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Author Topic: Steampunk legend and lore  (Read 8816 times)
Scheaume
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« on: March 01, 2007, 06:32:59 am »

Stories are told and cultures are invented. Every culture has its stories of strange far-off lands.

You are quite taken by Steampunk stories. What, do you think, are the Steampunks in the stories quite taken with? Expect their fantasy to be as different from their reality and as their reality (which is your fantasy) is from your reality.

Discuss.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2007, 05:05:31 pm by Scheaume » Logged
Andy_W
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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2007, 10:24:42 am »

Pardon?
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« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2007, 01:14:00 pm »

Stories are told and cultures are invented. Every culture has its stories of strange far-off lands.

You are quite taken by Steampunk stories. What, do you think, are the Steampunks in the stories quite taken with? Expect their fantasy to be as different from their reality and their reality (which is your fantasy) is from your reality.

Discuss.
Well that was needlessly complicated

As far as i can surmise/translate
What do you think that the people of the "age that never was" fairy tales would be like, compared to our own?

Depends on the surroundings in which the individuals are raised ie dystopia, utopia, post-apocalyptic etc. maybe their fantasy is our reality (though I doubt it)
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Scheaume
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« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2007, 05:24:10 pm »

Whoops, I wrote "and" when I meant to write "as" -- now is fixed.

Hex translated my question very well, for which I am grateful!
I ruefully admit my question was fairly general and obtuse. A moar focused example may be easier to think about.

QUESTION MK. II: In our world, people of Steampunk mentality have developed the Steampunk counterculture. What sort of countercultures do you expect they would have in the "age that never was"?


(I should mention that I am not asking for the sake of research, but rather to entertain myself and make you think harder than strictly necessary. You do not really know a world until you know its fantasy, its daydreams, its imagination -- even if the world in question is itself imaginary. Pursuing this question will give you insight, possibly also drymouth or mild rash.)
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2007, 06:24:31 pm »

Hmm...maybe they would talk (of all things!) Engines powered by coal, or some liquid fuel, and not steam! My goodness, such ludicrous ideas. Or, small, sleek, things not made with gears, or pistons.
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2007, 07:20:31 pm »

I almost don't think there is much room for stories in Steampunk...(except for maybe the Greek and Roman myths) only because its the Steampunkians themselves who are making the stories. If stories do exist, its about the accomplishments of others.

I'm also wonder, quite controversially, whether Religion even has a place in Steampunk...only because I would think that Science would replace it.....but that is a different discussion.

Maybe I should say theres ALWAYS room for stories, the idea of a society without them is preposterous...but here I almost think that science, invention, innovation, and progress are key.
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2007, 08:59:57 pm »

Electropunk?  Perhaps everything is reversed; in their past it was all about electricity, plastic, and t-shirts, with their fiction representing that.  Hmmm, sleek sportscars with huge steam engines jutting out?  I like it!
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Scheaume
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2007, 10:08:15 pm »

"Maybe I should say theres ALWAYS room for stories, the idea of a society without them is preposterous"

Quite! How dreary would a world be with no strange faraway lands to speak of, even if only in legend? Steampunk is, of course, a richly imagined world, but still imaginary -- though it finds some reality in the lifestyles of folks like yourself. If it were a reality, then little Steampunk children with active imaginations would read fantastical adventures by gaslight, and maybe wish they were somewhere exciting, riding panda bears and carving castles of magical stone, instead of being here beneath the boring old clocktower.

Our reality becoming their fantasy is only one possibility (though a very fun one which had not occurred to me). More likely they would tell many of the same tales we do, of times "before technology" when the lands were full of knights and wizards, and times in the far future, where spaceships (how strange those ships must look, belching steam into the cold vacuum of space and seeing it crystallize instantly) sail to far reaches. Would they imagine what the world might be like if Rome never fell, if aqueducts and hand-powered machines became elaborate and almost magically sophisticated?

Please note that I am not maligning the steam-powered world. To the contrary, I find it intensely intriguing. Smiley I desire not to destroy the idea or detract from it, but to learn more and draw closer to it by wondering what stories and longings and legends such a world might inspire. I would feel sad for the people in a Steampunk world if they could never fly away in fairy tales. After all, one of the curious properties of fairy tales is that they help you see adventure and beauty and splendor in your own world.

