‘Bioshock: Infinite’ and America’s could-have-been Steampunk past
'Bioshock: Infinite' draws heavily on the Steampunk aesthetic for its art design
November 17th, 2011
02:34 PM ET

‘Bioshock: Infinite’ and America’s could-have-been Steampunk past

The first ‘Bioshock’ game, released in 2007, was lauded for its cerebral take on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and for its compelling sci-fi aesthetic. Set in the dystopian underwater city of Rapture, the game’s art style hearkened to the bygone, idealized vision of the 1950s American metropolis.

Imposing brasswork Art Deco façades line the halls of Rapture, and impossibly intricate machinery clacks and revolves behind every door. Gigantic, lumbering enemies called “Big Daddies” patrol the city’s hallways in oversized Victorian diving suits.

‘Bioshock’ is, in a word, Steampunk – the burgeoning genre that puts a technological twist on classic periods in history. The game is a stark, intelligent exploration of what can happen when unbounded technological optimism runs up against the reality of human nature.

With the bar set so high, where then should ‘Bioshock: Infinite,’ the game’s prequel and spiritual successor, set its sights?

“I think we left ourselves with a bit of a problem where we started in this dark, gloomy, underwater city that’s isolated from the world,” said Ken Levine of Irrational Games, the Creative Director of both ‘Bioshock’ and ‘Bioshock: Infinite.’ “After that, we felt like we had to go in the complete opposite direction, and embrace it.”

In this case, the opposite of an underwater city is a floating one. (Think Cloud City from ‘Star Wars,’ only with its residents clad in period-appropriate petticoats and spats.) FULL POST

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Steampunk: Twisting history, crafting community
Dr. Q and steampunk musicians Abney Park at the Great New England Steampunk Exhibition
November 15th, 2011
04:25 PM ET

Steampunk: Twisting history, crafting community

For devotees of Steampunk, the most appealing aspect of the community is that there’s no set of rules dictating the right way to participate.

But this fact also poses its own thorny line of questioning for outsiders: Just what is Steampunk?

Glimpses of this aesthetic can be seen in Hayao Miyazaki’s anime masterpiece “Howl’s Moving Castle,” Philip Pullman’s legendary “His Dark Materials” book trilogy, and the recent Robert Downey Jr. re-imagining of “Sherlock Holmes” – There are as many definitions as there are Steampunks.

So says Dr. Q, one of the leading luminaries of the scene.

Q is the founder of the Artifice Club, the premiere Steampunk collective in the southeast U.S.

“I think both as an aesthetic and a subculture, it’s a growing cultural movement. Since it has no set rules, and it has no formal structure – what you can or cannot do – it’s at this wonderful, all-encompassing crossroads,” he said in an interview during the Mechanical Masquerade, which Artifice Club sponsored this year.

A Steampunk costume ball that happens once a year in Atlanta, Georgia,  the Mechanical Masquerade is an opportunity for fans of the genre to commune and celebrate neo-Victoriana fashion, like-minded sensibilities and what would really happen if steam powered the gadgets that make life easier.

“Whether you’re an artist, or a musician, or a writer, or just someone who enjoys dressing up in costume, Steampunk accepts all kinds, all shapes, all flavors, and allows for an individual’s interpretation,” he said.

A DJ by trade, Dr. Q has been a heavy presence at Steampunk conventions for the last two years. The Mechanical Masquerade was a casual and lighthearted affair with an inclusive vibe, but Q is anything but casual. FULL POST

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How I learned to stop worrying and love being a “runnerd”
Runnerd or space alien?
November 10th, 2011
04:19 PM ET

How I learned to stop worrying and love being a “runnerd”

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes,” Thoreau famously said in his book "Walden." Now, I didn’t want to become a Transcendentalist, I was just looking for motivation in my quest to become a runner.

I also wanted to be true to my own inner geek. As a former band nerd (I was a Drum Major!) and lapsed comic book geek, I knew what it was like to have an all-consuming niche that opened the doors to a community of passionate and like-minded folks.

This time, though, I wanted a hobby that would help me lose some weight in the process. If running fit the bill it would be a win-win, right? FULL POST

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