Good Reading : July 2010
In 2010 Australia will be the centre of the Science Fiction and Fantasy world Aussiecon 4 68th World Science Fiction Convention Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre Melbourne Australia 2-6 September 2010 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org GPO Box 1212 Melbourne. Vic. 3001 Australia www.aussiecon4.org.au disappeared.That is, until a few writers, perhaps sensing something in the air, picked up the baton in the 1970s. This is when Michael Moorcock wrote the 'A Nomad of the Time Streams' trilogy set in quasi-Victorian times --The Warlord of the Air, The Land Leviathan and The Steel Tsar -- complete with fiendishly advanced airships and gargantuan steam-powered war machines. Soon after, American Har ry Har rison produced A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hur rah! which the notoriously crusty Auberon Waugh (son of Evelyn) read and 'cried like a baby at the wedding between the beautiful, good Iris and brave Captain Washington'. A thoroughly splendid outcome for all. To tell the truth, however, these early entries in the steampunk hall of fame were singular, one-offs, reactions against the predominant mainstream of science fiction rather than the harbingers of a popular moment. It was only some 10 years later that what we call steampunk truly began. In the early 1980s, a trio of like-minded writers in California for med a loose affinity group, deliberately setting out to write in a mode that would capture some of the feel of Ver ne and Wells. Good friends K W Jeter, James Blaylock and Tim Powers produced Morlock Night ( Jeter), The Anubis Gates (Powers) and The Digging Leviathan (Blaylock). These were hugely influential works in establishing steampunk as a legitimate sub-genre. And the name? At the time Jeter wrote to Locus, the science fiction magazine: 'Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective ter m for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like "steampunks", perhaps ... ' This was the time when cyberpunk had burst onto the scene with the success of William Gibson's Neuromancer, ably aided by Ridley Scott's film Bladerunner. Jeter was nodding in that direction but also acknowledging that steampunk was partly a rejection of cyberpunk's computer saturated, gritty near future. In a nutshell, steampunk went retro-nostalgic rather than indulging in grim extrapolation into a hard-edged and seamy future. Both, however, were in love with their espective technologies: black chrome and omputers for cyberpunk, steam and brass in steampunk's case. Steampunk, however -- at least in its early days -- was typically more optimistic than cyberpunk. Morlock Night (a lunatic sequel to The Time Machine) , The Digging Leviathan (subter ranean adventures in a hollow earth, complete with mer people) and The Anubis Gates (a time travel expedition to meet Samuel Taylor Coleridge goes wrong) opened the floodgates, especially after Powers's The Anubis Gates won the Phillip K Dick Award in 1984. This first flowering of steampunk even swept up William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, two of the heroes of cyberpunk, and they collaborated on The Difference Engine in 1990 (about an alter native world where Charles Babbage's steam-powered computer kicks off the infor mation age in Victorian times). Hot on its heels in 1992 was Kim Newman's memorable Anno Dracula (in which Count Dracula mar ries Queen Victoria) and in 1995 when Neal Stephenson landed The Diamond Age, Verne's novels were full of the sense of wonder that marks such imaginings.