Steampunk's founding fathers talk shop

A reader writes, "Tim Powers, James Blaylock, and K.W. Jeter, all Cal State Fullerton alumni, give their university's paper an interview about their creation of steampunk, their friendship with Philip K. Dick, writing bad poetry for the paper when they attended the school, and Powers' book 'On Stranger Tides' being optioned for the next 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movie."
"There's at least several steampunk conventions now, and they don't really have many books in the dealers room," Powers said. "They have tons of costumes and goggles and ray guns. It's more of a costume phenomenon, which has always been a big part of science fiction fandom. It seems that it has evolved dynamically into another area and sort of out of dutiful loyalty keeps referring back to me, Blaylock and Jeter."

Due to steampunk's popularity, Jeter's novels Morlock Night and Infernal Devices will be going back into print in the spring. Jeter, who is in the process of moving to San Francisco, commented on the trend.

"The steampunk enthusiasm is entertaining to me, my having coined the term and all. I'm glad that people are having fun with the various concepts associated with it," Jeter wrote in an e-mail. "There's possibly a deeper element involved; though, I don't want to get too pretentious about it - that would be the admiration by steampunk devotees for the handcrafted, artisanal aspect of everyday objects from previous industrial periods, versus the cheap plastic crap that lines the store shelves nowadays. There's a humanness, for lack of a better word, to old stuff - and old ways - that the modern world lacks."

Powers and Blaylock agreed that they love the gadgets and details in steampunk stories.

"They came naturally for me," Blaylock said. "I was crazy for Jules Verne, and so you read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and I think, 'I want one of them submarines. I'm going to put one of them submarines in my book.'"

Next 'Pirates' movie based on book by CSUF alumnus

(Image: Janelle Conner/Daily Titan)


    1. > How cool would it be to have Tim Powers as a teacher?

      I would *love* to get a paper back with the comment “needs more eldritch supernatural elements, shadowy secret societies, and killer clowns.”

  1. Oh, damn. There was a steampunk-mecha story that ran in one of the trade mags in the early 80s that I’ve been trying to track down. This may be a huge push in the right direction.

  2. I wonder if K. W. Jeter’s view on copyright have evolved since Noir:

    “There’s a hardware solution to intellectual-property theft. It’s called a .357 magnum. No better way for taking pirates off-line. Permanently. Properly applied to the head of any copyright-infringing little bastard, this works.”

  3. What? On Stranger Tidesmight be the basis for the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie? This could be totally awesome.

  4. J. Blaylock teaches at my high school and I always see him around, and think to myself who woulda’ thought thought he coined “Steampunk”

  5. Sad commentary that Steampunk has started out as a branch of science fiction and become a fashion and music trend. I’m part of a steampunk storytelling act called the Absinthe Minded Professors.

    Its odd that we confuse people of the subculture. People are amazed that we are not a band since that is the norm . Even though we are getting good responses it is strange and sad observation that many people of a science fiction subculture don’t read.

    1. Sad commentary that Steampunk has started out as a branch of science fiction and become a fashion and music trend.

      Sad because….people who used to stay at home and read are now going outside? But, wait. You do a storytelling act. So sad because….music is the devil’s handiwork? I don’t really get the sad aspect of people enjoying themselves.

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