A few months ago, when Mark Gatiss's superb take on The First Men In The Moon was being shown on BBC4, I saw the term steampunk being bandied about as a description of the show. It wasn't until I looked it up that I realised there was actually a term for the Victorian sci-fi aesthetic that I've always found so appealing. To be specific: "steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting."
I love Disneyland Paris. (Don't worry, I'm actually going somewhere with this.) The rollercoasters, the atmosphere, the constant smell of popcorn, the oversized lollipops, even the creepy animatronic kids in Small World. I particularly love the Discoveryland section of the park, where Space Mountain resides. In the American parks, this section is a 1950s-vision-of-the-future, World of Tomorrow themed area. But its French counterpart is a glorious Jules Verne inspired playground, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it's actually rife with steampunk influences.
Space Mountain, which I've always thought of as one of the most gorgeous looking rollercoasters ever, is a Victorian canon that sends you rocketing into space for feck's sake. It's a steampunk rollercoaster! No wonder I've always loved it.
It transpires that films like Back To The Future III, A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Sky Captain and The World Of Tomorrow, and even the recent Victorian Robert Downey Ridebag-fest Sherlock Holmes would all be loosely classed as steampunk, with The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel generally credited with hauling the genre into mainstream pop culture.
Captain Amelia from Disney's Treasure Planet, Violet Baudelaire from A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Mina Murray from The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Captain Franky Cook from Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow. It appears that steampunk fiction tends to go for long-ass titles.
There are all manner of objects that steampunk enthusiasts manage to convert into gorgeous neo-Victorian versions of themselves, keyboards, guitars, iPods, even Santa. Seriously, Google it. One of the most impressive steampunk makeovers I've seen are these reimagined Star Wars illustrations by artist Bjorn Hurri. Check it.
Steampunk fashion is a thing to behold too. Brown leather corsets, aviator goggles, polished brass, lace, buckles, top hats, laser guns and a general air of badassery.
It's all whirring cogs and gears and a sort of smashing together of sci-fi, Victoriana and the wild west. And it's only deadly.
In a weird and rather well timed coincidence, there's a Steampunk night happening in The Sugar Club on the 25th February, details here. Intriguing, no?