So, last weekend I read, absorbed and reviewed Jeff Vandermeer’s The Steampunk Bible. Something that Vandermeer hinted at through the text and something that was far more blatant in the afterthought written by Jake von Slatt got me thinking, it concerned how perhaps people are drawn to steampunk as a reaction against the nature of modern technological advances.
Throughout, Vandermeer and his other guest writers lamented the loss of a time of accessibility of technology. It used to be that anybody could fix their own car with a hammer, a tin of oil and a bit of muscle. Yet these days with the computer power and electronics that could shut down the car if one otherwise insignificant part of the vehicle goes wrong, we simply have to take it to a garage. Invariably, it will usually cost us a small fortune too.
Today, the only future we are promised is the one in development in the corporate R&D labs of the world. We are shown glimpses of the next generation of cell phones, laptops, or mp3 players. Magazines that used to attempt to show us how we would be living in fifty or one hundred years now only speculate over the new surround-sound standard for your home theatre or whether next year’s luxury sedan will have Bluetooth as standard equipment.
He goes on to state that we have no future in technology beyond Steve Jobs next keynote address or this summer’s big blockbuster, clearly frustrated with corporate spin and the impotence of imagination from those who are supposed to be the innovators of the next few decades. From one standpoint, this is understandable. After all, we are now five years into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. People live day-to-day, paycheque to paycheque and perhaps cannot afford (emotionally) to invest too much time and effort to look beyond the next twelve months and wondering whether we’ll still be able to cover our bills.
Steampunk, from my perspective at least, seems to look to a past time – not so much through the naive nostalgia of rose coloured spectacles, but extracting the best of the Victorian period and using it’s innovation as a template for a future when the optimism of technological advance knew no boundaries.
Perhaps steampunk is something we really need right now?
Any thoughts on this?