The Steampunk Empire

The Crossroads of the Aether

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
The British Library

2014
ISBN 978 0 7123 5791 3

Pages 203-205

...Just as Goth subculture in the 1980's drew on literary and cinematic precedents to fashion a spectacular visual style, Steampunk too first emerged as a literary genre. By the twenty-first century, however, it was established as a fully fledged sub-culture with its own communities and events. The term “Steampunk” tropes on the late twentieth-century science fiction sub-genre Cyberpunk, but has more in common with nineteenth-century science fiction, since it imagines a future based on nineteenth-century science...Much Steampunk fiction retains the Gothic sensibility of the nineteenth_century science fiction by which it is inspired. However, this sensibility is often more evident in the visual complexity and chiaroscuro of its fictional worlds than in its narrative trajectories. Steampunk is often Gothic in its patchwork assemblage of scraps and fragments of the Gothicised past, but more so in the evocation of a world of gas lamps and grime, crystal and cast iron, and top hats, goggles, and corsets.

Both Goth subculture and Steampunk are notable for their conversion of literature to lifestyle: the living out of narrative themes and aesthetic motifs through everyday practices, from dress and home décor to social events. In the twenty-first century this has spread beyond sub-culture to inform a range of commodities – much mass produced Halloween sweets and toys to the haute couture of fashion designers...Such proliferation of Gothic commodities informs one of the cherished practices of Steampunk sub-culture: 'retro-fitting', or customising pieces of current technology to look Victorian...The object retains its function, but acquires a patina of 'pastness', a fake historicity.

Drawing on the twenty-first century renewal of interest in handicrafts, Steampunk retor-fitting asserts the value of the individual and hand-made over the mass-produced corporate design...In doing s, it returns to the Arts and Crafts Gothic championed in the nineteenth-century by John Ruskin and William Morris, which found a celebration of creative craftsmanship and spiritual community in medieval Gothic architecture…

Steampunk embodies the characteristic ambilvalence of twenty-first century Gothic. It expresses nostalgia for a world before the Information Age while simultaneously celebrating scientific and technological progress. In doing so it reflects a new balance between to opposing models of Gothic: one that repudiates the oppressive past in the service of enlightened modernity, and one that reflects nostalgically on the imaginative riches of former eras. Nowhere is this more strongly evident than in those aspects of twenty-first century Gothic that highlight the new models of participation and convergence encouraged by digital culture. Gothic readers have always been implicated by the text, not only consuming but also consumed by its wonders, its pleasures, and its terrors. In the participatory culture of the early twenty-first century, however, they are active in constructing its meanings, whether throughhypertext, lifestyle practices, fanfic or retro-fitting. The DIY aesthetic is visible...even where produced and marketed by big corporations, contemporary Gothic seeks the illusion of the hand made. The sinister threat of the book as artefact goes hand in hand with the pleasure of the book as an object. In such ambivalence lies Gothic's continuing power to signify and its enduring vitality at the dawn of the Information Age.

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Interesting excerpt. It definitely sounds like a scholarly work mean for research and students. I remember those types of books from my college days. It's true that goth and steampunk take aesthetics and apply them to actual lifestyles. I also agree with the nostalgic part. Fake historicity? It's more like alternate history. Basically, a science fiction and fantasy version of history. Goth and steampunk go together pretty well, partially because they come from similar roots. Also, they're both rebelling against something.

"Fake historicity" makes me laugh every time I see it.  The whole demonstration of creating important sounding words and phrases in the art world has always been nonsensical and amusing.  In this context I do believe the author means "alternative history" but fates forbid an art writer to be straight forward!
This excerpt is from the catalogue of a show held at the British Library in late 2014 - early 2015.  It is full of articles written by both academics and art critics.

A seminal film from my almost forgotten youth . Townsman to the Marlon Brando character - " What are you rebelling against ? " Brando : " Whaddya got ? "  I'm not sure what we are rebelling against ( clear English ? )  but count me in .

Well, my book series makes some statements about anarchy, entitlement, laziness, prejudice, nihilism, and a general lack of morality that's running rampant in the 21st century. A lot of people aren't taught to value loyalty or genuine accomplishment nowadays. A lot of people just want everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. I definitely wanted to make a very eye opening statement about that problem. That's a form of rebellion.

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