I recently finished a wonderful steampunk urban fantasy and in a possibly misguided attempt to make everyone want to read it, I'm going to talk about steampunk today.
For those of you not in the know, a quick definition:
steampunk n. - 1. a subgenre of science fiction using quasi-Victorian technology based on steam power and clockwork rather than combustion engines, nanotechnology, or any other modern technology—in other words, the sci-fi that Jules Verne and H.G. Wells wrote 2. a subculture involving faux-Victorian costumes with lots of metal, cogs, and goggles (from steam + -punk; c.f. cyberpunk)
I'm not going to be writing this in Victorian-era English, but if you want to imagine me speaking in an over-the-top British accent, go ahead.
Let's start with the one and only Difference Engine, a.k.a. a clockwork calculater that didn't take off. National Public Radio did an article* a while back, covering the working model installed in the Computer History Museum. (If you click that last link, you'll find photos and a video.)
With a Difference Engine at hand, the Victorians may have been able to realize this hexagonal London**, or they may have been able to invent sound-locating technology*** before WWI. Then again, maybe they wouldn't have, or maybe they would have even without a Difference Engine. Who knows?
Other intriguing historical links, more of the researchy variety: 60 seminal Royal Society papers, online****; predictions on the future of warfare, from 1924; and a scarily predictive article on the future of Christmas shopping, from 1909*****.
Of course, steampunk's something of a reality. Just ask the US military, who want to deploy an airship in Afghanistan, or the gentleman who designed a "Teslapunk"urinal.†
And I think I'll leave you with three galleries of concept art—and one final link.
Gail Carriger, the author of the aforementioned awesome novel, has a section of her site dedicated to steampunk links. Check 'em out!
Um, yeah… So this post didn't really have a point except for dumping links. I promise I'll do better on that front!
**** Boing Boing