Thursday, March 5, 2009

Steampunk; Myths and Legends

According to the Oxford English Dictionary’s online Science Fiction Citations site the term “Steampunk” (coined 1987) refers to “a subgenre of science fiction which has a historical setting (esp. based on industrialized, nineteenth-century society) and characteristically features steam-powered, mechanized machinery rather than electronic technology.”

As a genre of science-fiction Steampunk has been very close to my heart for some time now, stemming, it seems, from my on going love of turn of the century science-fiction and fantasy writers such as Mary Shelly, Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. In essence Steampunk fantasies imagine a hypothetical past where steam powered technology advanced far more than it ever really did resulting in the creation of automobiles, planes, automatic weapons, and even robots long before their times.

It is interesting to note that one of the main functions of myth often seems to be the reimagining of historical events as larger-than-life narratives full of heroes, villains, gods and monsters. In this sense writers of Steampunk science fiction (in fact writers of science fiction and fantasy in general) are very much modern myth makers, retelling the tales of the (not too distant) past but furnishing them with fantastic elements which capture our hearts and minds, even as our modern rationalistic sensibilities are telling us that such things can’t be.

Apparently feeling a similar sentiment CGSociety recently hosted a three month long competition for graphic artists which challenged them “to render traditional myths and legends in the steampunk style using elements of gears, springs, brass and steam power. Re-imagine legendary characters from some of the world’s most ancient stories, such as a steam-powered minotaur, or a Zeppelin-mounted Thor, hurling lightning bolts from the sky.” Very cool.

The contest was sponsored by over a dozen different graphic art companies and offered winners a chance to snatch up “$220,000 in prizes!” Below are some of my favorite pieces from the contest; not all are winners, but all are of epic proportions.

Charles Dickens meets the Bible as a Victorian era David takes on a mechanized Goliath. By Roger Nobs.

One of the contest winners, Fabricio Moraes' robotic Pinocchio, or as he calls it "Steamocchio."

The Fall of Icraus, by Nigel Quarless.

Another contest winner, Guillaume Dubois' very appropriate clockwork Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

In my humble opinion this piece by Jack Zhang should have won simply based on how cool the concept is; The Monkey King Sun-Wu-Kong vs. King Kong!


Winner Marek Madej's take on Don Quixote, the world's first LARPer.


A final peice and another contest winner, "The Fall of Hyperion" by Marcin Jakubowski. Apparently based partly on a science fiction novel by author Dan Simmons and partly on the tale of Zeus throwing the titans (here a giant robot) out of heaven.

1 comment:

kamagra said...

Yeah those pictures are amazing is like to be in a virtual life or like the game second life which is amazing for me.