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.
Dahlgren is a heavyweight, square shaped font which works well for titles and display uses. Its an original design, with a standard character set and a set of outline characters. It takes its name from the Civil War era engineer who designed the Dahlgren Gun. You can try the DEMO version of Dahlgren for fre[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Tantalus is a display font for titles with a basic Roman design and elaborately embellished characters. It features the more decorative versions of the characters in the upper case positions and a plain caps set in the lower case positions. It's a neat whimsical font and if you ne[...]
Hendrix is one of our most classic and most quintessential psychedelic poster fonts. It is based on hand lettering from a number of posters and album covers produced in the 1960s and the early 1970s. It is a very striking font, quite recognizable and identified with the period. This new release has some signific[...]
I don't know what came over me one Halloween, but I couldn't get the idea of dancing skeletons out of my head. The classic dance of death, but a bit more expressive, with the skeletons working together to form the letters of a font. This resulted in the design for the Bonyeard font, where each letter is made [...]
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 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 Escargot is based on lettering from the cover of an early pulp novel I came across a couple of months ago. It's a strong example of a distinctive style of sign and poster lettering from the 1930, characterized by super high contrast between the weighting on the le[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Marquis Greeking is unreadable. It is supposed to be unreadable, because it is a Greeking Font, a font designed specifically to check layout and overall appearance without the distraction of the actual text. It contains variations of actual characters from our Marquis text font, w[...]
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 [...]
Merguez is a hand lettered font in the tradition of Speedball freehand calligraphy, but with some unusual flourishes. It makes an excellent alternative to boring informal hand lettering fonts like Comic Sans. It includes a full upper and lower case character set, plus numbers and punctuation. We picked the n[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Roghwork is a unique font which combines a decoarative upper case character set with a simple set of lowercase characters. Designed primarily for use in titles and posters, the uppercase characters are based on samples of hand-drawn master designs for a set of roman-st[...]
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 Mannering is a new font design derived from some samples of an uppercase letter set by Samuel Welo, with additional lowercase characters and numbers added to it in the same style. It is a sans serif font with calligraphic lines and distinctive embellished horizontal cro[...]
It has taken a lot of hours of development, but we finally have our promised Walter Crane Initials font. Or should I say FOUR fonts, because in the process of developing the font it turned out that we ended up with more than we bargained for. One reason that there are four fonts is that there was so[...]
Every year we try to amuse with some sort of April Fools prank. Last year visitors to the site were first greeted by what looked like a hacker takeover, a modest joke, but we've done some even bigger and sillier things in previous years. Here are some examples preserved as best we could. 1998 April Fools Page 1999[more]
"We are saddened by the death of legendary type designer Hermann Zapf at the age of 96. His classic fonts like Optima, Palatino and Zapf Chancery set the standard for type design for the 20th century. Zapf's long career as designer and teacher was an inspiration to type designers around the world and made all of our l[more]
The Pre-Raphaelite movement emerged in the mid-1800s as an attempt to return art to its traditional styles and themes. While the Pre-Raphaelites did draw stylistically on Renaissance models, the movement soon developed its own unique style and philosophy, producing art which was traditional, yet uniquely new. An artist[more]
Click any font to see a larger sample: The culture of the east entices and allures. From the stony walls of Petra to the fabled spires of ancient Samarkand, the the legend of the great days of Caliphs, Wazirs and brave adventurers outshines the modern era of oil and petty tyrrany. W[more]
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]
From time to time I get to do some creative design work for political causes, especially in opposition to efforts to expand cybersurveillance and give the NSA access to your personal information on the internet. This week is the drive to stop CISA, which would make Facebook, Google and even your ISP accomplices in t[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]
I was browsing through the new release section in my local bookstore, enjoying the nostalgia of the printed book, when my eye was caught by an historical novel called "The Siege Winter." More specifically the cover design drew my attention, because it used one of our earliest fonts, Cymbeline. More particularly I was s[more]
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- Installing Fonts
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