Bruce Sterling interview: is the shine off steampunk as a literary genre?

Bruce SterlingRegular 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

2 thoughts on “Bruce Sterling interview: is the shine off steampunk as a literary genre?”

  1. Indeed. Re-reading The War of the Worlds for about the fourth time it occurs to me that Wells was prescient in his belief that biomimetics would be important in advanced technology, from “What we saw from the ruined house” in the book:

    “I recall particularly the illustration of one of the first
    pamphlets to give a consecutive account of the war. The artist had
    evidently made a hasty study of one of the fighting-machines, and
    there his knowledge ended. He presented them as tilted, stiff
    tripods, without either flexibility or subtlety, and with an
    altogether misleading monotony of effect. The pamphlet containing
    these renderings had a considerable vogue, and I mention them here
    simply to warn the reader against the impression they may have
    created. They were no more like the Martians I saw in action than a
    Dutch doll is like a human being. To my mind, the pamphlet would have
    been much better without them.

    At first, I say, the handling-machine did not impress me as a
    machine, but as a crablike creature with a glittering integument, the
    controlling Martian whose delicate tentacles actuated its movements
    seeming to be simply the equivalent of the crab’s cerebral portion.
    But then I perceived the resemblance of its grey-brown, shiny,
    leathery integument to that of the other sprawling bodies beyond, and
    the true nature of this dexterous workman dawned upon me. With that
    realisation my interest shifted to those other creatures, the real
    Martians. Already I had had a transient impression of these, and the
    first nausea no longer obscured my observation. Moreover, I was
    concealed and motionless, and under no urgency of action.”

    This highlights what Sterling is saying: Wells’ prediction is interesting and very advanced.

  2. With all due respect to Mary Shelley and Jules Verne, Wells really did invent modern sf. WOTW is the first book I know of to imagine the alien (or “other,” if you will) as something besides a variation on the human being: big people, little people, reanimated people, ghosts, etc. His Martians are the product of a totally different line of evolution.

    Tell your children.

    Pedantically yours…

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