Steampunk / Vaporpunko

First, introductions via Wikipedia & Vikipedio. While I have encountered manifestations of what is now called Steampunk, the term--the named genre--is new to me. Back in the 1960s I watched the TV series The Wild Wild West, an obvious precursor or example of the genre. (And, a few days ago, I made it halfway through the ineptly executed film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.) Someone had to name the confluence of science fiction, the historical novel, and alternate history scenarios into a single concept. It's a new focal point for elements that are not so new. Yet I suspect it fits into the self-reflexive character of our time.

I wrote about the increasing profile of self-referential cultural artifacts in a 1993 essay:

Cultural Sophistication and Self-Reference on American Television: Seeds of Hope?

Owing to the acceleration of social and cultural change, it becomes obvious how drastically basic social assumptions are different now than from decades past, which has long been a device pursued by TV series, most recently the runaway hit Mad Men. Also, I've long held the view that all the avant-gardes have done their work, that we have reached the end of the line, and what's left to us is retrospective engagement, combined with a recombinant orientation towards cultural elements, also a long-standing feature of avant-gardes. Combining all this with alternative history, it makes sense that writers would add to the mere possibility of alternative outcomes for critical historical/political events (the Civil War, World War II, assassinations of heads of state, etc.) alternative technological, cultural, and aesthetic developments, as an extension of a retrospective, self-reflexive orientation. This becomes yet another manifestation of an all-encompassing artistic ars combinatoria.

Given that the Steampunk era coincides with the rise of artificial languages as a mass social phenomenon, I would naturally be interested in the intersection of Steampunk with Volapük and Esperanto, and less likely, other artificial languages.

I have already blogged about Andrew Drummond's novel A Hand-Book of Volapük, which is in the neighborhood of steampunk, a genre admired by Drummond. See An interview with Andrew Drummond (2006).

Note also Michael Chabon's popular Yiddish Policemen's Union, which also pays homage to Zamenhof and Esperanto. See The Grad Students Who Mocked Michael Chabon's Science Fiction by Charlie Jane Anders.

Volapük is featured also in Spook Country by William Gibson, godfather of cyberpunk.

But here's the pay-off for you super-nerds: you can join . . .

League of Steampunk Esperantists (GVE), a unit of The Steampunk Empire.

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