“The Steampunk Bible” by Jeff Vandermeer with SJ Chambers

This review is happening on a Sunday (rather than the usual book-review Friday) because it’s non-fiction. 

“The Steampunk Bible” comes up in almost every Steampunk discussion, and it deserves it. For one thing, it was published this year – 2011 – so it’s one of the most up-to-date looks at the entire Steampunk subculture that you can find (away from the somewhat less reliable interwebs).

I’ve been deliberately looking into Steampunk for a while now (mainly the literature, but also the things that cause internet rants*), and in my opinion this book does a very good job of catching the biggest names (Moorcock, Carringer, Priest, Foglio, Westerfeld, etc – with the exception of Philip Reeve and Richard Harland) and the most influential trends – art, engineering, fashion. The authors have chosen to emphasise the inclusiveness of steampunk, which is of course a good thing.

If you want to know about as much as anyone does about steampunk, this is the place to start. Oh! And it’s illustrated throughout in full colour, so it’s a visual treat.

Free sample (interview with Scott Westerfeld):

What is your personal definition of Steampunk?

It’s partly a set of nostalgias – for handmade and human-scale technologies, baroque design, and elegant dress and manners – combined with the puerile pleasure of mussing up a very stuffy stage in history, bringing a flamethrower to a tea party, so to speak. And this flamethrower extends to the political and social as well as technological, because Steampunk creates a new set of Victorian stories. . .

*Definitions, particularly what is or is not Steampunk (and the countless subgenres sprouting like weeds). Whether Steampunk should be dark and/or political. The distinction between makers (who make functional items) and artists (who make beautiful things that hint at function but don’t actually possess it). The curious anger some people feel about the travesty of NON-FUNCTIONAL *gasp* goggles. Etc.

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