Is Your Farnsworth Snowcrashing?
By seapegasus on Mar 17, 2010
Listening to the Myst soundtrack (Revelation) really takes me back to the Myst games and their fantastic atmosphere. Have you seen Avatar? In the 90's, Myst was something as immersive as Avatar today. I still like Myst more, because it is more of a "private vacation spot" than the more hectic and (in comparison) more densely populated Avatar.
I'm surprised that Myst is not mentioned in this context more often, but for me it was the first example of Steampunk. It may not be pure Steampunk, but it has everything I consider defining features: An anachronistic fiction that conjures up life in a world with the best of the future and past combined. Idealistic retro science-fiction. :-) Don't you think?
The past aspect has an enlightened Victorian Era feel to it: A peaceful time where something new is discovered every day, long before unromantic consequences like pollution and concrete slabs. The future aspect brings all the practical things that you wouldn't want to live without, even in a romantic past: Science, computers, video phones, submarines, (steam) trains and cars, blimps, space ships, rayguns.
When your car, or computer, or phone, breaks down, how often is "the electronics" (microcosmos) or "the network" (macrocosmos) to blame? In Real Life, you just stand there with a brick. Frustrating. In Steampunk however, everything is "human-sized", graspable, controllable. Steampunks never lose control, because they have a screwdriver, a barometer, and welding goggles: Three examples of artifacts that extend a person's dexterity, senses, and resistance. In a Steampunk world, that fixes any problem.
All the positive modern and sci-fi concepts (transport, communication, arts, science, medicine, education, etc) are kept, while negative aspects are replaced by something natural, clean, "mechanic". Artificial materials like plastic and concrete are replaced by brass, wood, and marble. Neonlights are replaced by candles. Mass-produced prints are replaced by DaVinci-style hand-written sheets. Intangible electronics are replaced by gears and levers. Your computer turns into an Analytical Engine, and your screen is a laterna magica or a Farnsworth. The capacity of the item stays the same (or is even better) as today, but Steampunks would never get a menial "bluescreen of death". :p
Nah, Bluescreens, that would be... Cyberpunk, wouldn't it? :-D Cyberpunk characters are stuck in a frustrating complicated dying inhuman technoverse where everything (including people) is controlled and owned by a few powerful beings -- like in the Matrix. In comparison, Steampunk characters lead very free, independent, and individual lives. Come on, Myst's Atrus has whole islands and planets to himself!
Firefly is another nice example of Steampunk that comes to mind, I'm sure you can find more: It can be films (Sky Captain, Brazil) and games (WoW Gnomes), novels and graphic art, even fashion and other DIY crafts... Check out the pictures. Pretty, eh? :)