As I noted in that previous post, the anthology has a deplorable name that, unfortunately, cannot be helped. I'm loathe to use it myself, due in no small part to the fact that I weigh in closer to what Jess Nevins, in his article in the anthology, refers to as "second generation steampunk" for whom the genre is not "primarily English, urban, static, or melancholy" and divested of (or never possessing of) "The politics of the punk position". Thank goodness.
Despite these personal reflections, Nevins' article is one of the gems of the anthology. Before diving into the meat of the selections by renowned fiction authors, the Vandermeers enlisted the aid of a trio of critics to provide some historical background. Nevins, author of a series of encyclopedias and annotations for Victorian fiction and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics, provides an analysis of Steampunk's roots in 19th century Edisonades. Edisonades were a popular American genre of literature (named after the fact by John Clute) in dime novels that exemplified values of invention, capitalism and expansionism in the North American frontier. Steampunk, Nevins argues, is the counterpoint to this: the gritty, urban fiction of the imperial capital, questioning and punishing invention, capitalism and expansionism.
Rick Klaw follows Nevins' theory piece with a practical survey of where Steampunk has stretched across the pop-culture landscape. He begins with wistful reminisces of Ray Harryhausen films, into the modern Steampunk cyberscape, down through role-playing games, around to television, past anime and back again to the most recent movies. It provides a relatively succinct list of the pinnacles of modern Scientific Romances. Bill Baker brings up the rear with a specific focus on Steampunk in comic books.
After the historical and theoretical articles, the anthology launches into its fine collection of fiction. Represented are such luminaries as Michael Moorcock, Joe R. Lansdale, Paul Di Filippo, James Blaylock and Neal Stephenson. Other names may not be as familiar if one is not a heavy reader of current Science Fiction, such as Mary Gentle, Jay Lake, Ted Chiang, and Rachel E. Pollock. There is an excellent cross-section of material from the past 30 years, though it could certainly have used a biblography at the end recommending further reading, especially for those authors not represented in the anthology. However, as a reader in modern Scientific Romances, the volume is to be recommended.
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