It is very fitting that I saw an article on Boing Boing about a new issue of Steampunk Magazine being released after my last post on the work of Bruce McCall. Nothing says Faux-Nostalgia like Steam Punk; that is the achingly sentimental yearning for a future that never happened. In case you don’t know Steampunk is a genre where modern inventions like computers and the information age happened in the age of Steam, during the height of the Industrial Revolution. Check it out, it’s a really great magazine.
This is a genre that I have liked, mainly because Victorian London is such a rich place for the modern imagination to play. From Marry Poppins to From Hell the place is a fascinating place. Coal darkened skies cast long shadows on cobble stone streets lit by flickering gaslight. Every twist in the street could lead to a knife wielding barber or into the comforting embrace of the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs, Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, only Tuppence required as entry.
In my imagination Victorian London is a place of squalor on one side and great wealth and absurd tradition on the other. A place on the cusp of modernity, where aristocrats and plutocrats ruled over squalid slums. Not in excessive greed, more with excessive pomp and a certitude of their own righteousness. A time that seemed the sun would never set on the British Empire, then the trenches, artillery and machine guns of Verdun wiped that world away in one fell swoop. It was a tragic period in many ways, as the immortal works of Dickens and Shaw remind us, the distance between us and then is long enough for a bit of romanticism to flourish. And you can read more of that in Steampunk.