The cover story on the Boston Phoenix this week is a wicked, long feature on steampunk!
The 19th century ushered in the era of the amateur: a wild-eyed tinkerer in a lab had the capacity to stumble upon a discovery that just might alter society, a common theme paralleled in Victorian and Gothic fiction and, now, in Steampunk. "I find the optimism of Steampunk rather refreshing," says Rich Nagy, a/k/a Datamancer, a popular Steampunk artisan originally based in New Jersey but now living in California who was represented at the Maker Contraptor's Lounge. "Steampunk has a way of making technology, which is becoming more transparent and taken for granted every day, seem novel and fun again," adds Nagy. That much is clear in his finely wrought pieces, like the "Computational Engine" computer casemod and his sophisticated "Steampunk Victorian Laptop," a Hewlett-Packard ZT1000 laptop with a clockwork-under-glass display that, when it's closed, looks like an ornate antique music box. It turns on with a clock-winding key. In effect, Steampunk is poised to bring the proletariat craftsman his 21st-century renaissance.
Though Steampunk's artisanal outputs have stolen much of the mainstream limelight so far, there is a whole other creative side to the scene that has received little attention in comparison. Countless bands have formed, filing their music under the Steampunk genre or citing Victorian fantasy as a muse. One of them, Vernian Process, is the solo project of San Francisco–based Joshua Pfieffer. A true testament to the notion of the ambitious dabbler, Pfieffer has no musical training, and writes songs with the aid of basic audio-production software. "The atmosphere is actually more important to me than writing good hooks, or melodic structure," he says of his music, which he makes free to download. "I feel that what I do represents the genre as I would like it to sound."