It’s NaNo time ago, and I’m almost half-way through. I’m on pace with my word count, and things are looking positive.
While on the forums, I came across a particularly interesting thread regarding steampunk – which is coincidental considering Paul’s most recent post. I came to realize that there is a significant difference in my particular mindset on the way in which genre works and the mindset of those who are writing what they deem to be genre. I don’t think it’s necessarily a difference of one’s definition of genre, but a difference in the generation gap that lies between us. To me, such things as steampunk, cyberpunk, and even space opera are things born out of ideology: there was a reactionary, responsive feel to the works that originated these particularly specific sub-genres of speculative fiction. All of that seems to be lost, and there are other who agree (read Jeff and Ann Vandermeer’s anthology Steampunk, which has a foreword by Jess Nevins).
Once you’ve been in the industry as a writer or editor for any length of time, you begin to understand that the industry is both fickle and evolving. Some of it is to preserve the species, and some of it is to appease the public. What I notice in the change of ideology, however, is that it isn’t so much about either of these things as it is a matter of how the writers themselves, begin to become removed of the ideology and more interested in the trappings and the appearance.
What, then, is the ideology of today? What is the theme, the motif, that runs through speculative fiction that very well could produce a new sub-genre in the vein of these greats? Is it New Weird in the style of China Meiville? Is it Mundane SF after Geoff Ryman’s vision? Or is there some beast yet to rise that we haven’t quite caught a glimpse of?
An interesting comment on the popularity of the clanking, clinker-creating subgenre of Science Fiction known as Steampunk:
Whether you’re reading and identifying with Girl Genius or making yourself a pair of functioning telescopic brass goggles, the fact is that when you have to get your hands or brain dirty puzzling out how stuff works, you can’t be blasé about technological miracles — you’re forced to realize what miracles we’ve actually wrought.
This is cheerful stuff, and very much inkeeping with this comment from Cory Doctorow‘s recent book, Little Brother:
“Even if you only write code for one day, one afternoon, you have to do it. Computers can control you or they can lighten your work — if you want to be in charge of your machines, you have to learn to write code.“
We must continue to comprehend and understand our technology, lest we become a slave to it.
[via Beyond the Beyond][image from Angelrays on flickr]
“Conventional clocks with hands are boring,” says inventor John Taylor. Much more interesting to build a four-foot-wide mechanical timepiece that has no hands or numbers, uses blue lights flashing through slits to tell the time, and is accurate only once in five minutes. Watch it work in a short video narrated by Taylor.
He based the clock on a design by longitude pioneer John Harrison, who was calibrating the one he built himself when he died in 1776. The ominous grasshopper sculpture atop the face is a tribute to another Harrison invention, the “grasshopper escapement” that releases a clock’s gears with each swing of the pendulum. The “Chronophage” (time-eater) was unveiled at Cambridge by Stephen Hawking, in a ceremony that ran 14 minutes and 55 seconds late. Taylor says:
“I … wanted to depict that time is a destroyer – once a minute is gone you can’t get it back …. That’s why my grasshopper is not a Disney character. He is a ferocious beast that over the seconds has his tongue lolling out, his jaws opening, then on the 59th second he gulps down time.”
[Hawking unveils the chronophage by rubberpaw]
Regular readers will be aware of my status as a card-carrying fanboy for Commandant Bruce Sterling.
It is in that capacity that I’m very pleased to report that the British Science Fiction Association‘s online media magazine, Matrix, has an interview with Sterling wherein he talks about The Difference Engine, and the steampunk subgenre it arguably spawned:
“My feeling about science fiction is that it ought to expand the scope of things that are possible to think. When Steampunk succeeded it did a little of that. If it’s just costume-drama or a merchandising tag, that’s not the end of the world, but it’s not a pursuit of a lot of use to anybody. Wells
SteamPunk Magazine is a publication that is dedicated to promoting steampunk as a culture, as more than a sub-category of fiction. It is a journal of fashion, music, misapplied technology and chaos. And fiction.
In this issue there are interviews with Alan Moore and Doctor Steel, two excellent and unique sewing projects, excerpts from the upcoming SteamPunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse, and fiction from Olga Izakson, Will Strop and Rachel E. Pollock.
And it is free.