Retro/Futuristic Media Panics:

Paper, Glass, and Bodies in Gordon Dahlquist’s Glass Books Trilogy


  • Sabina Fazli University of Mainz


cyberpunk, The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters trilogy, Gordon Dahlquist, materiality, media, objects, reading, sensation, steampunk, technology


This article focuses on Gordon Dahlquist’s adventure trilogy consisting of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters (2006), The Dark Volume (2008), and The Chemickal Marriage (2012), and the representation of the fantastical technology of ‘blue glass books’, which upsets the faux-Victorian society into which they are introduced. These ‘books’, I argue, constitute an important focal point on which the different historical periods and styles that inform the trilogy converge. As such, the glass books figure new, disruptive, and scandalous media, which become legible in different generic constellations. I consider the novels as popular hybrids that mesh neo-Victorian, steampunk, and cyberpunk motifs of media users, readers, and reading experiences. In order to disentangle the generic mash-up, I organise my analysis around the new and familiar affordances and materiality of the glass books, which may be read as standing in for Victorian print and paper, draw on the retro-futuristic resonances of glass, and discuss science fictional screens’ contiguousness with their readers’ bodies. The resulting corrosive effect on the fictive readers’ identities is offset by a return to neo- Victorian images of nineteenth-century object uses.