Sunday, April 29, 2012

Intro to steam-punk summer reading list

A friend recently asked on the Book of Face

"So, what if you were designing an 'Intro to Steam-punk reading list' for the summer? What would that be?"

I sent a quick note by parcel post to a colleague (the Ecclesiast) and specialist in the genre, and here is what he sent back par avion:

If you read the Wikipedia article on steampunk, you'll see all kinds of suggestions for the origins of steampunk in literature, both the 19th century stuff (H.G. Wells and Jules Verne) as well as the authors (K.W. Jeter and Tim Powers et al) who accomplished a resurgence in the genre. Honestly, I have read very little of these authors, though I'm fairly interested in reading Tim Power's Anubis Gate at some point.

This disclaimer isn't to say you shouldn't just read these earlier works, just that I haven't. If you really want to go to the roots of the genre, just use Wikipedia and its suggestions as your point of entry. Or this top 20 list.

If you don't trust Wikipedia, then read the new Steampunk Bible. That will introduce you to steampunk in basically every artistic medium. It's beautiful and fun to read. Ann and Jeff Vandermeer have also edited a couple of steampunk short story anthologies that are worth checking out.

After these two comprehensive suggestions, here are some more specific pointers:

Top on my list would be The Difference Engine by William Gibson. His Neuromancer novels (cyberpunk) are better than his steampunk novel, but it is perhaps THE novel that energized steampunk in literature. After reading it, then go back and read his cyperpunk novels.

Right up there with Gibson, I recommend anything by Neal Stephenson, but especially his Diamond Age (the most steampunky) and Anathem (not quite steampunk, but so alternative reality as to really function as steampunk, and perhaps in my top five novels of all time).

Also in the mix is China Miéville. Again, not straight-up steampunk, but still in the mix, especially Perdido Street Station and The City and The City.

For an evocation of sci-fi DIY culture that isn't strictly sci-fi but still great, try Cory Doctorow's Makers. Doctorow is a big advocate of steampunk, although not always writing directly in the genre.

Another great novelist in steampunk is Paolo Bagicalupi, the best novel to start with being his Windup Girl.

Lots of people love Cherie Priest's novels, especially Boneshaker, but I don't tend to read horror, and these tip a bit in this direction.
Also on my reading list for the summer is Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus

Listen to Abney Park while you read these novels, or The Decemberists. Read the graphic novel/comic League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And take a break at some point in time this summer and just watch the Sherlock Holmes movies, The Golden Compass, or Howl's Moving Castle. Someone even suggested to me recently that the Firefly television series was a kind of steampunk, and I wouldn't disagree. Check out any of these. You'll be good to go!

Oh, and one other thing. You could follow the blog:

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