So then Jennifer, you’d like to know a little more about Steampunk?May 14, 2012 Adult events at our Museums, Blogs, Special events
Victorian hip hop artist, Professor Elemental, takes us through a brief history of Steampunk in advance of his performance at The alternative Diamond Jubilee at the Museum of London Docklands on Thursday 31 May.
Martin Scorcese is doing it, Justin Beiber had a bit of it and Philip Pullman is riddled with it. It’s Steampunk. Pretty much what all the kids are into these days. Well, not these days exactly, more in Victorian days…make-believe Victorian days.
Imagine, if you will, that the British Empire never crumbled and steam powered innovation paved the way to the future. Imagine a world where science fiction is woven into historical fancy and where afternoon tea is served in elaborate flying steamships by a robotic butler with a perfect moustache. In this world, there are rivet-studded jet packs, pirates, corsets and a great deal of politeness. There is even, on the odd occasion, a monkey butler with a hat made of bits of old clock.
Steampunk as a genre is relatively new, although its influences trace back to Victorian literature, particularly that of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Over the past few years it has been embraced by nerds, like myself, at shows and conventions around the world. Consequently (as with most things that us nerds enjoy), the mainstream has seized upon it. Now it seems that Steampunk’s well-oiled pistons are in everything from The Simpsons to Sherlock.
But don’t fear – the Steampunk fraternity at the heart of the genre are universally lovely, imaginative folk, who have formed a genuine community that spans around the world. Some people take it very seriously indeed and gather regularly to play in an elaborate homemade universe of fantasy, wearing cyborg legs and complicated hats. For others, it is simply a big fancy dress party, a world of whimsy where one can visit an altogether more imaginative time.
Both sides of the coin are lovely, and I think there’s even space for a few more variations in the mainstream. For every cringe-heavy Justin Beiber video, there’s a film like Scorceses’ Hugo.
Oh, and there’s good music too – quite apart from my Steampunk hip hop frivolities, there is authentic punk (The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing), ‘proper’ science meets music (Sarah Angliss) and rich gothic fantasy (Abney Park).
So do head out there into the steamy world of imaginary Victorian London, you’ll meet fine people and you’ll see and hear some amazing things. But don’t forget your top hat, ideally one covered in bits of old clock.
You can catch Professor Elemental at The alternative Diamond Jubilee at the Museum of London Docklands on Thursday 31 May, 6.45-9.45pm. Book in advance £6 (concs £5).
Celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and party like it’s 1897! Be astonished by shows of burlesque and Victorian style hip hop, marvel at illusionists, and delight in steam punk-themed craft workshops. Dress code: fin de siècle finery and steampunk chic.