IV – Vienna 1912
This, almost Unremarked upon, is important.
Come down the day,
and crest forgotten wishes
that believe some other sun to.It
Night remembers Nothing
that you came from
Nothing is so strong,
you knew it all all along.
Black birds in flight to ravens
sing of fright, that trees twisted barren
and the snow comes, white.
Fires all alight.
Cry that sullen sinking site.
It ends as it began, a rather, it ends with a different note then it started. it's not as if the tonic chord is the one that called all other courts in two being, because there were no other tonic chords at all, and instead Apollinaire had no tonic chords at all. but they are was something in the field of Vienna which would rip out all that one new about tonality. Mahler, whom was the most outrageous of Imperial court musicians, had died working on a piece that may or may not have had a tonal first movement. it would be his 10th, but he would not finish it. the band of Schoenbergeins would rouse their view numbers for a twisted reality, not call in it atonal, because that word was to forbidden. instead the leader insisted on calling it suspended tonality, because it is least was saying that there was a something there to.
Then in the darkness of Vienna, a poem translated from German from what sounds like Czech, or Russian, you don't know which it is from, because you have forgotten both of those languages since the stroke happened:
In a light mist, transparent vapor
Lost afar and yet distinct
A star gleams softly.
How beautiful! The bluish mystery
Of her glow
Beckons me, cradles me.
O Bring me to thee, far distant star!
Bathe me in trembling rays
Sharp desire, voluptuous and crazed yet sweet
Endlessly with no other goal than longing
I would desire.
But no! I vault in joyous leap
Freely I take wing
Mad dance, godlike play!
Intoxicating, shining one!
It is toward thee, adored star
My flight guides me
Toward thee, created freely for me
To serve the end
My flight of liberation!
In this play
In moments I forget thee
In the maelstrom that carries me
I veer from thy glimmering rays
In the insanity of desire
O distant goal
But ever thou shinest
As I forever desire thee!
Thou expandest, Star!
Now thou art a Sun
Flamboyant Sun! Sun of Triumph!
Approaching thee by my desire for thee
I lave myself in they changing waves
O joyous god
I swallow thee
Sea of light
I engulf Thee!
it is badly translated from whatever language it was from, to broken English which runs through your head. It is not your translation, because you would translated not word by word, but words that sound like the root of the melodious shadow in the native language.
Soon you remember a different Rendering of a different onomatopoeia:
Genrepunk are those fields of speculative or fantasy fiction which take as their "point of departure" – capital among pretension in literary phrases, why not the word "start" – the conventions of a particular technological era, most especially associated with its energy basis, and ask the question of the nature of consciousness in that genre. The intersection of energy and consciousness is particular, though not peculiar, to a moment when our old energy sources is now overburdened, and our once hopeful technology of computational networking is showing that it cannot deliver a more efficient world.
The original genrepunk was cyberpunk, the intersection of computers as faerie realm. Neuromancer, Tron, and Mona Lisa Overdrive form the three early lighthouses, and <i>Snow Crash</i> an influential libertarianization. Note that libertarianizing anything makes in more popular, in the same sense that old mass media is always trying to find an evangelical Christian angle to anything – it is a large rootless religion filled with people who will consume voraciously that which appeals to their religion, and not when it doesn't. As marginal consumers, they are very powerful.
What "punk" replaced, as a literary idea, was spiritualism. Consider the transporation of John Carter in Mars, first written in 1911, and in CS Lewis, in his influential Narnia series, and in a host of others, including John Norman's Gore. But this was related to the Gothic novels, which implied ghostly or spiritual movement as well. This spirit, not mind, is what matters to the previous examination in speculative and horror fiction. Spirits move, and are incarnated, and then having been incarnated they have the existential question as to how a spirit from one age and place can function in another.
The punk genre, by replacing spirit, a romantic-realist concept, with mind a modern-pop concept, changed the essential ground rules, in that in a spirit based universe, the continuity and integrity of the individual is assumed, because that is the quality that "spirit" has. Whatever happens to the spirit, it is still what it is, even when it changes. There are no lower levels of spirit.
Mind, by contrast, has unexplored or unvisible, as opposed to invisible, aspects. Mind is often at the mercy of the emergent properties of its lower level functioning, and this forms the essential element of the "punk mind." The punk mind is the attempt to maintain coherence of self, in the face of emergent drives and persona that come from the workings of what supports mind. Just as the user of a computer is often at the mercy of the workings that come out of the applications and operating system, in order to keep the main power of the computer directed at the ends that the user wants. The will, then, is in conflict with the apparatus that allows the will.
One could make a detour into Schoppenhauer here: the world is will and representation, and productively examine the punk mind as the conflict between the self, which is composed of the free and bound will. One could also make a detour into the sociology of the development of modern computing, and see how the creation of mentally describable places, and the ability to execute unplanned, but still clearly artificial operations, began to seem like the presence of "mind."
This is why "musclepunk" remains un-named, because in the pre-mechanical, there is nothing to present as a mind, except, a mind. However punked the consciousness of Umberto Eco's <i>The Name of the Rose</i> is, it is not punk, because there are no minds but human minds. The same is true of his <i>Foucault's Pendulum</i> because despite the presentation of an occult system which begins to display the properties of a mind, and the use of a computer to create connections, the computer is never the source of mind.
