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Steampunk 101: The Basics of Steampunk Fashion, Culture, and History

How Steampunk got its name and how you can be a steampunker

“Steampunk is…a joyous fantasy of the past, allowing us to revel in a nostalgia for what never was. It is a literary playground for adventure, spectacle, drama, escapism and exploration. But most of all it is fun!”

George Mann

What Is Steampunk? 

Steampunk is a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting where society has reverted to an earlier era. The steampunk movement has also extended to fashion, with people often wearing steampunk-inspired clothing and jewelry. But Steampunk isn’t just about the look – it’s also about the culture and history behind it. This blog post will explore the basics of steampunk fashion, culture, and history.

How Steampunk Got Its Name

Image by prettysleepy1 from Pixabay 

Many works now considered seminal to this genre were published in the 1980s and 1990s, but the term was coined in the 1980s by a group of writers mocking the cyberpunk movement.

Steampunk was coined by a science fiction author named K. W. J. E. T. A., who was trying to find an umbrella term for works by Tim Power The Anubis Gates James B. Homunculus, 1986) and himself ( Morlock Night Infernal Devices, 1987). These stories occur in the 19th century (usually Victorian) setting and imitate actual Victorian speculative fiction conventions as H. G Wells The Time Machine.

In a letter to science fiction magazine Locus printed in the April 1987 issue, Jeter wrote:

Dear Locus, Enclosed is a copy of my 1979 novel Morlock Nigh.

 I’d appreciate your being so good as to route it to Faren Miller, as it’s a prime piece of evidence in the great debate as to who is “the Powers/Blaylock/Jeter fantasy triumvirate” was writing in the “gonzo-historical manner” first. Though, of course, I did find her review in the March Locus to be quite flattering.

I think Victorian fantasies will be the next big thing, as long as we can develop a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock, and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like “steam-punks,” perhaps…. (en.wikipedia.org)

Steam Is A Central Element Of Steampunk

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay 

The technology featured in the universe is generally just as technologically advanced as our own, but it uses the steam engine instead of electricity, gas, or oil.

Steampunk technology looks like something from the Industrial Revolution era.

Steampunk is a genre that reimagines the past by imagining how things would have been if they had been invented earlier. In short, the Steampunk genre reinterprets history by imagining how it would have been if it had been created earlier.

Steampunk is an artistic style inspired by the fads of the Victorian Era in England (from 1837-1901), the Belle Epoque period in France (from 1871-1914), and the Civil War era of the United States (from 1861-1865). These clothes are often modernized by adding mechanical elements with gears showing, making them look similar to the 19th century.

Men should wear long coats and top hats. Corsets and steampunk goggles frequently appear among women. Steampunk watches are great for both men and women.

So What Is Steampunk Exactly?

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay 

Steampunk today can be defined in several different ways.

For example, steampunk technology often includes steam-powered cars, airships, or analog computers. Usually, the technology and aesthetics shown are nearly as advanced as the technology we have in today’s modern world but with a distinctly retro look and feel.

Steampunk is a style and clothing fashion that has been developed due to the numerous Steampunk works out there.

This style and fashion are characterized by its distinct Victorian feel, inspired by late 19th century and early 20th century designs. It also has a futuristic retro design thanks to prominent display, steam-powered techniques, and modern technology.

Indeed, high fashion brands such as Prada, D&G, Versace, Chanal, and Christian Dior have already introduced steampunk style on their fashion runways.

Such technologies may include fictional machines like those found in the Steampunk fiction works of Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and other Steampunk fiction.

Other examples of steampunks include alternative-history-style presentation of such technologies as steam cannons, lighter-than-air airships, or such digital mechanical computer Charles Babbage Analytical Engines. Steampunk may also incorporate elements from Fantasy Horror Historical Fiction, Alternate History, or other branches of Speculative Fiction, including The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958), which is a very early example of cinematic Steampunk.

Steampunk Magazine even has a book called A Steampunks’ Guide to the Apocalypse, which talks about how steampunks would survive if an apocalypse did occur.

Post-apocalyptic Steampunk is set in a world where some cataclysm precipitated the fall of society and steam power is once more ascendant, such as the post-apocalyptic anime series Future Boy Conan (1978).

Why Is Steampunk So Popular?

Image by Jean photosstock from Pixabay 

Steampunk is famous for a variety of reasons.

A Steampunk creation is visually appealing. They let your creativity run wild as you mix up your favorite things from modern and historical times.

Steampunk is all a matter of expressing yourself, so the guidelines are flexible and supportive rather than restrictive or constraining.

A Steampunk theme resists definitive classification – meaning that fans can adopt any number of different approaches to it, and there’s no single identity that defines Steampunk. It breaks boundaries beyond science fiction. You can use any genre for your story, but the key features lend themselves well to pretty much anything.

Steampunk creations are often visually appealing. From transparent machines displaying their working innards to more durable designs pimped up with various mechanical and decorative additions, there’s something earthy and exciting to these things, and shiny steel, minimalist, and futuristic machines will never be able to compare.

Fans of the genre often adopt a steampunk aesthetic by dressing in Victorian clothing, decorating their homes with antique furniture, listening to music from the era, and watching films set during the period.

