Plague doctor mask by Tom Banwell.
Last month I wrote a little about the Steampunk: Art of Victorian Futurism exhibition that’s been running since the beginning of October in Beijing, this being the same event that was staged in Seoul earlier in the year. Five of my book cover designs have been featured in these shows, together with some very impressive artworks, designs and constructions by international artists. This week the organisers of the show, Artcenter IDA, sent their own photos of the event.
As mentioned before, the venue is an exhibition space in 751 D-Park outside central Beijing, an area I’ve been told was formerly an industrial complex manufacturing armaments during the Cold War. If we occasionally find that life these days imitates the fictions of JG Ballard or Philip K Dick, 751 D-Park strikes me as a very William Gibson kind of place: Cold War industrial complex transmuted into an international art space—Beijing Design Week is hosted here each year—that on this occasion is showcasing antique science fiction. The 751 website has a map of the area with links to photos and other information. I’m rather taken with “Crached Furnace Square” and “Locomotive Square“.
Continue reading “Steampunk in the Tank”
Those covers everyone likes. My designs for KW Jeter’s steampunk novels from Angry Robot and Tor Books.
When I wrote a brief history of steampunk for Eye magazine last year I ended by somewhat provocatively declaring that until something better appeared this was the defining aesthetic of the moment. A year later, the movement (if we can use that term) continues to evolve despite the steady drip of complaints that it’s all reactionary, historically illiterate, and so on. Much of the ire remains nonsensical, and often seems to boil down to a common disdain for people enjoying themselves in some unorthodox manner.
Design by Galen Smith after the Hetzel editions of Jules Verne’s novels.
If I hadn’t got involved on the art side I would have found it difficult to avoid being attracted by steampunk in one form or another since so much of it originates in areas I was already interested in, not least HG Wells and Victorian science fiction. The rapid evolution of the past few years means we’re currently seeing an aesthetic leaving behind its origins to become an international subculture. What’s striking about this activity—and this is something that doesn’t seem to have been discussed very much—is the way the whole thing has been birthed by genre fiction rather than by pop music, as was the case for the second half of the 20th century. This piece is meant to be a news post, however, not another cultural critique, but if I happen to write any more on the subject there’s something there that’s worth exploring.
As to the news: this month finds my steampunk artwork manifesting in three very different locations in one of those odd coincidences of timing that occur now and then. First up there’s the Steampunk User’s Manual edited by Jeff VanderMeer & Desirina Boskovich, a follow-up to 2011’s Steampunk Bible. For the new volume I designed spreads for three entries by Jess Nevins from The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana: Alternative History Edition.
Continue reading “More vapour trails”