P.S. Do they have potato chips in Steampunk land?
P.P.S. Soda pop?
P.P.P.S (Steam-powered "Segues" would be charming, no?)
P.P.P.P.S (Religion is a barred topic here so let's not continue on those lines Smiley)

Thank you for the replies so far. They are exquisite and thought provoking.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2007, 10:14:15 pm by Scheaume » Logged
Josh of Vernian Process
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2007, 10:15:46 pm »

Well I'd imagine the characters in Steampunk stories, would follow the same fairetales, myths and legends as the people in the actual Victorian era of our world.

Because more often than not, Steampunk stories are set in an alternate Victorian era on "earth".

Now the worlds in say Perdido Street Station, or Arcanum, or any other Fantasy setting would likely have wholly unique myths and legends.
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Cory
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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2007, 10:55:20 pm »

I'm also wonder, quite controversially, whether Religion even has a place in Steampunk...only because I would think that Science would replace it.....but that is a different discussion.

Besides the whole debate over what religion even is (I tend towards William James' definition: our religion is just however we orient ourselves to whatever we believe is the ultimate truth), I fail to see how science would eradicate religion in a Steampunk world when it hasn't done so (or was ever meant to) in ours. Speaking just for Christianity, a good chunk of its religious landscape today was determined in the Victorian-Edwardian controversy between Fundamentalism and the Social Gospel Movement.
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Honky-Tonk Dragon
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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2007, 11:22:52 pm »

I'm also wonder, quite controversially, whether Religion even has a place in Steampunk...only because I would think that Science would replace it.....but that is a different discussion.

Besides the whole debate over what religion even is (I tend towards William James' definition: our religion is just however we orient ourselves to whatever we believe is the ultimate truth), I fail to see how science would eradicate religion in a Steampunk world when it hasn't done so (or was ever meant to) in ours. Speaking just for Christianity, a good chunk of its religious landscape today was determined in the Victorian-Edwardian controversy between Fundamentalism and the Social Gospel Movement.
I would hope that we would be able to discuss religion in a civil, sociological, philosophical manner. No evangelizing, but only detached discourse. I would think the admonition against religion on the board applies to arguements about "the one true faith," but I most certainly could be wrong.
We could be getting onto thin ice  here.

Pity, the Victorian fascination with Asian religions and philosophies, as well as the prediliction towards secret mystical societies is intriguing...
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Scheaume
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« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2007, 11:38:01 pm »

Ah-hah! Reiteration!

Quote
P.P.P.P.S (Religion is a barred topic here so let's not continue on those lines Smiley)

I agree with you, Honky-Tonk Dragon, but I do not wish to incur the wrath of the local forum gods.  Wink


VernianProcess, that is a deliciously elegant answer. And I believe that henceforth, it is the one I will subscribe to. Smiley The advent of steam power would probably influence their popular scientifiction much more than their fantasy, and I care only a little for popular scientifiction so I am not nearly as interested in that question.

I fear the question is not entirely Steampunk related, but my browsing here brought the question to mind, so I have inflicted it on you! I see now that I am just eager to ensure that fairytale characters can have some fairytales of their own (because, let us be truthful...stories of elves are not exactly magical if you happen to be an elf yourself).

But I realize the general question is off-topic, so I'm not asking to discuss it here. I am quite pleased with the conversation thus far, and with VernianProcess who has set my mind at ease. As long as the Victorian mechanists still have stories of Merlin and of Odin and of ancient Egypt, I will not worry for them.
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« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2007, 12:00:37 am »

I'm afraid that I've seen too many threads on other forums go wildly out of control when the very heated topics of religions or politics were raised, and to avoid that I've requested that those topics be avoided as best they can be.  No offence intended to anyone, it's just a matter of "better safe than sorry" when dealing with subjects that divide opinion so.  (Perhaps I should include popular sports support too...)

