Nov 22, 2010

Steam Wars: the Steampunk Star Wars article

I'll return you to our regularly scheduled programming, "Journeys with James Blaylock" in my next post, but I wanted to wave my arms enthusiastically to crow about the publication of The Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies' fully steampunk issue. To my knowledge, this is the first academic publication of its kind. After a two year process of multiple drafts, convention presentations, artist permissions, and formatting minutiae, my article on the Steampunk Star Wars images from 2007-2008 is finally available for your perusal. With steampunk Star Wars cosplay showing up and getting a lot of attention, I'm pleased to finally be able to draw direct attention to the brilliant work of the digital artists who inspired that Boba Fett costume you all think is so kick ass. Ironically, I say nothing about Fett in the article, but there's a lot about Princess Leia being a "damsel without distress," so it's still worth reading.

While steampunk continues to defy definition, this article seeks to identify a coherent understanding of steampunk as an aesthetic. By comparing and contrasting well-known cultural icons of George Lucas’s Star Wars with their steampunk counterparts, insightful features of the steampunk aesthetic are suggested. This article engages in a close reading of individual artworks by digital artists who took part in a challenge issued on the forums of CGSociety (Computer Graphics Society) to apply a steampunk style to the Star Wars universe. The article focuses on three aspects of the steampunk aesthetic as revealed by this evidentiary approach: technofantasy, a nostalgic interpretation of imagined history, and a willingness to break nineteenth century gender roles and allow women to act as steampunk heroes.

Here's the TOC for the issue as well - from what I've seen, the whole issue is solid gold!


 Introduction: Industrial Evolution
Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall

Clacking Control Societies: Steampunk, History, and the Difference Engine of Escape
Patrick Jagoda

Technology and Morality: The Stuff of Steampunk
Stefania Forlini

Betrayed by Time: Steampunk & the Neo-Victorian in Alan Moore’s Lost Girls and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Jason B. Jones

Steam Wars
Mike Perschon

Time Machines: Steampunk in Contemporary Art
Caroline Cason Barratt

Democratising the Past to Improve the Future: An Interview with Steampunk Godfather Paul Di Filippo
Lisa Yaszek

‘The Steam Arm’: Proto-Steampunk Themes in a Victorian Popular Song
Kirstie Blair

“God Save the Queen, for Someone Must!”: Sebastian O and the Steampunk Aesthetic
Joseph Good

The Rocky Terrain of British Novel Adaptations: Review of Dianne F. Sadoff, Victorian Vogue: British Novels on Screen
Thomas Witholt

Re-Imagined Memory: Review of Kate Mitchell, History and Cultural Memory in Neo-Victorian Fiction: Victorian Afterimages
Marie-Luise Kohlke

On (Neo-Victorian) Re-Visions and Foldings: Review of Rachel Carroll (ed.), Adaptation in Contemporary Culture: Textual Infidelities
Rosario Arias

Steampunk Show Time: Review of Robert Rankin’s The Japanese Devil Fish Girl and Other Unnatural Attractions: A Novel
Marie-Luise Kohlke

And as an added bonus, here's a link to Greg Peltz's neo-Vic/steampunk Star Wars images


  1. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your presentation at SteamCon II. Fascinating and very insightful!

  2. Thanks, Maureen! Which one were you in? It's all a bit of a blur for me - the wine flowed freely the first night at the artists' reception, and it may have affected my memory. ;)

  3. The original "Steam Wars" was a concept of Mr. Larry Blamire (it had nothing to do with "Star Wars", though). The first illustrations and a short story "In the Days of the Steam Wars" were published in Galaxy Magazine in 1980, followed in mid-2000s by "Steam Wars" website. A detailed history of the project is offline now, but can still be found through the Wayback Archive - here.

  4. It's good to have archivists like Piechur on board, isn't it?

  5. Sometimes I think I've seen too much.

  6. Thanks for posting about the issue, Mike. We're glad to finally have the issue out the door and look forward to continuing a scholarly conversation on the subject in the future.

  7. I was at the NeoVictorian Retrofuture panel, where the slides wouldn't work. But you were still captivating and I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of you in your snazzy duds!

  8. I'll try and post one when I report on the Con!

  9. Apparently some enterprising individual has cribbed the Steam Wars idea for T-Shirts: check out the link here

  10. a nostalgic interpretation of imagined history, and a willingness to break nineteenth century gender roles and allow women to act as steampunk heroes.swtor credits


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