Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Steampunk Bible

by Jeff Vandermeer and S. J. Chambers


I don't consider myself to be a steampunk. Whilst the outfits are good for occasional dressing-up and I'll dip into the literature or films now and again, I'll take FTL drives or even mana over steam power most days. However, for a superfan of the genre there's almost certainly something new in The Steampunk Bible.

This book takes a comprehensive look at all aspects of steampunk: the literature, art, fashion, maker culture, film, television, and more. It examines the genre's history and influences, and why it matters to some adherents. I write "some adherents" because a subculture might have as many different interpretations as practitioners. So for a few the quirky aesthetic is enough, but for others it's about the hands-on nature of old machines you can fix yourself, or the industrial revolution and steam power, or even a sort of sustainability. The latter surprised me, because the emphasis on steam power and big clunky objects seems the opposite of sustainable. Granted, old technology was built to last and to be user-serviceable, so there's some mitigation.

The international aspect of steampunk is dealt with in a section at the end, not even a whole chapter. This includes various ways the style tackles colonialism and mashes up with other cultures to create something new. That the whole of the non-western world's take on steampunk is tacked on in a few pages rather than included throughout is perhaps a sign that the steampunk scene didn't have much worldwide reach in 2011 when the book was published. It is dated in that respect. It might also be a sign that the authors are based in the USA.

There are some things included that aren't fully steampunk but only have vaguely Victorian influences, especially some of the music and films. Someone writing an updated version would no doubt find more than enough full-on steampunk to fill a similar number of pages.

The Steampunk Bible is beautifully illustrated in colour. It makes a useful reference to a niche genre, and may provide inspiration and a starting point for all kinds of creators who are interested in this subculture.

15th December 2015

Book Details

Year: 2011

Categories: Books


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Review ©

Source: own copy