As for the original question, generally you'll find that no matter the society, there are mythological stereotypes and themes that can be found common to them.  The "wise old man", the "trickster", the "princess" etc.  They often take different forms appropriate for the culture, but they're generally universal.  (Wise old man = Gandalf or Obi Wan Kenobi or Dumbledore, for example.)  Frequently, tales told reinforce the morality and warnings of the society too - so Red Riding Hood was a cautionary tale warning young girls from straying from the path, and getting into bed with 'wolves'.

So, if say for example, in the Steampunk world it is seen as a horrible thing to be lost in the aether between worlds, then you'd most likely hear cautionary tales (like our urban legends) of the "Boy Who Cried Leak!", or of ghosts in the aether luring travellers with their songs and scandelous ankle-showing, or even of the "Old Man of the Aether", who stayed out in the blackness too long, went mad, and now sneaks up on aetherships pretending he's a wealthy gentleman.
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« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2007, 12:03:52 am »

Concerning the topic of Religion, I have found it a far easier topic to discuss when the terrm "Spirituality" is used. Because it doesn't refer to any one organized religion, but an individuals view on their spiritual environment. Would this be a suitable substitute?
« Last Edit: March 02, 2007, 12:33:39 am by VernianProcess » Logged
Honky-Tonk Dragon
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« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2007, 12:12:11 am »

Another thing to consider would that Steampunk legends and folklore might play a much more active role in the culture. How many times do you hear hushed whispers in disreputable public houses in Hindustan of a utopian kingdom hidden in the Himalayas, before you load up the airship and point it toward Shambala?
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Cory
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« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2007, 12:16:05 am »

I would hope that we would be able to discuss religion in a civil, sociological, philosophical manner. No evangelizing, but only detached discourse. I would think the admonition against religion on the board applies to arguements about "the one true faith," but I most certainly could be wrong.
We could be getting onto thin ice  here.

I wasn't aware that I was being evangelistic when I mentioned the historical development of a religion in the 19th century, and a 19th century psychologist's definition of religion in general.

No worries.
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Honky-Tonk Dragon
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« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2007, 12:18:53 am »

I would hope that we would be able to discuss religion in a civil, sociological, philosophical manner. No evangelizing, but only detached discourse. I would think the admonition against religion on the board applies to arguements about "the one true faith," but I most certainly could be wrong.
We could be getting onto thin ice  here.

I wasn't aware that I was being evangelistic when I mentioned the historical development of a religion in the 19th century, and a 19th century psychologist's definition of religion in general.

No worries.

Didn't mean to imply that you were.
In fact I was interested in where you were going with it.
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Cory
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« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2007, 03:00:31 am »

Didn't mean to imply that you were.
In fact I was interested in where you were going with it.

My apologies then.

There was the sense that the original thought about religion being obsolete in a Steampunk world derived from the Scientific Materialist notion that religion is just a "pre-scientific" way of explaining natural phenomena, and thus would be rendered "obsolete" by the progress of scientific research. Of course, by William James' definition, Scientific Materialism is itself a religion ^_Q

I don't see that religion (again, the original thought seemed to, by default, be refering to mainstream, non-materialist religions) would become obsolete in a Steampunk alternate history simply by virtue of it not becoming obsolete in our actual Victorian history. I can only speak with any expertice on the history of my own religion, but the 19th century was a pretty vibrant time for Christianity, both good and ill. I already mentioned the controversy between the conservative Fundamentalist movement and the liberal Social Gospel movement... The 12 volume text that gave name to the former movement, The Fundamentals, was published from 1910 to 1915.  It was a reaction against Liberal Christianity, the Social Gospel and Biblical Higher Criticism that was active towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century in the mainline denominations. The 19th century was also the flowering of American heresy: the Book of Mormon was published in 1830, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures was published in 1875, the "Second Great Awakening" revivalist movement stretched from roughly 1800-1830, the first tent revival meeting was in 1867, the Shearer Schoolhouse Revival in 1896 is considered the "official" beginning of Pentecostalism, and the Southern Baptist Convention - presently the largest denomination in the USA - formed in 1845. This is all besides the fact that Victorian England attempted to justify some of its colonial expansion as a Christian (Anglican) missionary activity. And heck, my own congregation - Historic Trinity Lutheran Church of Calgary, Alberta, Canada - formed in 1899.

