Steampunk 101: An Expert Helps Demystify the Strange Subculture

One of the authors of the new book 'Vintage Tomorrows' selects examples of steampunk culture for the uninitiated

  • Share
  • Read Later

In their new book Vintage Tomorrows, historian James H. Carrott and futurist Brian David Johnson make the case that the subculture known as steampunk provides our society with the best possible way to understand our technological world—and, as such, is poised to enter the mainstream.

The aesthetic has a design sensibility that borrows from our steam-engined past (usually, but not limited to, Victorian England and the American Wild West)—which might explain why the uninitiated tend to think of its adherents as odd persons who like to wear funny clothes and hats.  So to better illustrate steampunk’s depth and breadth and seriousness of purpose, Carrott has curated and provided explanatory text for this gallery of images. Call it Steampunk 101

READ MORE: 5 Reasons You’ll Be Talking About Steampunk in 2013

More Photography from Time


Hello, D!  Fair enough. 

 My comment was based on the following impression. The title of this article, Steampunk 101, would imply a comprehensive description of the Steampunk genre as a whole. That is, the book is an introduction course to it's subject, as so many have used that title before in conventions and blogs. And certainly the first image of Sean's desktop further enforces the impression that the book may prominently  feature the "Maker" aspect of Steampunk.  Of course the delight and strength of Steampunk lies in it's wide variety of applications such as literature, fashion, maker devices, LARP, etc, but it could certainly be argued that it was the staggering Maker creations that brought the global attention to Steampunk.  

Hence, not seeing Rich "Datamancer" Nagy's name and work (along with so many others like Thomas Willeford, Ian Crighton and Joey Marsocci) elicited my comment.  Be well :)


The original artists  who not only defined the genre but created it are conspicuously absent in this book.  Jake Von Slatt aside, it includes virtually none of the genres' original luminaries.  It's as if Mr. Carrot didn't even consult the Steampunk WIKI page before he began his research.

This is akin to writing a book about the creation of Rock and Roll and leaving out Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard AND Elvis.

I cannot imagine any explanation for the extreme lack of academic research in this book.


@ArtDonovan I think what the authors provide is certainly a slice of the community, but their contributions are very insightful. There are other books that cover the roots of steampunk subculture (like Jeff Vandermeer and SJ Chambers' The Steampunk Bible or Brian J Robb's Steampunk: An Illustrated History) or the art movement (such as your own The Art of Steampunk), but what Vintage Tomorrows covers specifically is the relationship between people and technology and how steampunk is one method that addresses this. The book isn't meant to be encyclopedia or a full historical account, but does provide a lot of thought to the meaning of technological and people's ethical relationship to it with tons of original documentation that the casual reader and the scholar can draw upon. So, overall, I think it is a strong contribution to the growing amount of academic literature on steampunk.