-century fiction or modern steampunk fiction books that might serve as inspiration.
posted by Senza Volto to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For a few of your topics I'd recommend Unmentionables: A Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:13 AM on July 6, 2017

You might be interested in Michael Moorcock's "Nomad of the Time Streams" series, which is a sort of proto-steampunk of the 1970s that takes the stuffing out of Victorianism. In the foreword, he credits Edith Nesbit as creating the protagonist character he uses, Oswald Bastable. She was active in the second half of the Victorian era, so not exactly what you're looking for, but her writings might be informative.
posted by adamrice at 10:13 AM on July 6, 2017

Best answer: One thing I used in a similar project is original source material. Look for books about these subjects written in the time period, there are a lot available on Project Gutenberg and other online sources.

My project was about European exploration in the Amazon and I found a treasure trove of first hand accounts as well as reference books aimed at the "gentleman scholar" back home.

As a bonus it will give you a good idea of the tone and general structure of actual reference books of the period.
posted by buildmyworld at 12:01 PM on July 6, 2017

Best answer: London Labour and the London Poor

The Intemperate Engineer

Dicken's Victorian London (late for your period but there won't be many earlier photos)

The Labour-Saving House
(late for your period, but uses new tech to solve problems that were common through the 1800s)

The Prospect Before Her (goes through your period, is not solely British)

Foreign Mud

The Great Hedge of India
posted by clew at 3:47 PM on July 6, 2017

Best answer: You might be interested in The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage. It is an overview of some of the pre-telegraph technologies used for long-distance communication, as well as an essay about the cultural and political effects of the invention of the telegraph.

You might also be interested in the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was at the centre of a lot of civil and mechanical engineering during the Industrial Revolution.

You might also be interested in the life of Charles Babbage, arguably the father of the programmable computer and definitely the father of the vapourware computer project. His Difference Engine has been a source of wonder and inspiration for generations of math, science, and computer nerds. Bruce Sterling wrote a speculative fiction novel called The Difference Engine, inspired by Babbage's work.

- Women in the 19th century
You can't get much more badass than Florence Nightingale... nurse, hospital reformer and infographics designer.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:07 PM on July 6, 2017

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