Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Steampunk Reviews: The Science Fiction of Edgar Allen Poe

'The Science Fiction of Edgar Allen Poe', Harold Beaver (Editor)
Paperback, Published: December 1976, by Penguin UK.
ISBN-13: 9780140431063, ISBN-10: 0140431063.
16 short stories:- MS. Found in a Bottle; The Unparelleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall; The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion; A Descent into the Maelstom; The Colloquy of Monos and Una; A Tale of the Ragged Mountains; The Balloon-Hoax; Mesmeric Revelation; The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scherazade; Some Words with a Mummy; The Power of Words; The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether; The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar; Eureka: An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe; Mellonta Tauta; Von Kempelen and His Discovery.

My enjoyment in discovering this little book and its collection of 16 short stories, even its very existence was enough for me to try and track it down, and find out more about the works of the Founder of Science Fiction.

Each of the tales has extensive notes, and an individual critique by the Editor, which only enhances the collection, and helps draw you in to the imagination of the Victorians.

A World with its details and its querks, its Amateur Scientist, and Hobby Mathematicians exploring the very Nature of the World – Physical and Spiritual and of the unknown...

I wholeheartedly recommend that you read the splendid story entitled “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade”, as well as the lurid tale of “Some Words with a Mummy”, and beautifully crafted tale of “The Balloon-Hoax”, and the equally inspirational short story entitled “The Unparelleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall”.

Poe's work as a Science Fiction writer is largely overlooked, but once you the reader have succumbedto his influences, His rightful place in the Literary “Valhalla” will be assured.


Realms that are “SteamPunk”

To immerse yourself in the Realms that are “SteamPunk

The first step is: to imagine that you are back in the Victorian age of Invention, Adventure and Discovery, the days of the might of the British Empire, its Industrialisation spreading engineering marvels through out the World.
Iron and Rivets were used to make bridges and towers of wonder, Steam Engines power the factory's machines, the Railways with their Steam Locomotives conveying people and goods at great speeds, Steam Engines power Ocean going ships of enormous size, by “paddle wheel”, “screw”, and “propeller”.

The French pioneers made it possible for Adventurers to travel the air-ways in hot air balloons, and small Blimps. Later, the rise of German technology would see the Airships come of age.
The harnessing and understanding of the wonders of Electricity; the Telegraph, using Morse Code sending a Telegram down a copper wire, at unheard of speeds, heralding a new age of communication.

These are just a few images for your imagination to take hold of.

The second step is: to take on the outlook of the Authors of Speculative Fiction (Scientific Romance), the forerunners of today's Science Fiction writers, in looking forward from the Victorian age, and making the improbable possible!

All manner of Neo Victorian conveyances abound: Giant flying machines that are heavier than air; Ships that travel beneath the waves; Cannons now propel projectiles with Adventurers inside, to moons and other planets; Machines tunnel under foot, and much deeper; Other off worldly machines made for war stride over rooftops with ease; mechanical men and strange automaton like animals are commanded; to be able to travel to any-when, not just anywhere; even an individual can travel via their own one wheeled conveyance!

Imagine the effects of science on the animal kingdom, and our own human bodies: reanimated body parts; men of hideous strength; Animals walking upright on two legs instead of four; men who's bodies turn translucent; domestic animals bred so large, (so that they can feed the World)!

The Third step is: fictional alternate histories, the worlds of “what ifs” leading to a sideways take on past events, pushing ahead to new futures, not all of them turning out to be Utopias!
What if? Computers were mechanical, and the Information age had arrived in 1840's ! What future would see the “Great War” take place? What if we transpose our modern ideas onto a Victorian society? What Worlds would stand-in for our own?

Now to reach the “Punk” that is “Steampunk” turn back on yourself and Imagine a dystopian World of Coal mines, endless factories with smoking chimneys and foggy cities, men being enslaved to machines, so that others in that society can live the high life, oppressive tyrannical Empires holding the populous in their grasp. Now you have the Worlds of the haves and the have nots, the Gentleman and the street Urchin if you will.