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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Steampunk on Earth and Barsoom Part 2

All fiction is a way of taking our minds off the issues of today.  Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance: any flavor of fiction can give us temporary respite from our problems, and even inspire us to improve our lives in myriad ways.  As this blog has shown, I’ve taken what I desired from Fiction and applied it to my life.  Whether it was something big like planning a trip to England, something comparatively small like visiting Poirot’s home, or simply trying a new variety of cheese, I’ve repeatedly looked to Fiction to enhance my life, and found myself better for the effort.  What’s interesting is when other artists notice a trend in popular fiction and make a nod toward it, even if they don’t fully celebrate the movement.  I suspect the filmmakers of making such a nod in the Disney movie “John Carter.”

Dejah Thoris, designer of
Steampunked Blue Ray devices
(not those made by Sony)

While the characters don’t wear Victorian era clothing, or build machines powered by steam, director Andrew Stanton and his production staff must have noticed the rising popularity of Steampunk.   In the red human cities of Helium and Zodanga, every gear is exposed, every machine big and stylized.  Zodangan doorknobs are elaborate brass affairs, more like something a sailor would turn on a submarine.  Dejah Thoris’ Blue Light (Special) machine, with its intricate housing, resembles one of the large light fixtures that Hollywood once used to light film sets.  The airships feature lots of moving metal parts, all of which are crafted to appeal to the eye and polished to reflect the sun’s rays.  I’m not saying that they’ve intentionally Steampunked Barsoom, but neither can I believe that they would have designed it the same way had they made the movie in the 1970s or 80s.  (They’re certainly not taking any design clues from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ descriptions in his novel A Princess of Mars).  Clearly, the influence of the Steampunk movement extends far beyond its immediate focus.

The launch room for NASA's Redstone, Jupiter, and Juno rockets

Our modern technology is streamlined to the nth degree: the more powerful our creations, the more ordinary we make their appearance.  Victorian inventions may have been more fanciful than functional, but at least they looked interesting.  Today’s bland little cellphone allows you to talk to people thousands of miles away, as well as surf the Internet, but is many times more powerful than the huge machines--with all their gears, levers, dials, and lights--that once guided spaceships to the moon.  Is it any wonder that we yearn to make our technological wonders look as powerful as they really are?  

The "Hive Mind" of the once all-powerful
Launch Control system

With my apologies to John Steed and Sherlock Holmes, I don’t plan on purchasing a Bowler or a Top Hat anytime soon.  I can’t imagine exchanging my jeans and T-shirts for the elaborate clothing of a bygone era any time soon.  I’m sure the Steampunk movement will not influence me to redesign the rooms in my house.  I’m not even going to buy a fanciful little adapter kit to Steampunk my cellphone.  Might I intentionally enhance aspects of the novel I’m writing about my dragon to cater to those involved in this popular trend?  Perhaps.  Even if I don’t fully understand the movement, I cannot help but admire the elegance and beauty created by Steampunk aficionados.  In fact, I’m not too proud to rise to my feet and applaud their efforts.  For what others do to bring meaning and beauty to their lives, and hence to the world around us, should not be criticized, but celebrated.

Related Dragon Cache Links

Steampunked Internet Links

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