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Here’s a Sneak Peek at THE STEAMPUNK USER’S MANUAL by Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovich

I’ve been looking forward to the release of The Steampunk User’s Manual: An Illustrated Practical and Whimsical Guide to Creating Retro-futurist Dreams by Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovich ever since we did the cover reveal a few months ago. This is the follow-on companion volume to The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers, which debuted a few years ago. Abrams is publishing this one, too, and it looks to be just as wonderfully produced and presented.

Here’s some more info about the volume, including the table of contents and a sneak peek at what you’ll find inside…

DESCRIPTION: Steampunk, the retro-futuristic cultural movement, has become a substantial and permanent genre in the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. A large part of its appeal is that, at its core, Steampunk is about doing it yourself: building on the past while also innovating and creating something original. VanderMeer’s latest book offers practical and inspirational guidance for readers to find their individual path into this realm. Including sections on art, fashion, architecture, crafts, music, performance, and storytelling, The Steampunk User’s Manual provides a conceptual how-to guide that motivates and awes both the armchair enthusiast and the committed creator. Examples range from the utterly doable to the completely over-the-top, encouraging participation and imagination at all levels.

Highlights of this beautifully bound volume are:

  • A Steam-powered mecha-penguin created by Thomas Willeford
  • A two-page spread of original artwork by Ivica Stevanovic, the artist whose Wonderbook art appeared in the Spectrum award anthology
  • A two-page spread by Wonderbook genius Jeremy Zerfoss based on Richard Ellis Preston, Jr’s Steampunk novels
  • Wonderful new extended “alternative history” Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana entries by Jess Nevins, in unique and beautiful layouts by the amazing John Coulthart.
  • Steamarama Retrofuture Home diagrams and descriptions by Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum
  • Tor art director Irene Gallo providing an overview of the creation of classic Tor Steampunk book covers
  • Original Steampunk fashion sketch by Molly Crabapple
  • Nancy Hightower’s feature on the Swedish puppet theater production of award-winning author Karin Tidbeck’s Steampunk story “Beatrice,” complete with behind-the-scenes photographs.
  • A feature on Anna Chen’s Steampunk Opium Wars
  • Images from the Irish theatre production of Jeff VanderMeer’s novella “Dradin, In Love”
  • Essays and articles by Diana M. Pho, Katherine Gleason, Matthew Cheney, and more
  • Art by John Jennings, John Picacio, Libby Bulloff, and more
  • Projects by a wide variety of steampunk creators, including fashion, collage, making musical instruments, and much more.
  • Over 200 retro-futurists represented through text or image or quotes

Here’s the table of contents:

CHAPTER 1: Steampunk Art and Making
  • Steering Clear of Cliches: Goggles, Gears…and Clockwork Insects
  • Pursuing the New: Diversity, Realism, Biotech, and More
  • Finding Inspiration: Tips from Artists and Makers
  • Hands-on Handicraft: The “DIY” Ideal
  • Developing Your Steam-era Skills
  • Meeting Challenges: The Methodical versus “Happy Accidents”
  • Advice for New Artists and Makers


  • Creating the Chai Cycle by James MacIntyre with Toni Green
  • Making Steampunk Magnets from Used Bottle Caps by Catherine Cheek
  • Building a Steam-Powered Orrery by William Francis from Kinetic Steam Works
  • Making a Collaged Steampunk Stand-up Greeting by Ramona Szczerba
  • Thomas Willeford’s Steam-Powered Mecha-Penguin by Scott Miller
CHAPTER 2: Steampunk Design: Fashion, Architecture, and Interiors
  • How Retro-futurism Is Influencing Fashion, Architecture, and Interior Design
  • Reuse. Reenvision. Repeat: Retro-futurist Fashion by Katherine Gleason
  • Three Rings-Because We Can
  • Truth Coffee Shop-Haldane Martin
  • The Future of Steampunk Fashion and Design: In with the Old and the New
  • Finding Inspiration: Tips from Designers
  • Steampunk Fashion and Design: A DIY State of Mind 116
  • School for Steampunks: Mastering Hands-on Skills
  • From Pattern to Product: The Working Process
  • Advice for New Designers
  • Steamarama: The RetroFuture Home of Yesterday and Tomorrow by Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum


  • Crafting a Rococopunk Jacket from Found Materials by Megan Maude
CHAPTER 3: Steampunk Storytelling
  • Finding the Path to Steampunk
  • Steering Clear of Cliches and Pursuing the New
  • Kraken vs. Airship: Battle Scene by Richard Preston and Jeremy Zerfoss
  • The DIY Approach
  • Objects as Narrative: Jake von Slatt’s Fake Machines
  • Steampunk Collections and Anthologies
  • Illustrating the Steampunk Story by Irene Gallo
  • The Working Process
  • Dealing with Challenges
  • Advice for New Writers


  • Writing Exercise: Repurposing Art by Matthew Cheney
CHAPTER 4: Steampunk Music and Performance
  • Exploration and Adventure: Steampunk’s Central Story
  • Anna Chen’s The Steampunk Opium Wars
  • Bringing Steampunk to the Stage
  • “Building a Utopian Playland”: Steampunk and Performance by Diana M. Pho
  • Finding the Path to Steampunk
  • Steampunk Music’s Past and Future: Steering Clear of Cliches
  • Pursuing the New
  • DIY for Musicians and Performers
  • Finding Inspiration: Tips from Musicians and Performers
  • The Art of Found-Percussion by Eric Farber
  • Learning the Basics: The Steampunk Musician’s Tools
  • The Creative Life: A Working Process for Musicians and Performers
  • Collaboration with the Band
  • Collaboration with the Audience
  • Reproduction and Adaptation: A Steampunk Story from Page to Performance by Nancy Hightower
  • Seven Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Musicians and Performers


  • Making a Bonebox and Canjo by Matt Lorenz
CHAPTER 5: Retro-future Fantasies and Steampunk Dreams
  • Big Ideas from Artists and Makers
    • …from Designers and Fashionistas
    • …from Storytellers
    • …from Musicians and Performers

Here are some images from the book…

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Finally, here’s a bigger version of Galen Smith’s wonderful cover, because…y’know…BIGGER!

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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