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.
Sternhagen is a classically attractive font with a modernized gothic look which combines traditional elements from the high middle ages with a bit of Art Deco style. It will eventually be part of our Gothic Fonts Collections, but for now it is available singly.Sternhagen has a complete upper and lowercase charact[...]
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 [...]
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 Our Froissart font was first released in 2000 as part of our Medieval Fonts and Art package. It is an accurate recreation of the Littera Bastarda calligraphic style which was popular in the 14th and 15th centuries as gothic styles were losing popularity and there was a demand for s[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Our Munich font was first released in 1998 and has been revised several times since then. This latest version includes substantial improvements in the outlines of the characters and a new set of simple upper case initials. Munich is based on one of the classic lettering styles used on[...]
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[...]
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 There's a peculiar style of letters that seems to only show up on some signs and letterpress posters and it caught my eye when I saw it being used in the recent poster for the National Day of the American Cowboy. It's like a western style "egyptian" font with big [...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Doge is a new font based on samples of late-renaissance period lettering from Venice, preserved and reproduced by early 20th century calligrapher and designer J. M. Bergling. It has some similarity to some of our other fonts based on lettering from the same period[...]
In an article last week we explored the origins of the font used in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and a bit of the history of the Django genre of films. That was part of the process of the development of an original font based on the lettering used in the original Django, a process similar to what was p[...]
Once again we are calling on the classic early 20th century lettering work of J. M. Bergling to produce a new font with a timeless look which combines elements of text and titling styles for a versatile and elegant effect. Diomedes includes a full set of upper and lower case characters plus an interesting sele[...]
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[...]
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[...]
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[...]
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 [...]
I was in the Austin airport taking off for parts unknown and felt a need for breakfast. Apparently the only option for a late-morning breakfast taco was Maudie's Tex Mex, so I headed for Gate 11. I got my breakfast tacos, and they were truly awful, but the experience was made somewhat better by seeing their interesting[more]
Click any font to see a larger sample. The new second edition of our Arts & Crafts font collection features 15 fonts based on designs from the Arts & Crafts movements of the late Victorian period. They are derived from designs from several branches of the movement, and demon[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]
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]
A few years ago I wrote a review of Blue Genie Art Bazaar in Austin. Blue Genie is still there and going stronger than ever, in fact this year they've added additional space and a bunch of new artists. and in just a few years it has come to offer some real competition to Austin's classic Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. [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]
As part of Great Britain's participation in the 1906 World's Fair in Chicago, legendary Arts and Crafts artist Walter Crane was comissioned to produce a special commemorative book in a limited edition. The result was Columbia's Courtship, an epic poem about American history, written and hand lettered by Walter Crane w[more]
I'm in Washington DC this week attending Typecon. The Society of Typographic Aficionados official convention. There are all sorts of programs and presentations with notable typographers and designers appearing as speakers. As well as exhibits and new products to see. I'm merely going as a humble attendee because [more]
- Optical Illusion Skull Images
- Psychedelic Font Collection
- New Font: Sternhagen
- Silent Film Font Collection
- The Colonial Fonts Collection
- New Font: Carillon