News: Steampunk Is More Accurately Vernian, Not Victorian!

Steampunk Is More Accurately Vernian, Not Victorian!


Jules Verne was an author of immense imagination, who had a profound effect on speculative fiction, whereas Victoria was a stodgy & pampered royal who led a sheltered and traditional existence.

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Boring, frumpy, grumpy royal! (Photo from The Guardian, UK)

Well, I must say this ongoing mania of appropriating steampunk as a uniquely British genre is going against my French-born grain.

Although the term "steampunk" did not exist during the Vernian Era, he is more than peripherally responsible for its inception, whereas a British monarch who happened to have longevity, has her name attached to the genre with this erroneous, brief descriptor that steampunk is "Victorian Science Fiction".

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Brilliant Author & Dreamer (Photo Steampunk Tribune)

No, it is NOT "Victorian Science Fiction". It is "Vernian Science Fiction"! Victoria may have been alive for a rather long stretch, but what did she actually, and directly, contribute to her era?

Fashions? Certainly NOT! She was in mourning for decades after her husband died, and was, in fact, a detriment to the development of innovation in fashion as long as she continued to take up space.

Literature? Her "Highland Diaries" had nothing whatsoever to do with speculation, science or innovation of any sort, so her scribblings did not contribute one iota to the makings of steampunk.

If anything, she was a huge impediment, and her only contribution was that she was in the way for ages. While there is no denying her influence as a major blockage, but I must take exception to attaching her name to to her era, as if she were some sort of exemplary torchbearer.

She had longevity, but then again so did Mao, who also ruled over a hell of a lot people in his day, but HE doesn't have a genre of speculative fiction name after him, now does he?

Oh and China originated tea drinking, not Britain. Hrmph!

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Now kindly put that pretentious pinkie finger down, already! (Photo from

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Another great article! I think Queen Victoria probably had a little more influence than you give her credit for, but Verne is absolutely the biggest inspiration when it comes to the originators of Steampunk. Wells is far less so.

And ironically, Verne was French, not British! And yet for some reason the French seem to get sadly left out of Steampunk. That's a better article, I think... "What Happened to the French in Steampunk?"

I'll tell vous what happened to the French in steampunk- the language barrier!

Despite the fact that France gave The U.S. cool stuff like The Statue of Liberty; Champagne; and bouffants, whereas Britain only gave America taxes, war, & Puritans, for some reason, the silly Americans espouse British culture much more readily...

It's an excellent article and spot-on in regards to Steampunk, but not entirely accurate regarding fashion. Victoria was actually quite a trendsetter while Albert was alive.

She and Albert were directly responsible for the rebirth of tartan (incorrectly called 'plaid') as a pattern style. Their love of the Highlands of Scotland (and Albert's purchase of the Balmoral Estate) brought the pattern and the romantic idea of the kilt to popularity among the upper classes. Before that time it was generally looked down upon as rather barbaric.

They were also responsible for the British and American popularity of the Christmas tree, as well as making lace a popular material for wedding dresses.

Fascinating, Scott. I actually didn't at all know about the kilt thing!

Then again, as a gentleman who doesn't wear kilts, I never had much reason to learn about them. You should totally write an article about kilts! =D

Veronique: Perhaps you and M. Sirkin could collaborate on an article about France and Steampunk. I'd love to read it.

Vive la France!

Monsieur Scott,

The adaptation of indigenous attire (Scottish tartans) by foreign monarchs is hardly what I'd call innovative. Imperialistic perhaps, but certainly not egalitarian, which is something that speculative fiction most assuredly has always been: for The People, all of the people, no matter their class.

Lauding the British royal family for adapting the picturesque native attire of their subjects is akin to Ulysses S. Grant donning a Native American war bonnet for state events. Most certainly NOT something that would ever remotely be looked upon as "innovative'!

