The authors of Vintage Tomorrows: A Historian And A Futurist Journey Through Steampunk Into The Future of Technology undertake a daunting adventure: define what steampunk is and figure out what its future and its impact on technology and popular culture will be.
Along the way are lots of interviews and dinner dates with notable people. Even Timothy Leary and William Gibson are brought into this discussion as to what steampunk is all about and why it is all about these days as this question is repeatedly asked of the makers, shakers, and major scene-players.
I can rattle off the many names of the people interviewed espousing this cultish passion over steam powered technology retro-fitting, this alternative lifestyle, this role playing extravagance, this myth-making and reality-nullifying--and quickly becoming commercially viable industry--but if you're into steampunk, you already know them; if not, you'll be looking these people up anyway as you read, so go at it.
Lots of counterculture history is referenced to fortify the instigations and permutations to be found in the punkier aspects of steampunk, and numerous--almost too many--explorations into this plucky yearning for yesterdays that never were are enumerated. What drives all this coloring of techmorror into more witty and creative landscapes over the color by numbers arrangements handed to us by corporate commercialism and mass production consumerism is plumbed for all its worth. Of course, if more and more steampunk products wind up on Etsy, you could argue for those brass balance scales tipping steampunk into commercialistic imbroglio, too.
Is there a definitive what is steampunk answer to be found at the end of these pages? Not really. But once you get past the glued on goggles, the fetishistic passion for accouterments of a bygone era that itch like crazy, and the intentional and problematic lapses of historical accuracy where the evils of empire are concerned and why Victorian England isn't all it was cracked up to be, but still is imagined to be, there's a cultural chestnut here sprouting into a great oak that's mesmerizing in its read.
It's not an easy task, but some historian and futurist have got to do it. And after a few cold ones downed in the Pike Pub & Brewery, Carrott and Johnson are off and running. Be prepared to pick this book up, put it down, do a little research, than pick it up again. Maybe you know about the Beats, and the Hippies, certainly the Yuppies, and maybe what Burning Man is all about, or even what the peach fuzz whack of the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and a social movement that reached Further to an horizon that Neverwas. But if not, you will need to take a little time to identify these sights along the way of this mental expedition the authors do their best Lewis and Clark on.
And therein lies the secret of steampunk's allure: anyone can make the trip.
A courtesy copy of this book was provided for this review.