Last night a friend gave me a catalog page showing a striking tapestry called Clockwork Crow. The catalog describes it thus: “It’s like an Audubon print – steampunk style! Geared, spring-legged and feathered in steel, this retro-tech corvine raises a squawk from everyone who sees him.” You can see him at the Pyramid Collection online.
This proves to be quite thought-provoking. For one thing, Audubon’s prints date back to the mid-Victorian era and fit right in with the Victorian-give-or-take ambiance of steampunk. There was a Victorian affinity for natural history; nature still felt like an undiscovered country. The crow part of Clockwork Crow is a sepia-toned, carefully detailed, and rather stifffly posed bird. Definitely evokes Audubon.
At the same time, I don’t like the idea of steampunk cyborgs any more than than slick high-tech ones. For me, as for a lot of us, the gloss is long since off the idea of cyborging nature to make it better, faster, cooler, or whatever other technological conceit. A creature with gears, springs and steel grafted on is no more attractive than one augmented by polymers and computer chips.
On the other hand…. If ever a crow were to get into steampunk garb – and a crow would: they’re that smart, curious, playful and contrarian – why, this one is marvelous and elegant. Complete with a metal bill-mask the better to preen steel feathers!