PBS just launched a 13-part online video series called ‘PBS Off Book’. The bi-weekly series is, according to PBS: “a new web series focused on experimental and non-traditional art forms on PBSArts.org. This … series explores the ever-changing definition of art in the hands of the next generation of artists taking creative reigns and melding art with new media.” The idea of experimental art is definitely intriguing. So far PBS has covered typography as art and visual culture online (complete with a serious discussion on Nyan Cat), but it is their third feature on steampunk that caught my attention.
Steampunk is a genre of science fiction that features an alternate view of history (and occasionally the future) that fuses an old-time aesthetic, usually Victorian era, with modern steam-powered technology. Most fans of the genre trace steampunk back to classic sci-fi authors Jules Verne (‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’) or H.G. Wells (‘The Time Machine’). Beginning as a subculture, steampunk has finally gone mainstream. You can’t go to a science fiction or comic book convention without seeing someone decked out in gears, brass, and a top hat. Authors Cherie Priest (‘Boneshaker’) and Scott Westerfeld (‘Leviathan’) are at the forefront of steampunk literary scene. The steampunk influence can be seen on film and television in things like ‘The Golden Compass’, ‘Sherlock Holmes’, ‘Firefly’, ‘Warehouse 13’ and the upcoming ‘Iron Sky’.
PBS Off Book’s coverage of steampunk is a great primer, focusing on the artistic side of the genre. The episode, which can be viewed below, features interviews with artist Dr. Grymm, steampunk performers Third Rail Projects, and composer David Bruce.
Now, turn a few dials, release the steam, get your steampunk on and watch!