A creatively informative compilation, The Steampunk Gazette is a go to guide for information on all things steampunk. The editor-in-chief, John Naylor aka Major Tinker, shares his unique view of steampunk. The Steampunk Gazette is more than just the expressions of one man as it encompasses various aspects of steampunk life. A great introduction to the steampunk genre, The Steampunk Gazette is a piece of fantastical non-fiction, showcasing the imaginations of creative minds.
This handsomely produced, color-illustrated volume tells the story of Steampunk, which started in the 1980s as a pop culture movement inspired by the early science fiction that came out of the Victorian era. It soon developed into an international lifestyle movement, having its own distinctive art, fashion, home decor, music, and social events. The Steampunk Gazette chronicles the origins and development of this subculture, using an illustrated newspaper-style design that reflects Steampunk’s retro aesthetic. Telling Steampunk’s story in words, complemented with atmospheric color photos and Victorian-style typefaces and page designs.
There are countless things to notice in The Steampunk Gazette and whether you’re a steampunk veteran or are just trying to find a clear answer to ‘What is steampunk?’ this book will have something for you. Though a collaborative effort, The Steampunk Gazette clearly marks itself as a reference book with a very influential editor. I feel as if I got to know Major Tinker’s opinions on steampunk just by reading, whether I agreed with them or not.
With the introduction of steampunk by Major Tinker, The Steampunk Gazette starts off with a bang. I loved his concise answer to ‘what is steampunk’ which was in fact quoted. However, his digression of the meaning of steampunk starts to be very opinionated rather than informative and many readers may disagree with his opinions and be tempted to put The Steampunk Gazette down. The interesting thing about his digression and subsequent opinion is that it highlights how steampunk has been and always will be a collaboration, evolving with the creations of those who choose to join the genre and community. I was incredibly appreciative of this introduction as it set the tone for the rest of The Steampunk Gazette, letting me know it as the brain child of one man.
There are so many interesting aspects of The Steampunk Gazette. One of the opening articles features a fabulous message that is featured in steampunk culture- Be Splendid! This article was my favorite as it highlights unique often overlooked aspects of steampunk culture like Native American steampunk costumes. In the very same article women of all shapes were featured in full costume and steampunk is heralded as a genre and community that accepts all and unlike the Victorian era of its basis does not discriminate on race, class, gender,sexual orientation, physical ability, age or size. This indeed is one of my favorite things of steampunk and I was ecstatic to see this concept so prominently displayed.
Information is key and though I am quite experienced with steampunk I found myself being fascinated by the many things which were highlighted. For instance the narrative shares a brief but explanatory paragraph regarding various time associated genres. ( In case you’re wondering they are clockpunk, powderpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, atompunk, cyberpunk,biopunk, nanopunk and the fantasy-elfpunk). There are great tips like don’t wear military medals from the past 100 years and costume ideas galore. One of the features throughout the book was the artisan highlights. This was a great opportunity to read short interviews of contributors to steampunk such as a milliner and a taxidermist. The other feature I enjoyed throughout the book was the sidebars of consolidated suggestions such as my favorite- ‘ The Steamy Playlist’ which as you may have guessed, is a playlist of steampunk music acts. I even learned a thing or two I didn’t know existed like Tea Dueling. In my defense, I tend to avoid all tea associated things as I can’t stand the stuff despite the attempts of countless tea connoisseurs.
Unlike many informative reference books, I found The Steampunk Gazette to show quite a bit of bias. Unfortunately, though the opening shares a theme of all being welcomed, some of the prose has a judgmental air. Usually this is only regarding what ‘true’ steampunk aficionados wear and I was able to ignore it-most of the time. Bias is shown, as it often is, in the artisan interviews where each person is asked about mass production. While this is not an unfair question to ask artisans whose livlehood depends on patrons of the handmade, it is the tone in which the question is asked, as well as the various environmental paragraphs that make it a bit one sided. I questioned why an informative book which claims to welcome all should be political or condemnatory. There are occassions where I felt the Major’s opinion let some areas be less featured like when H.P Lovecraft was barely mentioned, military reenactment was written of more than a handful of times and the gaming section only touched on old school tabletop RPG and LARP; highlighting only one video game, the antiquated second life.
Despite my several gripes, The Steampunk Gazette is still a great companion book for anyone wishing to learn more. Each page features art and creativity in a way that is unparalleled. The Steampunk Gazette not only informs but inspires the reader to experience steampunk for themselves. This inspiration is perhaps the most sincere form of welcoming. Like a forbidden fantasy, The Steampunk Gazette begs the reader to come and join the fun.