Octopuses are to steampunk what dragons are to fantasy: iconic monsters. But what is so Victorian about an octopus? Our infographic will help you find out.
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I thank my good friend, Phil, for making the awesome steampunk octopus artwork we used for this infographic. You can see more of his work on DeviantArt.
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1) It’s undeniable that Jules Verne’s classic science fiction novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870), has influenced the Steampunk movement. It tells the story of Captain Nemo and his advanced submarine, the Nautilus. During its journey, the Nautilus encountered several giant octopuses that Captain Nemo and his crew fought. Steampunk’s fascination with octopuses probably originated from there.
2) The movement of an octopus is powered by water, not unlike a steam vehicle. When an octopus needs a burst of speed to capture prey or escape predators, it fills its muscular cavity with water and then quickly expels the water through a siphon. This is called jet propulsion. It makes octopuses (and other cephalopods that also use jet propulsion) the fastest marine invertebrates.
3) Steampunk is about invention and creation, and octopuses are among the most inventive living creatures. For instance, octopuses have been observed collecting discarded coconut shells that they use to create a mobile shelter.
4) Cthulhu, the fictional monster created by H.P. Lovecraft, was heavily inspired by octopuses. Cthulhu first appeared in 1928 in the short story The Call of Cthulhu, in which he is described as a chimera of an octopus and a dragon. While Cthulhu is not steampunk, there are several Steampunk/Cthulhu crossovers.
5) In the 19th century, the octopus was a symbol of the railroad and the Industrial Revolution, which are central to the steampunk culture. Railroad companies, with their sprawling networks similar to tentacles, were seen as monsters attempting to take over the farmers’ lands. That’s the reason, 150 years ago, the Southern Pacific Railroad was called the Octopus by its detractors.
6) Octopuses sort of look steampunkish. With their large, round head and their weirdly shaped eyes, octopuses look like they are wearing goggles and a helmet all the time. Moreover, with their long pipe-like tentacles, their bodies are reminiscent of steam machines.