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Yet another image of the grumpy, frumpy Victoria Regina (Photo from

Again, I quite simply do not understand the fanatical interest that so many Americans have with the inbred sovereigns of their former conquering nation. One would think such ties would be downplayed as much as possible after all the blood that was shed during The Revolutionary War!

Sure, the British royals have lovely lilting accents, lots of fancy homes and oodles of dough (which is no doubt how they can keep themselves popular in the mass media), but is that really enough to base all this obsessive fawning upon?

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Nobel-prize-winning scientists (Photo from

If people want to idolize the Brits, how about choosing some real innovators, such as James D. Watson and Francis Crick, ground-breaking genetic researchers?

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Richard Branson (Photo form

Or even Richard Branson, who is working towards making every day space flight a reality?

Let's choose our idols with a bit more thought, instead of going along with what "history" (which is simply PR created by the guys who carry the biggest sticks) tells us. Viva l'innovation!

Right on, Veronique, the Vernian world and not the Victorian one. I owe a gratitude to Jules Verne, his fabulous books were a magic part of my childhood.

She, Victoria, looks really jewish on the photo.

Monsieur Stan,

Gosh, there is no small amount of irony of your statement that Victoria looks "Jewish" in her photo...As one who has ancestors who were of Judaic faith, (I am an atheist myself), I can't help but take vous to task for that comment.

The point of this thread was to attempt to discredit stereotypes, and encourage people to think on a deeper level, not to supplant one set of narrow beliefs/descriptors for another.

I dunno, I don't really see an issue. I mean, that's like looking at someone and saying, "You look black." While probably obvious, the problem doesn't arise until the next step, whereupon the line of thinking goes, "She looks Jewish, therefore she must love money."

It's the "therefore" that causes the problem, not the looking Jewish.

Monsieur Austin, Judaism is a religion, not a race, despite what Hitler and his ilk preached.

A person no more can look Jewish than they can look Presbyterian, unless, of course, they are in religious attire, in which case, their clothing is their descriptor, not the physical features of their organism.

Given the diversity in America it's easy to think that Judaism is purely a religion, but in reality, Jews are an ethnoreligious group. This means that Jewish identity is dependent on some combination of both religion and ethnicity. According to the Halakha, Judaism is matrilineal. This means that Judaism is passed to children through the mother, making it something of an "inherent" trait rather than something that is just picked up by choice.

This combination of religion and ancestry does, in fact, lend weight to certain physical characteristics being more common in Jewish families.

Not that I support stereotyping or anything, but I just figured I'd set the record straight on that account. =)

Mr. Sirkin: I take issue with your comment "Jewish identity is dependent on some combination of both religion and ethnicity." Judaism is a religion, Hebrew is the ethnic. One can be Jewish without being a Hebrew. However, two thousand years of propaganda have made them synonymous. Hebrews are one of the two primary members of the Semitic race, the other one being Arab.

Wow, I just wrote you a very long response, which was eaten by the site. =(

The gist of it is that I'm Jewish, and have extensively studied Judaism. "Hebrews" is not an ethnicity, but is used to distinguish Jews who speak Hebrew from Jews who don't speak Hebrew. This may lead you to think it's an ethnicity, because today it's really only the Middle-Eastern (Mizrahi) Jews who still primarily speak Hebrew. However, in modern usage, "Hebrews" is often used interchangeably with "Jews".

This is a complicated issue because of the Jewish diaspora. The Mizrahi Jews that I mentioned above are generally indistinguishable from any other Arab peoples, though thousands of years of insular breeding has made a recognizable difference to those who know how to recognize it.

The Western "Jewish look", however, is primarily due to the infusion of Ashkenazi Jews into Europe during the diaspora. The "look" of Ashkenazi Jews has remained in the public consciousness and has supplanted that of Mizrahi or Sephardi Jews as being recognizably "Jewish" in appearance.

In much the same way that not every Irish person has red hair and not every Nordic person has blonde hair, not every Jew looks the same. However, the "red-headed Irish" and "blonde-haired Nordic" stereotypes still remain, just like the stereotypical "Jew" look.

