Edgar Rice Burroughs One of the Fathers of Steampunk

Tarzan, The Tarzan Files

Here’s a nice article on steampunk — its definition, origins in early sci-fi, and even a confirmed description of the origin of the term which I hadn’t heard before, but probably should have. It also contains a list of steampunk movies and video games which does not include John Carter, but probably should. Otherwise, a pretty good read.

Steampunk drives new science fiction genre

One of the advantages of flying a zeppelin is that no one hears you coming.

Like the inflatable airships that frequently appear in its stories, the alternate history genre of steampunk quietly has been sneaking into more and more books, video games, movies and fan conventions in recent years.

Steampunk, which offers a reimagined take on the 19th century, has been around for decades, but the genre has been showing up in unexpected places lately.

“Every time you think steampunk has gone away, it gets stronger,” said Daniel Valdez, 29, a steampunk costume artist and smart-home designer from Huntsville, Ala.

“It transcends not just age groups but cultures, too,” he said. “It can fit into anyone’s love of sci-fi.”

On June 12, classic rock band Rush released “Clockwork Angels,” a concept project that tells the story of a young man’s adventures in a steampunk-inspired world. In 2010, ABC comedy-drama “Castle” aired “Punked,” an episode that focused on the genre’s underground popularity in New York City.

In 2004, Susanna Clarke’s steampunk novel, “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” about a return of magic to Victorian England, was named Time Magazine’s Best Fiction Book of the Year. Clarke’s novel reached the No. 3 spot on the New York Times bestseller list, on which it remained for 11 weeks.

Read the full article at TimesFreePress.com


  • It is cool to see ERB’s name listed along with Verne, Wells and Shelley. The four of them really are the ones who had the most foundational influence on the forms of sci-fi that we see today – hard sci-fi, adventure sci-fi, horror sci-fi, etc.

    “The downside to being a relatively young genre is that steampunk doesn’t yet have an iconic work such as “Star Wars,” or “The Lord of the Rings” to define itself to non-enthusiasts.”

    There isn’t much of a Victorian quality to ERB’s Barsoom, but with his mix of an alternate history for the whole solar system and the retro-tech of flying ships and such, ERB did provide a prototypical “iconic work” of steampunk.

  • This definition of Steampunk is pretty broad, since it encompass fantasy settings. There’s a specific term for these, Gaslamp (or Gaslight) Fantasy. To me there’s nothing steampunk in Sleepy Hollow or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The Jonathan Strange didn’t scream “steampunk” to me either. The Prestige, on the other hand, should be there. Retro-tech and uchronia are main elements to define this genre.

    I also wouldn’t put ERB in that subgenre, the technological marvels in his novels are more or less restricted to other planets and do not concern Earth. The Space 1889 rpg setting, on the other hand, features space ships travelling from earth to Mars via space, made here of ether. That fits the genre.

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