There’s your renaissance…
Concentrated discovery or change happens because some people are tossing over rules that someone else is clinging to with a death grip, and no one knows what will be true in the morning, and everyone is terrified of what it might be, and everyone is dead wrong half the time but right often enough that no one is sure of who’s right this time and is desperately trying to make sure it’s them, and the whole thing rolls on in a welter of mistakes and newness and brilliance and cruelty. And there’s your renaissance for you, or your revolution.
If I were to point to a hallmark concept out of this, I would not say “mechanical”, I would say “juxtaposition”. Thomas Edison and Madame Blavatsky, biologists attending seances, the pretty brass and wood first class compartment and the black gang, the flaming suffragette who’s a howling racist.
Wouldn’t it explain…
And wouldn’t it actually explain steampunk technology a whole lot better to assume it arose out of multiple centers of development, all exchanging and competing, and warring and trading, and inventing like mad?
In the 8th C, an influential scholar of the Chinese court encounters the inventor of movable type and it spreads through Asia centuries early.
In the 10th C, the Mayan city-states that survive the great drought undergo a social revolution that revitalizes their expansion and development.
In the 13th C, Ogedei Khan dies a few years early, and Subutai is transferred away from the western campaigns before the Mongol invasion goes much beyond the Duchy of Moscow, leaving Russian culture to develop without hindrance.
In the 15th C, the Ottoman emperor shows an interest in Taqi al-Din’s engineering as well as his predictions, and the polymath tradition revives.
In the 16th C, the Anasazi become the center of trade between north and south along the western seaboard, spreading Mayan engineering and the western Anishinabek’s independent invention of gunpowder.
In the 17th C, Dara Sikoh becomes Mughal emperor instead of his brother, and India’s renaissance continues and accelerates.
In the 19th C, the African nations and kingdoms are armed from the engineering center of Cairo, and the Scramble for Africa has a very different ending.
Steampunk technology and culture happens because half a dozen very different centers of development are all in contact by the 1700’s, trading, warring, inventing.
Welcome to the Global Steampunk Project.