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Books foster a love for all things steampunk

Sep. 05, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

I've been focused on all things "steampunk" lately, so I thought I'd review some of the books I've found in the steampunk genre.

What is steampunk? That's a great question, but hard to answer. The best description I've found was by Thomas Willeford in his book, "Steampunk Gear, Gadgets, and Gizmos." He explains that "Steampunk has graduated from a simple science fiction genre into a growing subculture. Its style is based on the clash of history and anachronism and infused with the demands and constraints of antiquated technology."

I stumbled into the steampunk world rather abruptly two months ago when a friend asked me to make a steampunk-themed outfit for her to wear at the opening of her upcoming art show, which will feature several steampunk and Victoriana inspired works.

I'd heard of steampunk before and had a vague idea of the look required, but in the interest of authenticity I immersed myself into the steadily growing world of all things steampunk. Fast forward to today: As I write this I am working on finishing the last of three steampunk gowns. Hopefully by the time this is published this last gown will be finished and ready to wear to my first Steampunk Ball. More likely, though, I am sewing the last bit of something somewhere.

So spare me a quick thought, and let's talk books.

A big aspect of the steampunk world is making things. Whether it's creating clothes from scratch, altering modern items to have a steampunk aesthetic, or building fantastical steam-powered contraptions, creating the stuff you use, and wear is a point of pride for most steampunkers.

If you're interested in jewelry, wearing or making, you really must read "Steampunk Style Jewelry: Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Necklaces, Bracelets, and Earrings" by Jean Campbell. Every project is gorgeous, with the cleverly named Gearrings being a particular favorite. Sadly, I just can't start a new hobby right now, even though they all look eminently doable, so I just check it out occasionally to lust over all the pretty jewelry.

More within my scope of know-how is "Steampunk Your Wardrobe: Easy Projects to Add Victorian Flair to Everyday Fashions" by Calista Taylor. This clever madam shares nearly 20 ways to add steampunk flair to your wardrobe. Every project is simple and looks great. My only problem is deciding what to make next. I'm thinking the Laced-Edged Pantaloons could be just the thing for fall.

For the truly ambitious I heartily recommend "Steampunk gear, gadgets, and gizmos: a maker's guide to creating modern artifacts" by Thomas Willeford. Willeford has written a delightful guide that features instructions for making truly drool-worthy gear (All the other skyway men will be most envious of your new Tesla-pod Chrono-Static Insulating field Generator!). He has also included some excellent thoughts on what steampunk is.

Whew! That's a lot of work making exciting and shiny things, right? Well, may I suggest for your mindless reading enjoyment the new graphic novel series "Soulless the Manga" by Gail Carriger?

This is the graphic novelization of a fiction series by the same author. I have yet to read the original books, but the manga is fantastic. This visually stunning, and fast-paced romp through a Victorian steampunk world includes vampires, airships, werewolves, ghosts and a brass octopus. Not to mention costumes that make my inner seamstress swoon with rapture.

Renee Schmutz-Sowards is a circulation specialist at the Boyd County Public Library.

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