There’s a fine new book: ‘Vintage Tomorrows’ (Carrott & Johnson 2013). Here’s the official description:
What would today’s technology look like with Victorian-era design and materials? That’s the world steampunk envisions: a mad-inventor collection of 21st century-inspired contraptions powered by steam and driven by gears. In this book, futurist Brian David Johnson and cultural historian James Carrott explore steampunk, a cultural movement that’s captivated thousands of artists, designers, makers, hackers, and writers throughout the world.
Just like today, the late 19th century was an age of rapid technological change, and writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells commented on their time with fantastic stories that jumpstarted science fiction. Through interviews with experts such as William Gibson, Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling, James Gleick, and Margaret Atwood, this book looks into steampunk’s vision of old-world craftsmen making beautiful hand-tooled gadgets, and what it says about our age of disposable technology.
Steampunk is everywhere—as gadget prototypes at Maker Faire, novels and comic books, paintings and photography, sculptures, fashion design, and music. Discover how this elaborate view of a history that never existed can help us reimagine our future.
And here’s a quote from the foreword by ↑Henry Jenkins:
For science fiction to exist as a genre, the culture must experience such rapid change that people could recognize significant shifts over their own lifetime and thus begin to imagine a future that looks radically different from the present. A society where the same basic practices are handed down generation after generation has little use for science fiction. Another precondition may be the capacity of a people to recognize that things your society takes for granted are not the only “natural” or “logic” ways that people might live.
The expansion of the British (and other European) empires was bringing the western world into contact with what, for the Victorians, was an alarming amount of cultural diversity. The age was one that saw ongoing breakthroughs in geography (as people sat out to map the empire), anthropology (as people discovered new people and practices), archeology (as ancient ruins were unearthed), and natural history (as the discovery of new species, such as the duck-billed platypus, shattered the conceptual frameworks by which people sought to order nature). (Jenkins 2013: ix)
Compare this to the following quote from ↑Bruce Sterling‘s introduction to ‘Mirrorshades’:
The cyberpunks are perhaps the first SF generation to grow up not only within the literary tradition of science fiction but in a truly science-fictional world. For them, the techniques of classical “hard SF” extrapolation, technological literacy—are not just literary tools but an aid to daily life. They are a means of understanding, and highly valued. (Sterling 1986: ix)