The World of Steampunk
Steampunk is an increasingly popular literary genre which explores science fiction themes from the perspective of the Victorian era and based on technology extrapolated from the science and engineering capabilities of the 18th and 19th centuries. It has its earliest roots in the speculative writing of Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle. It emerged as a distinct modern literary movement in the 1980s with the work of writers who were influenced by Michael Moorcock, Philip K. Dick and the New Wave science fiction of the late 1960s and 1970s, which turned into the cyberpunk genre by the 1980s. Cyberpunk in turn begat steampunk which appealed to many of the same writers and attracted its own following by the end of the decade.
The first clearly identifiable steampunk novel is James P. Blaylock’s Homunculus, published in 1986 (the current edition features our Norumbega font on the cover), though some elements of the genre are foreshadowed in his novel The Digging Leviathan which was published two years earlier. The genre became more clearly defined with the publication of The Difference Engine by cyberpunk masters William Gibson and Bruce Sterling in 1991. From that point more authors were attracted to the themes they explored and the genre began to expand, attract a following and become influential. As the genre developed, common themes began to emerge, including some emphasis on the impact of science and industry on the environment, the blurry line between science and magic and the dehumanizing role of technology. Much steampunk writing has a strong element of luddism in it and an interest in alternative technologies which fell by the wayside in the modern era like airships and complex clockwork devices.
The movement has spawned a Steampunk comic book, a Steampunk Magazine, several anthologies of short fiction and a large number of novels of various levels of quality, aimed at both adults and younger readers. The imprint of steampunk can be found on other novels — especially fantasy novels — which are not strictly of the genre, like Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and its sequels. Greg Keyes Age of Unreason series is also heavily influenced by steampunk, taking a similar style into a slightly earlier era to have fun with the science of the enlightenment. There are even a few movies which have had their style and themes shaped by the Steampunk movement like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and the animated feature Steamboy. Not surprisingly there is also a Steampunk roleplaying game based on the GURPS game system. Steampunk has become a popular and even pervasive genre with an influence which goes far beyond its literary origins. It’s gone so far that there are even steampunk conventions.
Perhaps most interesting is that Steampunk has inspired a powerful design movement. It may currently be somewhat underground and avant garde, but the Steampunk influence is becoming widespread. There is Steampunk art and clothing and graphic design. You can find a good overview of Steampunk design at the WebUrbanist blog. Outsapop Trashion has an excellent article on Steampunk themed fashion design and you can find incredible photos of some very creative clothing designs on the Steampunk Fashion Flickr group. For some reason all steampunk fashion must be accessorized with goggles. On Etsy.com you can find all manner of Steampunk themed jewelry, props and fashion accessories for sale at some very reasonable prices. You can find lots of good articles on steampunk design at Steampunk Workshop which has some coverage of Dave Veloz’ unique steampunk Mac Mini redesign. And don’t miss the most bizarre item of all, a Steampunk style computer which also brews beer. Steampunk design is all gears and levers and brass, but it has a unique look which is both antique and futuristic at the same time and is very appealing.
Now, you may wonder why I’m going on daftly about this strange and intriguing literary and design movement. Ponder the implications and if you check back in over the next couple of days the significance of all of this will become very clear.
January 7, 2009 | Filed Under Articles
New Font: BigBlok
A great many years ago when working in game publishing I had a real fascination with doing titles in a strong, super-bold font called Bolt Bold. The truth is I rather overused it. In doing some research I find it on more than a dozen different game books I wrote in the early 80s, all quite collectable and out of print today.
Cavegirl is inspired by the genre of prehistoric epic films, the most memorable of which is One Million Years BC, starring the voluptuous Raquel Welch clad only in a legendary fur bikini. The style of the font is typical of the lettering used in the posters and titles for these movies, with a rough and primiti[...]
