Steampunk Gilgamesh: The Annotated Version

The origin of this exercise is perhaps as odd as the idea itself: while weeding my devastated Mad-Max-style front yard in preparation to lay sod this past summer, I was listening to the audio version of Stephen Mitchell’s lovely Gilgamesh: A New English Version. As I listened, I imagined the how the story would look if it were steampunked. Who would Gilgamesh be? What would Enkidu look like? What city would replace Uruk? I never seriously pondered writing it down, until I hit 800 followers on Twitter, and decided to celebrate the landmark with 80 tweets comprising an outline of a steampunked Gilgamesh. As part of Steampunk Week here at Tor, here is that outline with annotated explanations.

1. I’ll be using Stephen Mitchell’s excellent Gilgamesh text as source for the direct quotations in these tweets. I used Stephen Mitchell because he fills in the gaps in the text, making it far more readable than literal translations of a single version of Gilgamesh. If you’re going to read the Epic, this is the version to start with. If you’ve never read Gilgamesh, either take the time to read Mitchell’s version, or read an online summary – the steampunked version will make more sense.

2. Instead of walled Uruk, we behold a skyscraper in New York, early 20th century: “Doc” Gil Gamesh’s achievement. The Gilgamesh Epic (GE) as written by Sin-Leqqe-Unninni begins with a sort of frame narrative, asking the reader to behold the wonders of ancient architecture manifest in Uruk, the city Gilgamesh built. I chose New York over London because New York’s skyline exemplifies the pinnacle of industrial ingenuity better than London’s. Further, I was thinking of how Lester Dent describes New York in Land of Always Night, a Doc Savage adventure: “In the center of New York City, the skyscrapers jut up like silver pines, each seemingly striving to overshadow the other; but there is one building taller and finer than all the rest, an astounding mass of polished granite and stainless steel towering nearly a hundred stories into the sky, a structure that is possibly man’s proudest building triumph.” 

Read the whole EPIC at!


  1. For some reason I kept invisioning this as a graphic novel: something with the pulp knob turned up to eleven, but done in the style of early Winsor McCay.

  2. Brilliant. Now I want to see that realized!

  3. "Invisioning." Gah! Can you tell I've put my English degree on hiatus? Speaking of which, I'm currently doing an MA in illustration over in the UK, so when I get a chance I'll do up a sample spread, if only for a lark and/or portfolio piece. Something around tweets 38-41.

  4. You're on! It's a web comic waiting to happen...I write, you draw, I colour, we make millions.


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