The Steampunk User’s Manual: a review by Jenny Argante


The Steampunk User’s Manual: An Illustrated, Practical & Whimsical Guide to Creating Retro-Futurist Dreams By Desirina Boskovich & Jeff Vandermeer

A dream of a book indeed for the imaginative and wildly creative progenitors and practitioners of steampunk, that is itself as object an expression of the steampunk ideology and style.

The Steampunk User’s Manual explores such questions as ‘Why steampunk?’ to which the only possible answer can be why not, when it is so much fun.

Basic principles are outlined and then the text and graphic art, both of high quality, roam freely together through the many different aspects of the chosen topic. Steampunk is a heady mix of the anachronistic, the modernistic and the futuristic; an ingenious morphing and transforming of past, present and the predictor future in the literary, musical and performance arts.

‘Design’ covers not only objets trouvés and constructed artworks, but retro-futurism in interiors and fashion or costume. Wearable art fits nicely in there somewhere.

There’s an intriguing chapter on steampunk storytelling that includes ‘writing exercises.’ Enticing to experiment, eh?

Repurposing art by Matthew Chaney offers challenges to the reader, and there are other compelling contributions on retro-future fantastic and the steampunk dreams of artists, musicians, fashionistas and storytellers. Performance, verbal, instrumental and vocal, gets a deeply helpful discussion that includes advice for aspirants.

And all this mesmerising information is laid out for us with enlightening and informative words and jewel-bright artwork. The Steampunk User’s Manual is jam-packed with ideas to embrace or discourse upon: things to do and things to make.

If steampunk is what beguiles or bewilders you then this is the book for you.

(2014) BOSKOVICH, D. & VANDERMEER, J. The Steampunk User’s Manual. NY, Abrams Image Books. ISBN 978-1-4197-0898-5.       Available presently from Tauranga City Library.


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