Steampunk Final Exam for First-Year University Seminar, Part 1

O.K., I didn’t actually give my students a final exam for our Steampunk seminar.  I did, however, make a mock final and asked them to come up with answers for me.

Part 1 was an identification section.  Answers are listed below.

Identify the following and explain their significance in steampunk:

  1. “Cognition and Estrangement”
  2. Beadle’s American Novels
  3. Jess Nevins
  4. K.W. Jeter/James Blaylock/Tim Powers
  5. Steampunk in Anime
  6. “Salvage and Customization”
  7. Gaslight Fantasy
  8. Michael Moorcock

– – – Answers:

1. Darko Suvin’s description of what makes science fiction. The story must have recognizable information, be it characters, plot, setting, or others (the cognition part) and something different or unusual that cues readers in to the fact that this isn’t the reality they live in (estrangement).  If it doesn’t have both, it ain’t sci-fi.

2. The dime novel publishing company that printed The Steam Man of the Prairies in 1868.  The Beadle firm reprinted it multiple times under different titles over the next decades, with numerous imitations by other dime novel companies.  Really savvy students recalled that one hero of Joe Lansdale’s “The Steam Man of the Prairies and the Dark Rider Get Down” was named “Beadle.”

3. Writer of our textbook’s (the VanderMeer’s Steampunk anthology’s) introduction, but–more importantly for exam purposes–the creator/collector/curator of annotations about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  This monumental undertaking reveals the massive number of Victorian references in League, showing us just how complex a steampunk comic’s blend of history, literature, and fake science can be.

4.  Jeter coined the term “steampunk” in an effort to describe the stories by himself, Blaylock, and Powers that were set in the Victorian age, but with an emphasis on wierd science and a modern sensibility.

5. There have been numerous anime films that used steampunk imagery.  More importantly, however, is the notion that Japanese anime’s definitive style (which uses iconic, unrealistic characters in hyperrealistic, detailed backgrounds) is a natural fit for visualizing steampunk’s complex, ornate settings.

6. Cherie Priest’s phrase describing the values of steampunk.  The do-it-yourself aesthetic of steampunk appeals to people who are resistant to our disposable culture, and the genre is focused on re-tooling and re-creating objects and ideas.

7.  Essentially another name for steampunk, but one that acknowledges the genre’s fantasy elements (i.e., magic) over its science fiction elements.  Often used to distinguish historical or Victorian romance fiction with fantasy overtones from more science-and-technology based tales in the same setting.  (It’s always fun to get students thinking about labels.  Why are or aren’t steampunk and gaslight fantasy completely interchangeable?)

8.  One of the twentieth century’s major SF writers and an example of an author who has been retroactively labeled “steampunk” even though he wrote his material a decade or more before the term was coined.  Wrote major fantasy series (Elric) and SF fiction, as well as edited of the game-changing magazine New Worlds.

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