I guess I’d never really thought about it — if I’d even heard of it I think I must have filed Steampunk away as some sort of distant cousin of Starbuck from Moby-Dick, Steerforth from David Copperfield, or Steerpike from Gormenghast.* But steampunk it turns out is a sub-genre of science fiction, based upon technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. BookRiot alerts us to a recent BBC News post about a Steampunk festival held in Haworth, the Yorkshire home of those wild-in-a-different-way Brontës.

Photo PA Media

As may be seen from the photos, aficionados go whole-hog. According to the piece about a Lincoln festival linked to at the Haworth story, steampunk has been described as “nostalgia for what never was”. Steampunk Magazine puts it neatly “It’s about ‘steam’, as in steam engines, and it’s about ‘punk’, as in counter-culture.”

As an example the blurb for the first volume in the Steampunk Red Riding Hood reads: “When London’s brightest tinkers and alchemists come up missing, Red Cape Society Agent Clemmy Louvel is on the case. To help Clemmy get the problem in hand, Queen Victoria assigns her a temporary partner — a werewolf with knightly history and a tendency to be far too flirtatious for either of their good. Can she trust him to help her chase down the monsters they’re hunting? Wolves and Daggers is a retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale set in Melanie Karsak’s bestselling steampunk universe.” In the first paragraph of the book members of London guilds are seen leaving a meeting and getting into “steam- and coal-powered autos”, and off we go.

Steampunk Magazine‘s issues may be downloaded at their site. The Ranting Dragon recommends the top 20 steampunk books.

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* Mervyn Peake it seems is often regarded as a steampunk precursor.