Reverie Fair Magazine - Page 13

In Golden Compass, we are introduced to a parallel universe very similar to our world of the late 1800s. People have daemons (animal embodiments of their spirits) that accompany them through life in physical form. The protagonist is Lyra Belacqua, a wild, headstrong child who goes on a series of adventures to find kidnapped children, including her best friend, Roger. This world, while similar to ours, is

infusedwith magic, spirits, and technology advanced from ours, the alethiometer, or golden compass, being an example of that technology. The subsequent books involve travel between other worlds. These worlds and the adventures of Lyra and another protagonist, Will Parry, are riveting but also filled with pervasive sorrow which brings me back to my problem with SP literature, that of the heavy dystopian themes. As events in our own world edge closer to many of these problems in the books, SP literature does not offer me the escape or blueprints for change that I need. I find I prefer to get my SP fix in the visual and audio.

Steampunk offers such a rich, textured aesthetic, always something new (or old) to engage the eye and ear. I am entranced with pocket watches, all

the intricate gears and elaborate case bodies, many of the watches disassembled and re-attached to clothing. There are spyglasses, cameras, and goggles, don’t forget the goggles. I appreciate the craftsmanship of a bygone era of brass, wood, leather and crystal. The clothing of

corsets, long dresses and top hats made of silks, satins and velvet appeal to the little princess that permanently resides inside of me. If you are put

off by the high number of women’s outfits that seem to be overtly sexual, go to men’s clothing. In this genre, women can really carry off the men’s clothing, not unlike Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, only more badass.

The creations of Burton J. Sears are a lovely

example of the whimsical inventiveness of SP. His sculptures/objects/inventions recently came up at auction after his passing. The pieces are meticulously and ingeniously assembled with plausible histories, so that one might be forgiven in thinking they were crafted in the 19th century: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/professor-bj-sears-steampunk-machines.

Then there are the movies and TV shows. In the 1960s, we had the TV show Wild, Wild West and

the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. More recently, we have the Sherlock Holmes movies directed by Guy Richie with Robert Downey, Jr. and Howl’s Moving Castle from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki. I also adore the Canadian TV series Murdoch Mysteries, in which 1890s Toronto detective William Murdoch uses his superb analytical skills with his love of technology to solve crimes, the technology being that of Tesla, Edison, Bell and the other innovators of the 19th century. The Syfy series, Warehouse 13, embraces the more science fiction aspects of SP, while still taking place in the 21st century - hard to describe but fun to watch.

The sound of SP seems to be harder to pin down than the visual. Much of it is very electronic based but I prefer the music that incorporates more than synthesizers. Abney Park, referenced above, mixes genres of world music, Roma (gypsy), early jazz, dance and industrial. Listen to the soundtrack from Sherlock Holmes, and how Hans Zimmer works in many traditional instruments such as banjos, upright pianos, accordions and violins. It is very Roma and early music hall driven.

Steampunk has many treasures to offer, of which I have only lightly touched on. As our world changes at an ever increasing rate, the element of taking refuge in an imaginative past holds strong appeal, and Steampunk is such a fascinating world to do it in.

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