The Real World of Victorian Steampunk: Steam Planes & Radiophones


by Simon Webb

Paperback, 219 pages


A look at the surprising nineteenth-century technology that inspires this literary and cultural movement: “I was very impressed by this book.” —SF Crowsnest
In recent decades, steampunk has grown from a rather obscure subgenre of science fiction into a striking and distinctive style of fashion, art, design, and even music. It is in the written word, however, that steampunk has its roots—and in this book, Simon Webb explores and examines the real inventions that underpin the fantasy. In doing so, he reveals a world unknown to most people today.
Webb reveals the Victorian era as a surprising place: one of the steam-powered airplanes, fax machines linking Moscow and St Petersburg, steam cars traveling at over 100 mph, electric taxis, and wireless telephones. It is, in short, the nineteenth century as you’ve never before seen it—a steampunk extravaganza of anachronistic technology and unfamiliar gadgets. Imagine Europe spanned by a mechanical internet, a telecommunication system of clattering semaphore towers capable of transmitting information across the continent in a matter of minutes. Consider too, the fact that a steam plane the size of a modern airliner took off in England in 1894. Drawing entirely on contemporary sources, we see how little-known developments in technology have been used as the basis for so many steampunk narratives. From seminal novels such as The Difference Engine to the steampunk fantasy of Terry Pratchett’s later works, this book shows that steampunk is at least as much solid fact as it is