Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir William Schwenck Gilbert Unsung Steampunk Founding Fathers
With Lawrence Tagrin
While the “Steam” (technology) of Steampunk is well recognized as relating to the work of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, little has been discussed concerning the roots of the “punk” aspect. In this presentation we will look at two figures who brought the punk to steampunk.
When people talk about the founding fathers (and mothers) of Steampunk, they always mention Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. If pressed, they will sometimes mention Poe and Mary Shelley. There are two, however, that seem to be lost in the discussion. While Verne, Wells, Shelley, and Poe are primarily know for the “Steam” aspect, by bringing technological innovations into their stories, they don’t seem to address the “Punk” aspect of casting a jaundiced eye on Victorian society.
Two authors who have addressed the mores of society have taken very different artistic paths. One is an author whose best known characters have appeared in more Steampunk works than those of Verne, Wells, Poe, and Shelley combined – I am talking about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
While Doyle made his mark in both short and long fiction, another author was likewise making his mark in the popular press and, especially, the theater. Sir William Schwenck Gilbert, known today as W.S. Gilbert, wrote a number of plays, many of which were political in nature, as well as poetry and verse. He is best known today for a series of comic operas in which he wrote the words and Sir Arthur Sullivan provided the music.
Today we will hear, through conversation, both authors, discuss their viewpoints and how they displayed them.