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BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview You may recall a couple of months ago when we had some font samples posted on the page to vote on. Well, the winner of the vote by a significant margin was a sample of lettering by Samuel Welo, and now as promised, it is available as our newest font: Carillon. They f[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Sanhedrin is a decorative futuristic font, which features two distinct sets of different characters and a number of additional special characters. It draws some characters from the Greek alphabet and also has some unusual art nouveau character forms and a strange biblic[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Power tie is based on a design for hand lettering from the 1930s. It was originally done as a conceptual design for signage in a men's haberdashery. It is a handsome, muscular font in the Art Deco tradition. It includes a full character set with numbers and punctuation, and a se[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Our original Folkard font has achieved near legendary status as one of the most interesting calligraphic title fonts of the contemporary era. It has been enormously popular and appeared on movie titles, book covers, t-shirts and games. However it is not the only [...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Squiffy is a fun font. It has a background in arts and crafts style font design, but rather than the regular, architectural character forms and arrangements, the characters are wild and irregular and highly varied. There are two distinct versions of every character, with[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview We've featured some articles on the designs of pulp novel covers from the mid-20th century, including s look at the fonts used in those designs. We've also released fonts based on those designs, like suspicion. These old book cover designs are a great resource for [...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Iphegenia was one of our early designs, a creative advertising script font with a modern, hand-drawn look but regular character forms and a nice even line to it. It has high readability despite its decorative look and works well in combination with a variety of other fo[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Continuing the theme we started a few weeks ago with the Vie Modern font and Grand Concours font., we are continuing to focus on fonts originating at the birth of Art Deco with the Paris Exposition of 1925. One of the exhibits was of design from the factories and design houses [...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Startling Stories was a pulp-era science fiction magazine known for its lurid covers by Earle K. Bergey and its eye-catching title designs. It was a companion to Thrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Stories. The magazine was very successful in the immediate pos[...]
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BUY NOW TRY DEMO Tilbury is based on advertising lettering from the 1930s. It has a unique and stylish look reminiscent of a swashed italic brush script. Tilbury includes a full character set with upper and lower case, numbers and punctuation. It has fully customized kerning and spacing as well.[...]
BUY NOW Back in 1995 I designed a card game called Quest for the Grail and formed a publishing partnership to produce it called Stone Ring Games. I did a bunch of design work for the game, including designing a unique title font called Marmyadose. Marmyadose was a unique font, but it was too fancy to[...]
Click on any font below to view a larger sample. One of our most interesting recent releases is our Steampunk Fonts and Texture collection. It's a new set of fonts, many of which are new or in no previous collection, plus more than 20 original high-resolution metallic textures. It's every[more]
I was exploring the listings on eBay recently and stumbled onto a listing for a book of sample type designs from the Ukraine, published in 1930. The images on eBay were not that informative, but I was intrigued, so I ordered it. It took quite a while for the book to get here from the Ukraine, but when it arrived I w[more]
BUY NOW Platthand is a font based on examples of lettering drawn from Elizabethan period maps. The upper case letters are embellished with extremely ornate flouishes, very dramatic. Many alternate flourished versions of the characters are also included. The lower case characters are not embellished[more]
BUY NOW Barataria is an elegant text and titling font with some unique features that really stand out for designing decorative logos with an elegant vintage look. It has a bit of a piratical look, a sort of more refined alternative to our Windlass font. This revised version features smoother outline[more]
I recently had an opportunity to visit the Texas Capitol building. It was very busy because the legislature was in session, lobbyists were skulking in the halls and student tours were everywhere. Despite the distractions I had an opportunity to observe and photograph some very impressive antique door hardware. The C[more]
BUY NOW True Golden is a classic font based on a design by legendary arts and crafts designer and author William Morris. It is a special rendering of Morris' Golden type, based on printed samples rather than digitized steel type, preserving a more accurate representation of the look in print. True[more]
In the 1930s there was an explosion of popular literature in the form of pulp novels and magazines, featuring lurid covers and scandalous content in a diversity of genres from suspense to mystery to science fiction to westerns. Pulp novel covers had a distinctive style and that i[more]
I was in Amy's Ice Cream with my kids when I noticed a very large man wearing a t-shirt for a local band called The Gourds, and much to my surprise I recognized my Gloriana font on the shirt. I lacked the presence of mind to take a picture of the shirt on the spot, but when I got home I did a little research and d[more]
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