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11.03.2010

Steampunk Day Two, Featuring Felix Gilman

Felix Gilman, author of The Half-Made World, was discussing the trend toward anachronistic fiction over at Omnivoracious yesterday. (Sidenote: If you are interested in trends in the book industry and you don't follow Omnivoracious, you are doing yourself a disservice. It's Amazon's book blog, and they do a fabulous job of letting you know all the most relevant book buzz in the most unpretentious and jovial sort of way.) I had seen the cover for The Half-Made World somewhere else last week and was half a click away from posting it to my Pinterest board featuring lovely cover designs when something (squirrel?) distracted me. Serious failure. This cover just makes me love cover art all the more.

I double-perked up about the book when I noticed the Ursula K. LeGuin blurb on the front. Sometimes when a notable author blurbs your book that just means you got lucky. Or you found yourself a really awesome publicist/agent/editor/spy who managed to blackmail said notable author into making up something about how great your book is. But there are certain authors whose names actually tell the reader something about your book. If Ursula K. LeGuin has blurbed you, you have a special piece of fiction on your hands. Hear it: Special.

All this I noted before reading the aforelinked post over at Omni. Everything Gilman says about the move toward steampunk and the possibilities in contemporary fiction just make me want to read his book all the more. It's not a long post, but this paragraph in particular struck me as hitting the nerve of the thing. It's especially relevant because he's mostly addressing the "weird, weird west" element of steampunk that is the featured theme of this year's Steamcon (see previous post regarding reason for my post-fest on steampunk in the first place).

Read on:

. . . all of this stuff--steampunk generally--is fiction about the future, for people who can’t really believe in the future right now. The future is closing off, the natural world dying, technology no longer looks very optimistic to a lot of people. SFF looks back to the birth of modernity, the birth of technology, and imagines how things might have started off differently--what went wrong--how things might have been better, or maybe worse -- but either way it imagines alternative paths, there at the beginning. And if that’s what you’re into, then America, the west, the frontier, is inevitably where you’ll end up. The most open and optimistic of beginnings, the moment of greatest perceived potential; and the moment when the original sins of civilization are at their starkest.

I have to admit that steampunk is most appealing to me in the context of (anachronistic) Victorian England, but this makes so much sense that I can't imagine why I never though of it myself. Read that last line again: "the moment when the original sins of civilization are at their starkest." That sounds to me like the heart and soul of a great novel.

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