”Steampunk is a way of living.”
That is the usual answer you’ll get form the true steampunk enthusiast. Most of the time they are right. When you engage yourself with anything steampunk, you’ll probably fall down the rabbit hole and get more than you bargained for. Well, at least that is what happened to me. So, what is steampunk?
First of all, steampunk is sub-genera of science fiction, that heavily features steam powered technology, usually in a setting that is inspired by Western industrialization in the 19th century. It is influenced by scientific romances of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley.
Terms and Conditions
Term ”steam-punk” was not contrived until 1987, when K.W. Jeter wrote a letter to a science fiction magazine Locus, wondering to what genera he and few other authors belonged to. There are many works that are considered precursors. For example, 1927 was the year that gave us Fritz Lang’s movie masterpiece ”Metropolis”. That is considered the oldest predecessor in the genera of film. However, most influential pieces were created in the 1960s and 1970s.
Steampunk works are most often set in the alternative history of the 19th century, usually in British Victorian era or American Wild West. Other popular timelines are post-apocalyptic future where steam-powered technology prevailed, or some world with similar steam-powered setting. It is not strange to entangle elements of horror, fantasy or alternative fictional history, thus making it hybrid genera.
Since the main portion of the works are settled in the 19th century, almost whole of it’s art and fashion style is inspired by Victorian era. Steampunk design emphasizes balance between design and function, blurring the lines between tool and decoration. Various modern objects are modified by enthusiasts with materials like polished brass, iron, wood or leather to make them into pseudo-mechanical ”steampunk” tools. It also spreads onto fashion, music, home decor and film, effectively making it neo-Victorianism, which is implementation of Victorian aesthetics to modern life.
So, Does Steampunk Go Outside Obscure?
Although steampunk exists over several decades and it’s not unfamiliar term in main media, it hasn’t gained a massive following. Yet. First conventions occurred in 2000s, and that can be attributed to growth of social networks. I’m not saying that steampunk is dead in the water, quite the opposite, it has merely started to grow.
Just like this ”Steampunk Summer” series on Domain.Me, we are only seeing the beginning of the movement. So, if you want to jump the hipster bandwagon for the steampunk train, now is the time. At least if we can trust IBM predictions:
”…that ‘steampunk,’ a sub-genre inspired by the clothing, technology and social mores of Victorian society, will be a major trend to bubble up and take hold of the retail industry.”
And if it walks like steampunk, quacks like steampunk, then it probably is steampunk.