Archive for May, 2013

We have iPods which contain all our music, videos and data like the PADDs in, have unlocked parts of the human genome, cloned livestock and created primitive artificial life. And while we don’t have jet-packs, teleporters or the ability to travel to Mars, current technology hasn’t don’t too badly on the whole.

But what if.

What did previous eras envision what the future would look like?

Most cultures have looked to the future – to try and predict what is to come and how to better society. There has always been forward thinkers and innovators, people and concepts that seem to defy the time they are in, bringing ideas to the fore that seem impossible to believe. From Da Vinci to Japanese automatons serving them tea over 300 years ago advanced concepts have played a huge part in various cultures. constructions such as the Mechanical Turk, a fake chess-playing machine was constructed by Wolfgang von Kempelen (Kempelen Farkas) in 1770 to impress the Empress Maria Theresia of Austria (which was recently copied in Dr Who) still hold wonder and innovation even now –

But there was one set of future pioneers that shaped the foundations of what we now call Sci-Fi

The Victorians

Steam-powered trips to the moon –

100 + years in the past – the beginning of the 20th century – pioneers included HG WellsJules Verne and Charles Babbage. Maybe we could still have iPods, but chances are they would be made from iron and powered by water.

However the The retro-futuristic blend of Victoriana and sci-fi fashion has had a resurgence in recent times with the style, ideas and concepts making a high street comeback. Shows events, fashion, and societies across are celebrating this style and adding modern twists to it

From the late Victorian age to the end of the First World War, the first thirty years of the 20th century moved us forward like no other. We learnt to fly, learnt how to transfer information via radio waves, to put moving images onto celluloid and, unfortunately, to kill each other in the most unspeakable ways on the battlefields of Europe. Now, this turn of the century’s decades could have gone two ways into the predictions of the future.

Decline of the British Empire

Firstly we could have carried on with the wrought iron intricacy of the Victorian era, which we have seen many times in books and movies. Today we could have been living in a Steampunk world envisaged by the likes of Bruce Sterling and based on HG Wells, Jules Verne and Charles Babbage. Maybe we could still have iPods, but chances are they would be made from iron and powered by water.

Computer Context

Maybe if we looked at the beginning of the 20th century and asked the pioneers of sci-fi what the world would look like in 100 years’ time the answers would be very interesting. This, of course, is the biggest age of change we have ever had technology-wise.

The beginnings of First World War, maybe the sci-fi thinkers of the time saw the aesthetic of the future becoming militaristic. Taking the notion that World War I had continued, would we now be living in a future where war was the main focus? Would technology and medicine have moved forward at a quicker rate, as suggested at the time by the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs, in Warren Ellis’s Ministry of Space  or the third volume of Alan Moore’s The where we still have cars and motorways, but also space-ports and a lot more smoking of pipes?

Next time

1920s-1940s

As we move into the next few decades of the 20th century, the style changes once again, with the notion of the metropolis and the daring heroes of pulp. Would the technology of the future according to 1920s and 30s mentality lead us into a Flash Gordon-like style of art-deco space-ships with sparklers at the back? – Come back next week to have a look

Recommendations

Books

The First Men In The Moon (HG Wells)

The Shape Of Things To Come

The Time Machine (HG Wells)

The War Of The World (HG Wells)

Heart Of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)

Films/Serials:

Le Voyage Dans La Lune, aka A Trip To The Moon  (Georges Méliès)

Metropolis (Fritz Lang)

Lost Horizon (Frank Capra)

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Stuart Paton)

Island Of Lost Souls Erle C. Kenton)

Also see:

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Alan Moore)

Ministry Of Space (Warren Ellis)

<strong>Podcasts and other sources</strong>

http://steampunk.wonderhowto.com/

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts/astronomy/

http://steampunkzen.blogspot.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/therobertrankin

https://twitter.com/search?q=steampunk&src=typd

https://twitter.com/SteampunkNews

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