That's just a smattering of Christianity... I haven't even tried discussing Spiritualism, the creation of Western Buddhism, the evolution of Neo-Paganism from 19th century Romanticism, secular religious movements like Scientific Materialism, or occultic organizations like Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis. 

No religion? Heck, once you start taking steam aesther craft to alien planets, God knows how many more religions would be introduced. Imagine Martian or Venusian religions in the hands of Romantics and occultists, or the Social Gospel reaction to British enslavement of Selenites and the Fundamentalist reaction to the mere existence of Selenites! 
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Scheaume
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« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2007, 04:03:14 am »

RAWR

Quote
I'm afraid that I've seen too many threads on other forums go wildly out of control when the very heated topics of religions or politics were raised, and to avoid that I've requested that those topics be avoided as best they can be.
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« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2007, 06:26:00 am »

The "Celtic Revival" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_Revival (a Scotland/Ireland that never was) , Peter Pan, and the idea of faerie-folk being diminutive and delicate winged creatures, as opposed to imposing Norse and Celt warriors were a result of the historical Victorian era. Just as Steampunk is a step-removed from history, perhaps the fantasies of that time could server as a starting point to develop unique new ones?

(I rather like the idea of tiny, diaphanously-clad fae-folk wearing brass-and silk clockwork wings, but that is just me...)
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« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2007, 09:27:27 am »

I'm also wonder, quite controversially, whether Religion even has a place in Steampunk...only because I would think that Science would replace it.....but that is a different discussion.

Besides the whole debate over what religion even is (I tend towards William James' definition: our religion is just however we orient ourselves to whatever we believe is the ultimate truth), I fail to see how science would eradicate religion in a Steampunk world when it hasn't done so (or was ever meant to) in ours. Speaking just for Christianity, a good chunk of its religious landscape today was determined in the Victorian-Edwardian controversy between Fundamentalism and the Social Gospel Movement.

Cory I knew the importance of religion in your life when I made the statement, and I mean no disrespect...I'm simply bringing up topic that occurred to me. Your point, in fact, has me thinking.
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Nemo137
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« Reply #21 on: March 02, 2007, 11:01:38 am »

The "Celtic Revival" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_Revival (a Scotland/Ireland that never was) , Peter Pan, and the idea of faerie-folk being diminutive and delicate winged creatures, as opposed to imposing Norse and Celt warriors were a result of the historical Victorian era. Just as Steampunk is a step-removed from history, perhaps the fantasies of that time could server as a starting point to develop unique new ones?

(I rather like the idea of tiny, diaphanously-clad fae-folk wearing brass-and silk clockwork wings, but that is just me...)

Interesting post.

How much of a Romantic movement do you think a Steampunk world would have had? Do you think you would have had, maybe, a vast divide between, I guess, the realists and romantics? Would it have been a class one? Or would the idea of gremlins (little house spirits for the workshop, maybe) just have developed sooner?
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fixed_expression
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« Reply #22 on: March 02, 2007, 01:47:43 pm »

Does anybody know of any myths that actually did evolve along with steam technology and the like? I'm sure I remember hearing something about a Ghost Train, similar to the Flying Dutchman, that roamed the rails, appearing randomly for various spooky reasons.

Also it could be worth noting that stories like Frankenstein kind of fit the bill; inspired by experiments with electricity and the re-animation of dead frogs (amongst other things), it's a story written by somebody dimly aware of developing technologies, and creating an implausable cautionary tale out of imagined catastrophes.
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MrJones
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« Reply #23 on: March 02, 2007, 02:14:33 pm »

While I agree that the people in these universes dreamt of impossible destinations, discovery and exotic jungle safaris, I wonder if the gallant and well-to-do gentlemen in steampunk universes had different dreams to the underclasses.  Do you still dream of flying around the world in 80 days when you spend your life shovelling coal under a boiler?
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Cory
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« Reply #24 on: March 02, 2007, 04:44:31 pm »

Cory I knew the importance of religion in your life when I made the statement, and I mean no disrespect...I'm simply bringing up topic that occurred to me. Your point, in fact, has me thinking.

No disrespect taken... I actually get more worried that people won't tolerate me putting my two cents in. I was once kicked off a Jurassic Park message board for basically responding the same way to a post ^_Q
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