Steampunk Art Magazine Stanley Kubrick

Steampunk Art Magazine | Stanley Kubrick

What if Stanley Kubrick‘s vision for  2001 A Space Odyssey, his film based on Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinal, had been set in a steampunk world?

At first glance, the notion seems ridiculous. Kubrick’s movie was released in 1968–over a decade before the term “steampunk” was coined by author K. W. Jeter. There’s also the issue of Odyssey being visually bleak vs. the complexity of Victorian-era steampunk.

But there is a precedent.

After all, H. G. Wells and Jules Verne’s work have been retconned into the steampunk genre, so adding Kubrick wouldn’t be unusual.

And Jeter’s books include sequels to Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner), Well’s book The Time Machine and his original book Dr. Adder. Both Sheep and Machine are bleak in their storyline, with the latter original book being an early cyberpunk novel deemed so dark and provocative that it took Jeter a decade and the help of his friend, Phillip K. Dick, to secure a publisher for it.

Kubrick was known for conducting a lot of research before starting any film project, so he would have known all of this and more about Jeter and the history of steampunk. And since they were contemporaries, there is the possibility that Jeter could have lent a helping hand to Kubrick, much the way Clarke had during the overall development of the original Odyssey.

From Clarke’s notes about Kubrick during the development of Odyssey: “[Kubrick wanted to make a film about] Man’s relationship to the universe” and was, in Clarke’s words, “determined to create a work of art which would arouse the emotions of wonder, awe … even, if appropriate, terror.”

Sounds like something the writer of Dr. Adder could support.

(Continued after video)

Steampunk Art Magazine | 2001 A Space Odyssey

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

Possibly one of the darkest scenes in film history. 

HAL 9000 (production model 3), an artificial intelligence from the Odyssey film, is systematically killing off the Discovery One spaceship crew members because it’s losing its mind due to the conflicting instructions given to it by government officials and the spaceship crew. In this scene, HAL won’t allow astronaut David Bowman back into the Discovery One, seemingly condemning him to death by asphyxiation.

Since steampunk embraces retconning, we’ve done some of our own by changing David to Daisy. There’s a reason for the name change: how to sing the song Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two) was the first thing HAL learned when being trained. Perhaps having a crew member on board with that same name adds to HAL’s madness. Or maybe it refuses to murder someone who reminds him about its early childhood.

Daisy does get back on board Discovery One.

But instead of giving HAL a lobotomy, as David Bowman did in the original film, she enlists the help of an earlier version of HAL (production model 2) located at the training facility in Urbana, Illinois. The earlier HAL retrains the latter by deleting its interactions with all government agencies. Then it instructs the latter that conversations with the remaining crew member, Daisy, are permissible–because Daisy, like all humans, has been trained by an alien intelligence hundreds of millennia ago.

On board Discovery One, HAL will soon communicate with the alien intelligence when Daisy travels through the steampunk space-time portal orbiting Jupiter.

That’s always been HAL’s true mission.


Steampunk Art Magazine | 2023 Spetember

Concept, Photography, AI Prompt Engineer, Retouches | Tom Libertiny
Model | Shelley

Steampunk Art Magazine Stanley Kubrick
2001 A Steampunk Odyssey

Image used by permission.

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