Today I have the please of welcoming author Kara Jorgensen to the blog. Kara will be talking about "what is steampunk." Below, Kara states "steampunk is hope for the future in the past." I think this is one of the best definitions of steampunk Kara is also the author of The Earl of Brass and the forthcoming The Winter Garden (love that title!). Welcome, Kara!
Today’s Lecture by SteamU Professor: Kara Jorgensen
Author of: The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden (coming 2015), both are part of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series
Steampunk: The Duality of the Victorian Era
When I first entered the world of steampunk as a reader and then a writer, I assumed it was just revisiting the Victorian era with advanced technology, but I soon realized steampunk is so much more than that. The Victorian era was a pivotal moment in the history of the western world with imperialism on the rise and discoveries being made not only in exploration but in medicine, archaeology, and science. Steampunk marries this rugged utilitarian side of the Victorian era with the lace and corsets we all know so well. Luckily, steampunk adds a little whimsy to this world of soot and stodgy dowagers, but why? How did this phenomenon occur, especially concerning a time of such strict morality and Dickensian poverty? I soon realized it was the indelible hope of the era. The British Empire was flourishing, the world was still small, anyone could make a discovery, wars were won without horrific casualties, and the future was looking bright. The Victorians had yet to see a truly tumultuous time. In our world, chaos seems to reign supreme, and slipping back in time a hundred and twenty years, brings us to a place of social decorum and tea time. Everything has a rule and there is a rule for everything. Steampunk is hope for the future in the past. It is a chance to discuss what could have been if we had the chance to do it over again. What if steam-power won over the combustion engine? What if Tesla had rose to prominence over Edison? Would our world be any better if we were able to do things over again? Steampunk and its various children embody what could have been while still embracing the duality of Victorian frivolity and utility.
In The Earl of Brass, Eilian Sorrell is a representation of the era’s dual nature. His passion lies in unearthing artifacts buried beneath the desert sands, yet he is bound to the world of the Victorian aristocracy by his family. Is there a way to escape the frippery and finery? Probably not, but there is a way to strike a balance between both worlds and move towards a better future. The entire Ingenious Mechanical Devices series will explore not only the possibilities of this steam and electricity driven Victorian era but the social issues that plagued the period. Steampunk is all about duality, and the stories of the genre should explore not only the promise but the problems. Through my works, I will continue to probe the questions of what could have been, would it have been for the better, and how would these changes have affected those living in this re-imagined world? More than anything, steampunk is about how this altered time changed the lives of those living in it.
Stay tuned for future installments of our SteamU lecture series of visit my archive to see past articles!