Steampunk Rising


What if Charles Babbage's steam-powered computational engines had actually been built in the 1840s, bringing modern processing power online in the Victorian era? If the fantastic automobiles, airships and submarines imagined by Jules Verne had ushered in an age of high-tech adventure 100 years before such technological marvels became possible? The sub-cultural movement known as Steampunk is based upon just such musings, and it's gaining adherents by the day.

Self-styled "contraptors" like Richard Nagy and Jake Von Slatt take Steampunk's Neo-Victorian, clockwork aesthetic and apply it to their various hand-crafted creations, among the most prominent of which are contemporary computers custom modified, or modded, to look like artifacts from an age when form was at least as important as function. Von Slatt's lovingly crafted "Victorian All-in-One PC," shown here, is a prime example. But Steampunk isn't just an old-timey look slapped onto modern technology, says Ann VanderMeer, co-editor with her husband Jeff of "Steampunk," an anthology of Victorian-inspired fiction.

"Steampunk is much more than an aesthetic," says VanderMeer, who is both an award-winning publisher and software manager at a leading computer company. "It's also about putting your hands on something that you've made yourself. It's not simply a wide-eyed nostalgia for another time, but more about being more closely connected to what you create."