Master Storyteller Neil Gaiman Talks Steampunk And 'Neverwhere' Influence

Steampunk is in the air this week at MTV News, so when author Neil Gaiman popped by our office to talk to us about "The Graveyard Book" (much, much more on that later), we had to ask him about being cited as a steampunk influence. Turns out, not only was he highly knowledgeable about the subject, but also, a bit of a fan.

"I've noticed that 'Neverwhere' gets pointed to as a seminal steampunk text," Gaiman said, "which I think is always very sweet of them."

Gaiman said that unlike movements like cyberpunk, which announced itself, "steampunk is one of these odd movements that sort of happened in retrospect."

"It was much more of a point where people could look back at work that had been over the previous 20 years, and say, 'This is what this work by Michael Moorcock ['Warlord of the Air'] has in common with this work by James Blaylock ['Homonculus'] with this work by Tim Powers ['The Anubis Gates'] with this work by Neil Gaiman with this work by Alan Moore ['The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen']."

Gaiman thinks the appeal of steampunk is in the romance of it, "all these wonderful alternate technologies in a world that wasn't … and the joy of getting to write in the past and reimagine the past a little and bring it into the future."

Being able to actually create the gizmos, though, is what feeds the idea of steampunk. "You actually have people out there right now creating these things, and making these things," Gaiman said. "You look at a computer, and you go, 'Well, I probably can't design my own silicon chip and have it made and make my own computer.' But there's something wonderfully low tech about burning coal and making something steam and screwing something together with great big rivets. You can get steampunk versions of steampunk keyboards."

"I think part of the reason it really is punk is that it has that wonderful punk ethos, of you do it by doing it," he continued, "and anybody can do it. It actually seems to be about a lifestyle for some people. It's about so much more than brass goggles as a fashion statement."

Are you new to steampunk or have you been on the train for a while? What other movies and books and stories would you say are steampunk?