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« There are times when my research gives me great cause for concern | Main | This Week's Acquisitions »

September 10, 2008


Jeff VanderMeer

Thanks for this, but you've gotten a few things wrong.

(1) There aren't three critical essays. There's *one* critical essay that works as an introduction to the history of steampunk. And then there are two surveys of steampunk in pop culture, etc. Neither of those are critical essays and shouldn't be judged as such.

(2) The Moorcock is clearly described as a kind of "benediction" or "prologue" to the anthology, and it's clearly pointed out why we start with it: Moorcock was the godfather of "steampunk," a term that did not exist when he was writing those novels.

(3) Moorcock had nothing to do with The Difference Engine. That was written by Sterling and Gibson. This is a fundamental error and I hope you will correct it.

(4) We omitted *three* names who didn't do steampunk in the short form, two of whom only wrote one steampunk piece, a collaboration (The Difference Engine) not "many".

(5) We don't like story notes and rarely include them as we don't like leading the reader by the nose. And we weren't trying to provide an academic text, regardless of your opinion on that subject. I like your take on the Gentle very much, but your average reader doesn't care. This is a pop culture phenomenon at this point.

(6) As you may note from reading the introductory materials, the term "steampunk" wasn't coined until the mid-1980s and a concerted "steampunk" movement didn't occur until around that time, historical ancestors aside. Therefore, the distribution you mention is perfectly natural.

I would also argue that "Lord Kelvin's Machine" is the quintessential steampunk story and no steampunk anthology would be complete without it. It doesn't matter how twee or non-twee it is.

Further, to mis-direct on the Lansdale by calling it a Western is somewhat ridiculous as far as I'm concerned. It is a clear send-up and radical commentary on Wells and on the Edisonade. That's its strength.

Thanks for the other analysis, which is very interesting.

If you want an antho for general readers that also is meant to perform an academic or critical studies function, New Weird is for you.

RE/Search has a Steampunk book coming out that, as a companion volume to Steampunk, will serve the function you desire.

Thanks again.


Jeff VanderMeer


No use to you today, of course, but PopMatters will run Any. Day. Now. an interview I did with the VanderMeers in which they speak to some of these questions.


As I said, I've got my academic's hat on--and, as an academic, I can't help thinking that the connections are important. I'm perfectly happy to agree that a non-academic audience might not agree (although, given Nevins' argument, it seems fair to ask why not point out the genre conventions at play).

By "If Moorcock, then..." I didn't mean if Moorcock, then why not Moorcock's The Difference Engine, but if excerpt from this author, why not this excerpt from excluded authors? Still, badly phrased on my part, so fixed.

In retrospect, you're right that "Western" is overly restrictive, but the Western played a significant role in the dime novel pulp market. (And there's definitely some dourly comic Lone Ranger and Tonto commentary going on.)

Similarly, I have no objection to "Lord Kelvin's Machine" being in the anthology on the grounds that it's seminal; I understood that that's why it was there, and I agree fully with the decision to include it. I do have some questions about how well it holds up as a literary work (execution-wise, I found it much less impressive than some of the fiction elsewhere in the collection), and that's the sort of issue that requires...well, longer headnotes. Then again, MMV.

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