There is so much stuff out there that one can’t possibly keep up with it all. I saw a short segment yesterday morning on television about a sort-0f aesthetic movement that I had completely missed in my regular sweeps through popular culture. It’s steampunk, based loosely on the early science fiction of the Victorian Era of the 19th and early 20th century. Think Jules Verne and HG Wells. It basically reimagines history, melding the technology of that era with that of our own time. For example, one of the steampunkers had a computer keyboard that was constructed of brass with beautiful round typewriter keys. It was a spectacular piece of work that he described as being right on place in the Nautilus sunmarine of Captain Nemo.
When I first saw this, I immediately thought of the movie The Time Machine with Rod Taylor as the Time Traveller. I had saw this again recently and had marvelled at the techno-beauty of the actual Time Machine in the movie, with its decorative curves and beautiful brass surfaces. It is just the sort of thing that these steampunk followers grabbed onto and made the basis for their movement. They have translated this look into many items such as the guitar ,shown above, and the motorcycle and laptop, both shown below.
This movement has been the basis for the recent Sherlock Holmes films with Robert Downey, Jr and it certainly looks like something that could easily fall out of any Terry Gilliam film. Another cited influence on the steampunk movement was the 1960’s TV series The Wild, Wild West , a favorite of mine when I was a kid, which had this same look and use of technology.
I think it’s interesting, especially from a visual perspective. I love the surfaces, the sweeping design lines and the busy overuse of levers and gauges. I ‘m just not sure about the folks who follow it in the same way as the Trekkies or Star Wars people. I’m more surprised that steampunk has been around for about twenty or thirty years and hadn’t come to my attention in some way. As I said, it’s a big world out there and you can’t keep up with it all. I’m looking over at a cheap electric guitar in the corner of my studio and am thinking it might look pretty cool with a few brass gears and a vintage steam pressure gauge or two. Hmmm…….