the SmallWORLD: Steampunk

by smallworld on January 15, 2010

in smallworld, smallworld podcast

Steampunk combines science fiction elements from the Victoria era with the edginess of Cyberpunk of the 19980s. So why is Steampunk exploding in popular culture in the 21st century?

To find out, today on the Small World, we’ll talk with Bruce Sterling who, along with William Gibson, wrote The Difference Engine, the book that first pushed Steampunk into mainstream culture.

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy. This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.

We’ll also talk with David Simkins, a writer and executive producer for Syfy‘s Warehouse 13 has been described as “part The X-Files, part Raiders of the Lost Ark and part Moonlighting.”

Finally, we’ll talk with Steampunk Tales Evelyn Kriete, a penny dreadful you can read on your iPhone.

Steampunk was originally a blend of 19th century science fiction from writers like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne and the 20th century Cyberpunk themes of rebellion and dystopianism.

Steampunk has steadily been growing in popularity. Some people modify their laptops or cellphone with polished brass, iron, and wood while some musicians are incorporating Steampunk elements into their music. There are even Steampunk conventions where people can gather and display their wares or dress in pseudo Victorian fashions.

My introduction to Steampunk was The Difference Engine, a novel by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, back in the early 1990s. The Difference Engine explored an alternate history where computers existed in the 19th century and the impact they had on that world.

What better place to begin today’s show than talking with Bruce Sterling?

Bruce not only co-wrote The Difference Engine with William Gibson, but he also put Cyberpunk on the map with the Mirrorshades anthology. Bruce has also written Zeitgeist, which is one of my favorite novels, as well as The Zenith Angle, and his most recent book, The Caryatids.

Warehouse 13 is a mashup of the The X-Files and Indiana Jones with our heroes Peter Lattimer and Myka Bering hunting supernatural objects.

I really enjoy the bickering and bantering on Warehouse 13 but what first got me interested in the show were the artifacts and devices that appeared on the show. There are gadgets like Tesla guns and archaic looking communication devices and supernatural objects like Lewis Carroll‘s mirror Harry Houdini‘s wallet. All of which is steeped of Steampunk.

You know, I almost hate to admit this, but I love my iPhone.

I listen to music and podcasts on my iPhone, I play games on my iPhone, I read blogs and books on my iPhone and sometimes I even call people on my iPhone.

The iPhone is such a 21st century device that I was surprised and charmed to find an application for the iPhone called Steampunk Tales.

Steampunk Tales describes itself as a penny dreadful for the iPhone and features Steampunk stories that you can read on Apple‘s nearly ubiquitous device.

Evelyn has been kind enough to give away a copy of the latest Steampunk Tales. Send me an email at for your chance to win a copy of Steampunk Tales for your iPhone.

The music heard on today’s show is “Mr. Soot’s Little Black Book” by the Unextraordinary Gentlemen and Hannah Fury‘s “No Man Alive.”

The incidental music heard on today’s show was “Sûrement” by Ez3kiel, “Cold Fuzzies” by Skerror, “Landlost” by In the Nursery, “Arcanum” by Ben Houge and “Yeesha’s Joyride” by Jack Wall.

Join us next time on the Small World when we’ll talk with singer/song writer Michael Hayes about his retrospective album, Diamonds Down the Drain.

Previous post:

Next post: