Fri
Oct 30 2009 2:10pm

Return to the Written Word

This is a shameless self-promotion post. Not of myself, but for you.

You see, when I was a wee English major, some wise professor told me, if I was stuck, I should “go back to the text.” Being an English major, my job was to interact with what I was reading, and focus my thoughts and responses to the text, into a coherent manner. It’s the basis of critical analysis, and it brings to the fore what I already knew and how I understood the text.

Steampunk, as we know, began with the literature, as an off-shoot of cyberpunk, a kind of bastard-child that its literary predecessors might not have embraced but had its own charisma and gained its own following. (Well, you know, if you can’t get along with your own family, you find friends to fill that gap, right?)

It is, unfortunately, not the most visible part of steampunk now, and even while plenty of people read steampunk works, there are few who actually take it seriously to critically engage with the texts beyond “it was an awesome book” or something equally inane like that. Yeah, it was awesome, but how? I’ve always firmly believed that a work should stand on its own, and in order to be a great work, it must withstand critique and criticism.

So, under the cut, I’ve listed the few bloggers I know of that engages with steampunk in a truly hyper-academic way. I really admire these folks, so I thought I’d share. And you should, too.

Mike Perschon, Steampunk Scholar: Mike Perschon has the monopoly on the term, and he deserves it too. Mike is pursuing his doctorate, and his subject of his thesis is “Steampunk As Aesthetic,” which should tell you something. He explores the idea of how steampunk as an aesthetic can be applied to various media. If you’ve gone to SteamCon and other such steampunk conventions, you may have heard him speak on subjects such as Captain Nemo as the original steampunk hero, and steampunk aesthetics applied to Star Wars. His paper “Steam Wars” will soon be out in the Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies.

Mike and his RPG group also came up with Steam Lords, an RPG that mixes Verne with Tolkien. He is the Game Master for this “Steampunk Middle-Earth” RPG. I’m not much of a fan of tabletop RPGs, but if it sounds like your thing, you should get in touch with him. On his blog, he is recording his five-year journey of work (which involves a lot of reading books and watching movies, it appears) developing his thesis.

Might I also say, he totally inspired me to pursue steampunk as one of my topics to explore in grad school. Of course, my interests run in different directions, but I won’t be the only steampunk egghead in Canada now!

Cory Gross, Voyages Extraordinaire: I first read an article of Cory Gross’ in Issue 1 of Steampunk Magazine, where he discussed the idea of a spectrum of steampunk, ranging from the Nostalgic (which romanticizes the era) to the Melancholic (which views the era as bleak). According to his profile, Cory has a dayjob as a career museum and heritage worker. Which, you know, is pretty darn awesome and lends itself perfectly to steampunk.

Cory and I disagree, quite vehemently, on a few things (as you may well have noticed), but I can’t deny that his blog is the singularly most extraordinary resource on everything retro-futuristic. Updating on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Cory consistently delivers essay after review after essay on various works. I love his writing because you can tell he really draws on various bodies of knowledge in order to better flesh out any observations he makes, from film to history to genre works, and yet always maintains a focus on the topic.

Dr. Dru Pagliassotti, Mark of Ashen Wings: Dr. Dru, as she is often called, is a professor in the Communications Department of the California Lutheran University. She’s been working on a book about yaoi, but we probably know her best as the authouress of Clockwork Heart. Her blog is best known for the two rather loaded questions: “Does Steampunk Have Politics?” and “Does Steampunk Have An Ideology?

I like her book reviews, because they’re quite personalized and don’t pretend to objectivity that most reviewers do.


These are three steampunk blogs I read on a regular basis. There are plenty out there, of course, but I’m biased towards the more text-heavy ones with a critical analysis angle.

What steampunk blogs do you guys read/write?


Jaymee Goh is a freelance writer who does most of her living in the blogosphere. She journals, blogs, tweets and chats about various things, which probably indicates that she needs to get out more.

This article is part of Steampunk Month: ‹ previous | index | next ›
4 comments
Michael Grosberg
1. Michael_GR
As far as I know Steampunk did not begin as an offshoot of Cyberpunk. The *name* Steampunk did originate as a playfull riff on Cyberpunk, but not the literature itself - Blaylock, Jetter and Powers were writing Steampunk before Gibson and Sterling got in on the action. And the idea of an alternate 19th century with steam-driven tech was in the water - see Heinlein's 1980 novel Number of the Beast which includes a steampunk segment (British empire on Mars).
p l
2. p-l
So this post begins with an exhortation to go back to the original texts, and in the end links us to... more secondary sources?

Color me confused.
Cory Gross
3. Cory Gross
p-l... If you are interested in the primary sources, that's what my offshoot blog "Voyages Extraordinaires Anthology" is for. At least as it pertains to 19th and early 20th century fiction. Give it a look: http://vexanthology.blogspot.com/

And thanks for the commendation, Jaymee!
Cory Gross
4. Mike Perschon
Kind words Jha, thanks very much!

And ditto to what Cory said. Jha is pointing her readers in the direction of blogs which deal with the primary literary sources, rather than creating another reading steampunk reading list. There are many of those available online - my site being one of the places!

I have a list of steampunk texts:
http://steampunkscholar.blogspot.com/2009/07/steampunk-scholars-reading-list-primary.html

And steampunk audiobooks:
http://steampunkscholar.blogspot.com/2009/10/steampunk-audio-for-steampunk-scholar.html

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