Jun 4, 2010

Technofantasy: Verne vs. Wells

This cartoon from Hark, A Vagrant very nearly sums up everything I'll end up saying on this subject over the next year, but since images are worth a thousand words, I thought my readers would enjoy the following cartoon and image, both of which I utilize in my Steampunk 101 lectures, to explain what technofantasy is.

This image by Marcel E. Mercado of Steampunk Star Wars fame might represent the polemic of some forum discussions related to whether steampunk is science fiction or not (and for the record, would make one hell of a framed print).

I may have said it elsewhere, but effectively, steampunk exists at the liminal point between these two writers' approaches to technology. Wells didn't care how it worked - it just did. Verne cared so much about how it worked he accurately posited where it would be most propitious to launch a rocket to the moon from in America. Steampunk is somewhere in-between these two minds, imagining technologies that just work, but then for good measure, adding in a lengthy explanation on how they work. More often than not though, these explanations are technofantasies: when the physical laws of your own universe fail you - make something up.

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