Back in January 2008, I did a posting about online steampunk resources. These have grown rapidly since and whilst some have become a little moribund, the content they carry remains interesting and entertaining for anyone interested or simply curious about the steampunk genre. I read recently Michael Moorcock complaining about the state of the genre when reviewing Jebediah Berry's (the author's name in itself would be a great one for a steampunk character) book 'The Manual of Detection' (2009) See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/aug/22/manual-of-detection-jedediah-berry
Moorcock complains that '[t]hese days, you can barely pick up a speculative fantasy without finding a zeppelin or a steam-robot on the cover. Containing few punks and a good many posh ladies and gents, most of these stories are better described as steam operas.' To some extent Moorcock has been thus writing 'steam operas' for many years notably in his 'Nomad of the Time Streams' series (1971, 1974, 1981). I would argue that they never really had any 'punks' anyway and as I have shown in my discussions on steampunk pirates even in the 19th century, the pirates were amoral rather than immoral.
I suppose if your definition of punk is someone who challenges or rejects the norms of 'polite' society they could be seen as punk, but in style they subscribe to elegant dress and are usually hight mannered. As I have noted before, the challenge for steampunk, is whilst it may shake up the technological world of the 19th century it does little to challenge the nature of society. Perhaps we need a steampunk story in which those who make and maintain the machines overthrow the upper classes. To some extent is that to work in a technological world (and steampunk sees technology as even more pervasive than it was in reality) needs discipline even if you are subsequently reckless with the results. A steam-powered airship will crash into something if its pilot is stoned.
Thus, I think Moorcock is expecting too much to see many punks in steampunk. Perhaps the title was wrong and if some other authors rather than the doyens of cyberpunk, Bruce Sterling and William Gibson had been responsible for re-invigorating the genre as they did with 'The Difference Engine' (1990) we would have had a different suffix. I really respect Moorcock as an author and think he is the one who could really inject some punk into the genre if he so feels it is lacking. There is capacity for it. Just look at Sherlock Holmes, as morally ambivalent, with as much difficulty with authority and as much a drug addict as Sid Vicious; you could debate their relative misogynism.
Anyway, whatever Moorcock may feel, steampunk is alive in so many facets, notably in terms of fiction but also in art including sculpture and in clothing, something no doubt I will see again in the flesh when I head to Whitby at the end of October. That sentence just gave me the idea of a steampunk Whitby with huge whale processing machines and men living on the margins in the smoky industrial town (in reality it is a small place with no factories and with a history in whaling but in the steampunk world it may have grown) in casual labour minding the huge machines churning out whale oil and whale bones for corsets. Anyway, I am off track again. What this posting was to be about was a few online steampunk resources I came across that struck me as interesting. I found the first one because it refers to this blog. I recommend all bloggers searching once in a while for reference to your own blog not for some egotistical reason but to make sure your comments are not being abused especially out of their original context.
The first is a blog called Strange Dreams, run by a Dr. Damon Molinarius. There is a main site which covers everything steampunk, especially at present, transport: whttp://drmolinarius.blogspot.com/ For some reason, unbeknown to the author it has become listed as a blog for marketers who want to matter! I know steampunk fans tend to be well off, but it is interesting that marketers see steampunk as the 'future'! There is a sub-blog of the main one which makes regular references to steampunk media in particular written fiction and movies: http://drmolinarius-spartandfiction.blogspot.com/ This is the one which gave my novella, 'The Skyborne Corsair' a mention. Interestingly Molinarius characterises me as 'a somewhat shy individual' who has 'ventured' into steampunk writing. Okay, I have one steampunk novel, one novella and one short story, but a blog running for more than two years with over 550 postings, I hardly feel is 'shy'. Anyway, it was very nice to get a mention:
From the same posting on his blog I went to see the Aldersgate Cycle of US writer Natania Barron (another genuine name which would be excellent for a steampunk character). See: http://aldersgatecycle.wordpress.com/author/ She not only has produced a series of novels in a steampunk setting (sensibly using Creative Commons; despite having attended lectures on this, I have been too lazy to get involved with it) her blog has interesting discussion especially on facets of different people in stories, such as on the position of women. She is also a member of the Outer Alliance, which aims to have authors use gay, lesbian and trans-sexual characters in a normalised way in stories. She wrote the Aldersgate Triology: 'The Aldersgate', 'Pilgrim of the Sky' and 'Queen of None' in a single year and is now seeking publication for them. They blend fantasy and steampunk, with a character finding a clockwork world. Clockworkpunk, probably 18th rather than 19th century influenced is an interesting area that I would like to work on in time.
Certainly worth reading is Barron's list of 'gripes' about steampunk writing: http://aldersgatecycle.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/shaking-my-gears-five-steampunk-gripes/ and the contrasts between US and UK steampunk: http://aldersgatecycle.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/american-steampunk-more-whisky-less-tea/ She has also got involved in podcasting her work. Ironically I have made numerous podcasts in my job but never even considered it in my writing.
The third resource I came across soon after I completed 'The Skyborne Corsair' is The Smoking Lounge which has been running since January 2008: http://www.ottens.co.uk/lounge/
In many ways the set-up is like that of Gothic Steam Phantastic which I have mentioned before, though with a US rather than Dutch slant on things. It also covers dieselpunk which I imagine is mid-1950s style technology. There is the usual line in discussion and cultural referencing here. The contributors seem well informed and articulate. Dr. Molinarius is active on here. I probably would be a regular contributor to the The Smoking Lounge if it had not been for the prickly reaction I received when I posted 'The Skyborne Corsair' there. In theory they welcome fiction contributions so I thought a complete novella would go down well. I was very wrong. I was told it should only be submitted a couple of paragraphs at a time to invite comment on. Given that it had 793 paragraphs spread over six chapters, I would still be posting it bit-by-bit now, nine months later. In addition, such a fragmentation of the story would make it difficult for the reader to follow. With such a vigorously petty attitude prevailing, there seemed no point in participating further and I immediately distanced myself from the site. However, others are likely to find it of interest, just make sure if you comment or contribute you tread carefully so as not to provoke the ire of the site moderators.
This is just a sample of a few sites I have come across that you might not have noticed. I am always on the hunt for more, and in particular an active steampunk-focused site where you can contribute and discuss without fear of being patronised.