Have you heard the word “Steampunk” tossed around in conversation in the last few years? Do you know what it is?
Don’t worry, I’m here to explain a bit about this interesting genre to you today, because it’s a genre that is gaining popularity and it fits in with the Gilded Age and Victorianism.
Steampunk first began as a literary genre. In the most basic sense it takes elements of Victorian or late nineteenth-century machinery (generally pre-electric era, hence steam powered everything! Think lots of cogs and such.) and punks it up, in the best sense of the word. Now, you may wonder what exactly punk is. There is a lot of information out there about punk culture. The most basic definition of A punk is a hoodlum or someone behaving poorly, but today punk has turned into a subculture that is defined largely by appearance and not poor behavior. And this appearance basically has to do with looking in a way that is against the norm. Again, I’m really boiling this down, so bear with me. Basically, then, we have machinery that appears like it is not part of mainstream culture. Maybe if I show you an image you’ll get it. Basically, it’s really easy to recognize Steampunk and once you see it you’ll always be able to recognize it.
Is it becoming clearer now? This website has five different takes on what Steampunk can be credited as today. In general though, it focuses on an imagined (anachronistic) nineteenth century that had a greater technological capacity than it actually did (and sometimes includes the Supernatural) or it assumes that the steam technology of the nineteenth century remained ideal (either beating out electricity or because electricity was never invented), so today’s world looks drastically different (and sometimes includes the Supernatural). Sometimes it takes place in a completely different world, but still focuses on an advanced mechanical power and people who dress like those of the nineteenth century.
Steampunk, believe it or not, has roots in the late nineteenth century! At that point it was a contemporary sort of science fiction and books such as H. G. Wells’ Time Machine are sometimes credited as early Steampunk literature. This reviewer has compiled a list of 20 core Steampunk titles! The film “Wild Wild West” starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline is the perfect example of a Steampunk film, due to the advanced, highly mechanical technology placed in the mid-nineteenth century.
Today people purchase Steampunk style outfits for Steampunk parties or Steampunk cosplay and role playing games. Be aware, however, that a general search of Steampunk outfits will often bring about very sexualized representations of women. I blame the Victorian use of the corset.
You can also search Etsy for awesome Steampunk jewelry and accessories!
Now I definitely don’t know everything there is to know about Steampunk, but I know a bit. I don’t know, for instance, why there are so many bugs involved. Nor do I know why there are Steampunk Octopus necklaces. But it’s a really interesting genre of literature and provides for endless science fiction possibilities. Maybe one of our upcoming book club themes will be Steampunk!
Well, that’s all for now folks! If you have any input, insight, or questions about Steampunk feel free to share/ask!