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.
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Script fonts can be a real challenge to design, especially when they are designed to have interconnecting characters which require exacting kerning and character positioning. When we first developed Orphiel we did a lot of kerning work on it, but despite a g[...]
Phaeton is one of our earliest Art Nouveau designs, a lovely example of period title lettering based on French samples. This new release has some significant improvements to the outlines and additional characters added to the basic set. You can find Phaeton in our Art Nouveau Collection or order it individua[...]
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 Potsdam was one of our earliest font releases, first produced in 1992 based on samples of 19th century decorative German type. It was one of our first fonts designed for MacIntosh computer users and follows the naming convention for Mac fonts of that era, being named after a city. [...]
Butterfield is based on letting from a poster for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. It can be found as part of Psychedelic Fonts Collection package. It has a unique look particularly characteristic of the 60s and especially suited to use on posters. It has a full set of numbers and punctuation, plus custom small [...]
Lachesis was one of our earliest text font designs, a unique font deliberately designed to have an antique wood-cut look. It is based on samples of vintage type taken directly from letterpress type blocks found at the type museum in Barnard Maine, a great resource which closed a few years ago. Over the years La[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Highball is a bold font in every sense of the word. Yes, its weight is heavy and pronounced in the traditional meaning of bold, but it is also of an extreme height which could be considered bold, and of a boldly progressive style. Highball features a full character s[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Yancey is a new font based on a hand-lettered design by Samuel Welo in the late 1920s. It is very much in the tradition of Art Deco designs of that period and designed for decorative titles of poster design uses. Yancey includes two versions of the character set,[...]
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 [...]
Vasilisa is based on Russian folk art lettering from the pre-revolutionary period. It is included in our original Russian Fonts and Art package. It is very readable in English but also includes elements of Cyrillic lettering. It is evocative of rural Russian life and fits well with the hand crafted peasant wood[...]
Black Cow is a unique original font designed for our Horror Fonts and Art collection several years ago. It's one of the most interesting fonts in the large selection of fonts in that package, but it hasn't had the huge level of popularity which some of the other fonts have enjoyed. It has an all uppercase chara[...]
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 Slava is based on lettering by legendary Art Nouveau master Alphons Mucha from his later post-Parisian period when he returned to Prague and did a lot of design work in support of the slavic nationalist movement. The letter forms still have many of the characteristics of[...]
Every year around Halloween we come out with a new font that fits the spirit of the holiday, drawing on all sorts of sources for inspiration. You can find our past fonts in our Halloween Font and Art Collections. The font for this year is Undertaker, based on title lettering from Creepy magazine, the classic h[...]
Engrossing is one of our earliest fonts, originally released in the early 1990s. It is based on one of the very first examples of printed type in a script style. The historic source design was derived from common 17th century calligraphy, simplified for conversion to type and it became the precursor of all of t[...]
In the early 20th century, before the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, the Art Nouveau movement crept into the failing empire by way of Alphons Mucha and the Slavic Folk Art movement in Czechoslovakia. Russian artists picked up on the ideas of these movements and began producing new styles of art for a growing [more]
The 1960s was a time when creativity flourished, in music, in literature and in the visual arts. This creativity found its outlet mostly in the counter culture, and one big aspect of that was in poster design for concerts at the great nightclubs of that era like the Fillmore. Rock posters of the 60s have a particula[more]
For TypeCon we produced a special collection of Walter Crane Fonts and Art on a Flash Drive shaped like a business card. We have some of these left over after the event and nothing to do with them except sell them as a special item on our web page. The package contains five original Walter Crane fonts, including one[more]
This is a special collection of borders (and three illustrations) drawn by Louis Rhead for William Morris' translation of The History of Oversea. These are striking borders in Rhead's unique art nouveau style, well suited to various adaptations. The collection contains 13 borders and 3 illustrations, the complete d[more]
Holiday Fonts and Art Collection Classic Font: St. Nicholas Holiday Clip Art New Font: Holly Initials Classic Font: Swithin Classic Font: Offenbach Chancery Design Your Own Holiday Cards Better Holiday Font Choices Holiday Bonus: Present Labels Eleanore Brickale's Carols Walter Crane Chris[more]
Austin is a great center for the arts, not only music and film and other performing arts, but visual arts and all sorts of crafts. All these events and shows have to be advertised and the traditional method of getting the word out is through posters distributed all over town wherever people gather. I like to go arou[more]
It's been a while since we released any new art from our collection of fairytale books illustrated by Charles Folkard. So it's about time we make available this collection of his illustrations for Grimm's Fairy Tales. This mini-package includes 8 beautifully drawn and colored images from stories by the Brothers Grim[more]
Thanksgiving is almost upon us and it isa great time to celebrate family and the harvest and remember some history. Part of that history can be told in the form of unique fonts, including many which were created for special occasions to add decoration to holiday cards or invitations. Printers have been ornamenting for [more]
- Silent Film Font Collection
- The Colonial Fonts Collection
- New Font: Carillon
- Arts & Crafts Collection