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 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 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 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,[...]
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[...]
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 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[...]
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[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Lyceum has the stylized shape and look of a font designed for the program at a lecture hall, hence the name. It is super bold but remains highly readable at fairly small sized, though the contrasts are dramatic. It features only an uppercase characters set because the st[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Edifice is a decorative titling font based on samples of lettering by J. M. Bergling. It has an architectural, constructed look to it. Very well suited to sign and poster design. It's stylish but still readable and clear. Edifice includes a full uppercase charac[...]
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 [...]
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 We have done a number of fonts based on unique, historic movie titles. The most well known and widely circulated is our Captain Kidd font, but we have another historic movie font based on an even more famous movie, our Locksley font which comes from the titles of the Adventures of [...]
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[...]
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 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[...]
As a special bonus, this Christmas we're making available an unusual collection of Christmas images by outstanding American book illustrator and decorator Walter Tittle, an artist most known for his seasonal works. These illustrations are taken from his book Colonial Holdays which is a collection of accounts from p[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]
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]
In our endless acquisition of graphic arts resources we come across oddities from time to time. One of those is this collection of classic fairy tales told through illustrations by Frank T. Merrill, which were published in a series of children's books called Heart of Oak. They are here free to download as a bonus for [more]
Here's a little something from a more innocent age, a set of three decorative floral borders designed by L. E. Wright for the book Mary's Garden a collection of nursery rhymes together with explanatory/elaborative stories also by Wright. There are just three borders, so it's not exactly enough for a package in its o[more]
Every year we release a number of new fonts, and at the end of the year we collect them all together and release them as a collection at a great discount price. Through some oversight at the end of 2013 we failed to release our annual collection of new fonts. That means we have a chance to[more]
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]
The process of digitizing illustrated works by Walter Crane continues. The latest entry in the collection is Floral Fantasy in an Old English Garden a work somewhat reminiscent of A Flower Wedding featuring a combination of poetry and fanciful illustrations of anthropomorphized flowers which are quite lovely. The le[more]
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