Punking of genre, of course, occurred before the publication of genre, most especially in the questions of robotic or computer intelligence. But without the submergence of the mind, the ability to step through and into the faerie realm entirely, the quality of genrepunk is generally missing. It is touched in media and in writing, even quite strongly, but the immersive place is missing, and this is essential.
Once the genrepunk idea is created, it is natural to project it backwards, and "steampunk" the natural place to do this. The steam driven world was remarkably modern in its short run in place. Since I am writing for a non-fiction work the story of the conservative revolutions of 1857-1873, the brevity of this age is stark, it really only ran for 50 years, and, as such, was not that much longer than the Cold War, and approximately of the same length as the Post-War era. And yet, it shadows over the popular imagination, in part because so much of our own popular culture uses techniques from it. The next time you watch an adventure movie, realize that the idea, and many of the means to carry it out, are from the mind of Richard Wagner in creation of his dramas which were meant to be all encompassing works of art.
The wall that this era hit in the real world was the inability to deal with relative and statistical reality, thus, in 30 years, it went from a culminating certainty of a program of Newton, Smith, and Locke, to a cataclysm, with its deepest notions of God, Country, and Reality, in ruins. This isn't to be overstated: by 1920, classical physics, classical economics, classical conceptions of art, and the Concert of Europe were all in ruins: quantum mechanics, relativity, the “Great War,” the destabilization of the “Classical Gold Standard,” and the coming of mass art were all fatal to the system of thinking, along with the rise of modern social science as a means of running societies.
In imposing modern information technology consciousness two areas stand out in steampunk: one is the Vernian imposition of more effective travel, particularly air travel, and the other is, of course the expansion of the Wellsian consciousness of historical place. There is an unconscious re-ordering of the relative economics of a variety of goods and services to match the profile of consumer abundance that is the hallmark of the modern age. While Victorian literature presented abundance, it combined it with a conservatism to concentrate both capital and buying power in a small number of hands. By being ahistorical, steam punk is, in effect, violating physics to shift genre conventions.
But it still has the important punk-present question of whether information society can overcome energy depletion. Strangely, or not, steampunk is the utopian side of the question, where as cyberpunk is the dystopian side. In the present, cyberpunk presents the answer that information technology has too many instabilities, and in fact amplifies disutility, and cannot, therefore, create a life of happiness that offsets energy depletion. The mind is dark and terrible, and modern digital computers only amplify this, and their digital spaces are dirty. The steampunk genre is the quasi-utopian world of libertarian swashbucklers, before the invention of the welfare state, when bold people can do bold things. As such it is the presentation of the apologia for empire that the cyber-punk version cannot be. One could imagine a Sherlock Holmes being able to run an intelligence service that would have found Osama bin Laden much more quickly. This is not isolated, the conviction rate for crimes has gone down since forensic science has improved. Down. Nor is it isolated militarily. A smaller British Army, under a hodgepodge command structure, defeated the Indian Rebellion of 1857-58, faster, and more lastingly, than a larger American Army failed to pacify either Iraq, or Afghanistan.
Thus genrepunk is the flip side of cyberpunk, in that it argues that in some previous age the “smart mammals” could have overcome the “stupid dinosaurs” more clearly and cleanly. The problem with the smart mammals paradigm is that the smart mammals didn't win in evolution: mammals were smarter starting around 175 million years ago, when a focus on olfactory sensitivity caused a rapid increase in brain size. As of 65 million years ago, the smart mammals were still running around eating eggs. Evolutionarily the smart mammal strategy was wait for a mass extinction event. It took 3 and 110 million years.
So why steam? Many of the important reasons are obvious, which does not make them less important, merely less interesting to dwell upon: the already mentioned cultural roots, the mere possibilty: after all the 19th century had electricity, flight, long distance travel, mass manufacture, though not mass assembly, globalism and global consciousness, mass media in the form of print. It also had a science fiction consciousness that was quite real: Verne, Wells, and others.
However there are forms and there are forms. While historical fiction set in the Victorian has never ceased, both popular and literary, the punk genre is a particular take on that era which is different from other novels which project the modern consciousness backwards. In specific there is a techno-consciousness that, as noted, projects transportation and communication backwards. This means that while many of the important factors in Victoriana are in play for steampunk, they are not decisive in determining “why steam punk?” as opposed to say the novels of <A HREF=”http://www.amazon.com/Alienist-Caleb-Carr/dp/0553572997”>Caleb Carr</A>, or even Harry Turtledove?
The answer lies in the question of what is being rebalanced. Carr and other historical fiction writers are presenting modern consciousness limited by Victorian technology, that is, modern people with the shackles of Victorian technology, but also the freedom of action that came with Victorian times. There is no “back up,” no “plan B,” no system to cover up for the mistakes of the individuals, or if it does exist, as in Holmes, it is largely incompetent and an inconvenience. For the alternate historians, like Turtledove, a single event is changed, and the results are played out.
For the punk genre, what happens is that steampunk is liberating, technology, such as the author is interested in, is projected backwards, but without the rest of modernity. In essence post-modern consciousness of information liberation, is projected backwards. What is rebalanced is that the collapse of the upper middle class as culturally central, has not happened.
This, almost unremarked upon, is important.