Archive for February 19th, 2012

What makes certain things iconographic and others not? In the book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea there are so many creatures and characters to capture the steampunk imagination it is worth considering what is not a steampunk icon.

For example, why not the shark who struggles in mortal combat with Captain Nemo: “The beast’s eyes were on fire, its jaws were opened wide. I was mute with horror and quite unable to move a muscle. … Then I saw Captain Nemo straighten himself from a crouching posture and, dagger in hand, walk directly toward the submarine terror, ready for a face-to-face fight with it.”

While the octopus/poulp/cephalopod/immense cuttlefish is a steampunk icon: “The monster’s mouth, a horned beak like a parrot’s, opened and shut vertically. Its tongue was of horn substance and furnished with several rows of pointed teeth. It came forth quivering from this veritable pair of shears. … The truly terrible beak of the cuttlefish was open above Ned Land. The poor chap would be cut in two – unless- I rushed to his succor with all my might and main, but our commander was there before me. His axe disappeared between the two enormous jaws. Miraculously saved, the Canadian jumped unharmed to his feet and jammed his harpoon to its heft into the triple heart of the nauseating poulp.”

Why the “Nautilus” and not the “Abraham Lincoln”? Captain Nemo and not Ned Land?  Steam trains and not steam boats?

But that is what makes the genre so fascinating. If there were not some icons about which the majority of steampunks agreed, it wouldn’t be so much fun to break the rules!

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