Coming from a Russian and Polish Jewish family, I literally just have to look around at a family reunion to see all the stereotypical Jewish features, so my taking issue with someone else calling those features Jewish would be kind of silly. Most congregations I've attended have been similarly full of said features, though again, there are definitely exceptions.

As I said above, the issue for me doesn't arise until a connection is made between those features and a judgment, either good or bad. Until then, it's simply a plain remark on appearance.

Merci Lisa for pointing that out.

However, not all Judaic peoples are of Hebrew descent. There are also the Khazars who, according to WikiPedia, " were semi-nomadic Turkic people who established one of the largest states of medieval Eurasia, with the capital of Atil and territory comprising much of modern-day European Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the northern Caucasus (Circassia, Dagestan), parts of Georgia, the Crimea, and northeastern Turkey."

Other religions can also trace their origins to specific peoples at certain times in history, but that's becoming a moot point with each passing year, as people of different races & creeds intermingle.

On the one hand, I understand why people yearn to hang onto their ethno-tribal/faith-centric identities, but, like it or not, for better or for worse, we are ONE world, and gene pools will become more and more diverse.

I can't say if this diversification is "good" or "bad", it's simply a given, and to say that a Jew of Hebrew extraction is superior/more "authentically Jewish" than one of Khazar descent, or even to a Gentile who has whole-heartedly converted to Judaism, is rather an exercise in absurdity, when all is said and done.

Surely the energy spent on splitting racial hairs might be better utilized in feeding the hungry and other such compassionate concerns.

As for the contention that Jews tend to be identifiable by certain physical traits, well, perhaps some are, but not all. Few would ever peg La Moi as "Jewish", but I do have a branch of my family of such heritage, who unfortunately, did not live to see the fall of the Third Reich.

Oh, I didn't at all mean to touch on the subject of authenticity, though I understand where you're coming from. The Western image of "the Jew" is absolutely not representative of the whole range found within Judaism. However, as there are Jews who look like that, it doesn't make their view incorrect, just limited.

Down with limitations! We are, after all, speaking about a speculative FICTION-based genre, so I am all for throwing stereotypes out. :-)

But, to the best of my knowledge, no one is doing Jewish Steampunk, which is probably a good thing.

Would it be considered sacrilegious to make a Menorah with gear motifs? A yarmulke with googles? Hmmm...

Actually, I've seriously been thinking about writing a short Steampunk story based on golems and Jewish mysticism. As an actual Jew, I feel like this is something that I could get away with. =)

That would be awesome Austin!

It's not steampunk, because it takes place in a later era, but I wrote a song about dybbuks on my recording "Polka Haunt Us: A Spook-tacular Compilation". It's based on a short story by Huntsville-based writer Monsieur Ted Roberts, a Rockower Award winner, & syndicated columnist who looks at Jewish life with rare wit and insight.

He was also a professional lyricist, and he so greatly appreciated the resultant composition "Bubbe's Dybbuk Polka" that Monsieur Ted graciously bestowed the honour of granting La Moi the gift of his entire collection of unpublished lyric works.

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Writer/Columnist Ted Roberts

I am pretty proud of the song myself. Beverly Hills-based cantor Gary Shapiro, who is also a hilarious stand-up comedian, as well as a writer for Comedy Central, is the guest vocalist on that track. (Gary is also the model in the spoof commercials for "SnugWow" on "Real Time With Bill Maher".

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SnugWow Model; Comedian & Cantor Gary Shapiro

Wow, I'm new here...but I have a comment for Veronique & Austin...Is it just me, or do the 2 of you have awesome Chemistry?!?! Nothing as stimulating as a brainiac banter with someone up for the challenge...well played, I love it here!

Glad you enjoyed! Veronique is an excellent sparring companion. =)

Awww...Merci Kerikins! Monsieur Austin and La Moi do have a good thyme in the kitchen! ;-)

Its really good :)

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