Director: Byrd McDonald
Vintage Tomorrows, currently streaming on Netflix, is a feature-length documentary about the steampunk movement. It is based on the book of the same name. It is a very personal film for me. I was a steampunk event organizer, DJ, blogger, and maker from 2007 until about 2013. I was such a fanatic that the large bureaucracy I worked for wrote a memorandum about hats in the workplace just to get the bowlers off my head. I know many of the people interviewed in this film personally. Full disclosure, one of the interviewees is Margaret Killjoy of this website. The film has clearly been in post-production a long time: none of these interviews or events took place any later than 2012, so this film is unintentionally a retrospective of steampunk at its peak.
Continue reading Vintage Tomorrows (2015)
Directors: Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi
Writers: Irena Brignull & Adam Pava
Based on: Here Be Monsters!, a novel by Alan Snow
Finally, someone made a movie that does steampunk justice. The Boxtrolls is set in an alternate 19th century with mad inventors and giant robots and an aristocracy more concerned with tasting various types of cheeses than with caring for the poor, and the filmmakers didn’t just glue gears onto everything at random. More importantly, class relations are even more integral to the plot than the clanking machines of madmen.
It’s beautiful and stop-animated. It’s earnest, it’s cleverly-written, and it’s funny as hell without resorting to hidden sex jokes. Instead, the hidden aimed-at-adults jokes are fourth-wall-challenging references made by the henchmen who ponder the moral weight of their actions. Are they the good guys? Are they the bad guys? Despite having clearcut protagonists and antagonists, this film does a good job of examining the difference between good and evil actions versus good and evil people.
Continue reading The Boxtrolls (2014)
Irrational Games, 2013
Recommended? Not for what it’s got to say about the world, no.
I’m not too much one for first-person shooters but I’m an anarchist and I’m into steampunk and videogames so it was pretty much inevitable that I was going to give BioShock: Infinite a try.
This game is completely full of class war and anti-racist tropes. I mean, like, completely full. So full it’s overflowing and honestly the tropes are starting to smell and shouldn’t someone clean this thing out before they start to rot?
In BioShock: Infinite you play a disinterested white savior with the higher moral ground who runs around killing first racists and then the anti-racist revolutionaries. The moral of the story is that anyone who wants to solve problems like institutionalized racism and classism with revolutionary violence is a bad person who is going to take things too far. Unless you’re the protagonist, an ex-Pinkerton agent who kills hundreds of people over the course of the game in the name of a paycheck. In which case, you’re in a good place to judge.
Continue reading BioShock: Infinite
by Bill Willingham
2103, Dynamite Entertainment
Should I read? Nope
Steampunk is situated in an interesting place for radicals: it can, as the Catastrophone Orchestra put it, offer a “non-Luddite critique of technology,” and sites like Beyond Victoriana use steampunk as a platform to combat racism and orientalism. This, plus its ability to explore colonialism, class, and gender while looking oh-so-very-cool in the process has attracted more than a few radical authors to the genre, from those that are explicitly anarchist like Alan Moore to socialists of various stripes like China Miéville.
The genre has also seen a large recent growth in popularity, its aesthetic making appearances in mainstream television shows like Castle and that terribly embarrassing Bieber Christmas music video. One of the most well known steampunk novels, Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, is currently being adapted for a major motion picture.
Continue reading Legenderry #1, by Bill Willingham