by tom moodyComments Off on Major Newspaper Puts Steampunk on the Map
The New York Times sends its intrepid reporter out into the wilds of the internet and midtown Manhattan and uncovers a new trend...drumroll...steampunk (subscription may be required on your wood-trimmed computer). The article takes the tried and true "subculture about to break large" angle. Mentioned are goth, William Gibson, and Iron Man (obligatory plug no matter how tangential) but not The Difference Engine (a key text), LARPing, or Renaissance fairs. Mad Max and Brazil are namechecked but not The Wild Wild West or Philip Pullman. Most of the people interviewed appear to be alienated web designers looking to cash in on their hobby. Another relevant precedent, at least as the Times frames the "trend," would be the artists McDermott and McGough, who've actually lived a 19th Century lifestyle, refusing to use plastic or modern plumbing, as opposed to the swell described in the article:
Yes, he owns a flat-screen television, but he has modified it with a burlap frame. He uses an iPhone, but it is encased in burnished brass. Even his clothing — an unlikely fusion of current and neo-Edwardian pieces (polo shirt, gentleman’s waistcoat, paisley bow tie), not unlike those he plans to sell this summer at his own Manhattan haberdashery — is an expression of his keenly romantic worldview.
This is why we buy publications made on quaint old printing presses: to separate the poMo practitioner from the poseur. For the record, "steampunk" as envisioned in William Gibson's and Bruce Sterling's 1991 novel The Difference Engine was an outgrowth of cyberpunk--a noirish story set in a world of steam powered military hardware and punch card computers. The "punk" in the portmanteau makes it ideal fodder for current trendmongering.