What is Steampunk?

Okay, I have to admit, I should have known this.  It’s a fiction genre that has been around for a long time.  It’s been growing in popularity and there was recently a convention held in Bellevue for all things related to Steampunk.  Until now, I only had a vague idea of what it entailed.  I knew it was sort of corsety, sort of gadgety, sort of goggley.  But that was the extent of my understanding.  After visiting Steamcon I was fascinated by the artwork, stories, and the sheer creativity behind this whole culture. According to Urban Dictionary:

“Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan “What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.” It includes fiction with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes:
Medieval Steampunk: Speculative fiction set during the Middle Ages.
Victorian Steampunk: A modern Science Fiction work (post-1930s) that is set in the early parts of the industrial revolution.
Western Steampunk: Science fiction set in the American Old West.
Industrial/Modern Steampunk: Science fiction taking place in the late industrial age, early modern age; i.e. World War 1, World War 2”

Examples in movies:  Wild Wild West, Hugo, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Van Helsing, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Golden Compass

Examples in books: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Time Machine, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Boneshaker, Clockwork Angel, The Iron Duke, Leviathan

Wikipedia points out an important aspect of Steampunk: “The term denotes works set in an era or world where STEAM POWER is still widely used.”  I think this is where the whole clockwork-gadget thing comes into play.  While visiting the convention, I saw costumes that made my head spin.  One lady had tubes attached from her skull to a metal tank on her back.  The tank held her “brain”, in some sort of gelatinous fluid.  Others wore western adventurer garb or gothic-style Victorian clothing, some carrying weapons, others with life-like fantasy creatures on their shoulders. Here is a photo of a woman’s pet Chihuahua dressed as a tiny dragon.  People are so creative!

All I can say is, now that I have a better understanding of the Steampunk culture, I definitely see the lure.  I can see why it has such a huge following.  It’s hard not to get excited about something when there’s so much creative energy in the air. Look, I don’t generally have the desire to corset-up and grab a ray gun, but when I was strolling through the merchant aisles at the convention, marveling at all the wondrous arts and crafts those people dream up, I suddenly wished I, too, had a silver walking cane that emitted steam.  I wanted that lace-wrapped top hat with the dragon sitting on the brim.  I wanted a clockwork owl friend, just like on Clash of the Titans.  I needed these things, I tell you.  Watch out for Steampunk, my friends.  One step into that world and you just might be hooked. 🙂

About Tara Sheets

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7 Responses to What is Steampunk?

  1. “Just Glue Some Gears On It (And Call It Steampunk)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFCuE5rHbPA

  2. Tara, the show sounds like so much fun! I love the descriptions and photos. Thanks for sharing!

    • Tara Sheets says:

      It was fun–and such an eye opener! I had no idea how amazing and imaginative the Steampunk culture is. There were graphic novels, paintings, jewelry, costumes, accessories, and entire families dressed from head-to-toe in fabulous costumes. It was almost surreal, just walking around in that scene. I had a blast!

  3. Steampunk was pioneered by guys like Jules Verne and HG Wells back in the 1890’s so it’s over a century old!

    • Tara Sheets says:

      It’s amazing to think that it’s been around that long. . .and I have been oblivious! When I visited Steamcon I felt like I had jumped universes. I loved the whole culture and found it quite fascinating. Hooray for all things Steampunk! I’ll have to read more books in that genre. So far I’ve read the whole Mortal Instruments series, The Iron Duke, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and The Time Machine. I’m sure there are tons more. . .

      • I write about it a bit in my blog, I’m in love with it. If you want some great steampunk, check out Gail Carriger’s “Soulless.” It’s the first book in the Parasol Protectorate. I’m going to do a blog post on the series in December, you should check it out! 🙂

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