How You Can Be a Steampunker

Courtesy Wikipedia

So now that you know what Steampunk is, how can you be a part of the steampunk community? Here are a few tips:

  • Join or attend steampunk events. There are steampunk conventions and meetups worldwide, so there’s likely one near you.
  • Buy steampunk clothing and accessories. You don’t have to go full Steampunk – just adding a few steampunk-inspired pieces to your wardrobe can be fun.
  • Make your DIY craft steampunk creations. You can make your steampunk clothing, jewelry, and other items if you’re crafty.
  • Read steampunk books and stories. Steampunk has a rich and varied history, so there’s plenty of material to check out.
  • Watch steampunk movies and T.V. shows. There are several steam power films and T.V. shows available to get a taste of the genre.
  • Explore steampunk websites and forums. There are lots of steampunk resources online, so dive in and explore.
  • Join the steampunk community on social media. Several steampunk groups on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

In conclusion, Steampunk is a subculture that includes art, fashion, music, and other elements. It’s a mix of futuristic retro design and Victorian aesthetics, and steampunk fans can adopt any number of different approaches to the genre. Steampunk is famous for various reasons, including its creativity and visual appeal. If you’re interested in Steampunk, there are plenty of ways to get involved in the community. And lifestyle.

Steampunk Resources

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

Airship Ambassador — Steampunk-related news, events, and resources.

The Association of Ishtar blog — A blog by steampunk podcaster and author Bonsart Bokel.

Atticus Oldman’s Steampunk Almanac — Steam power podcasts from Scotland.

Beyond Victoriana — “A multicultural perspective on Steampunk” by Diana Pho. She also has an active Facebook page.

Brass Goggles — Discussion forums on steampunk topics.

Edwardian Promenade — News, commentary, and resources about the Edwardian era. “As years have passed, the focus has widened beyond 1900-1914 Britain to emphasize the global society between the 1880s-1920s.”

Never Was — An online magazine about Steampunk, dieselpunk, and related genres.

SanDee & Amelie’s Steampunk Challenges — Monthly design challenges in the steampunk realm.

Silver Goggles — A “steampunk postcolonialist” discusses “race, representation, diversity, and other such exciting adventures as one might find in our genial genre.”

SteamPaper — A monthly e-newsletter with steampunk events and other news, primarily focusing on the U.K. The signup form is on the Asylum Steampunk Festival website.

Steampunk Journal — Steampunk news, media, events, etc.

Steampunk Magazine — Original Steampunk magazine, now defunct but still interesting

Steampunk Radio — Online Steampunk music

Steampunk Tendencies — Photos of steampunk projects and Victorian architecture.

The Steampunk Tribune — News and features about Steampunk, Victorian culture, and related topics.

The Steampunk Workshop — Steampunk maker Jake von Slatt discusses art, books, fashion, music, and his projects.

Steampunkery — Website for steampunk publisher and podcaster Atticus Oldman.

Facebook Groups

See the City Guides for listings of local steampunk Facebook groups.

All U.S. Steampunk Events — A listing of steampunk events in the U.S.

British Steampunk Community — A public Facebook group. “This place exists for steampunks to socialize, share events and meets, and generally have fun. It aims to be (for the most part) the lighter side of Steampunk just as Brassgoggles has been for some years now.”

Dieselpunk Depot — A public group for dieselpunk enthusiasts.

European Steampunk Community — A public group “promotes all things Steampunk within the European Community and Beyond!”

New Zealand Steampunk Enthusiasts — A closed group for steampunk enthusiasts in New Zealand.

Steampunk and Neo-Victorian design — “A site for steampunk enthusiasts and buying and selling of steampunk-related merchandise.”

Steampunk artists — a Facebook group for steampunk artists.

Steampunk Britain — A public group for steampunk enthusiasts. Moderators screen posts before appearing.

Steampunk Canada — A public group for steampunk enthusiasts in Canada.

Steampunk Europe — A public group for steampunk enthusiasts in Europe.

Steampunk For Everyone — A public group for steampunk enthusiasts. “It was specifically formed as a response to the fact that it’s rather difficult to find steampunks of color or queer steampunks.”

Steampunk Revolution — One of the largest Facebook groups for steampunks.

Steampunk Scandinavia — A public group, devoted to Scandinavian Steampunk.

Steampunk Times — A public Facebook group for steampunk enthusiasts. Steampunk maker Franklin Vanseizenberg founded it.

Steampunk! — Public Facebook group for steampunks. Admins screen posts.

Steampunkorama — A Facebook group for fans and creators of steampunk and related genres (Afropunk, Dieselpunk, Cyberpunk, Retropunk, Futurepunk, Gothicpunk).

Podcasts

BRASS: A Steampunk Adventure Serial — A “multi-platform Steampunk adventure serial about a family of Victorian science geniuses, each with unique abilities.” It includes podcasts and short films.

The Clockwork Cabaret — “Music O’ Gears for Steampunk’d Ears,” hosted by Emmett Davenport and Lady Attercop and produced by Agony Aunt Studios.

Of Steam, Steel, and Murder — A podcast presentation of players in various role-playing games.

Radio Retrofuture — A podcast by Bonsart Bokel, featuring interviews with steampunk personalities.

Storypunks — A podcast about all of the “punk” genres, including cyberpunk, dieselpunk, and Steampunk. Cindy Grigg hosts it.

The Tales of Sage & Savant — A steampunk audio drama in the form of a monthly podcast. The website includes historical background info.

SteamRollers Adventure Podcast — A comedic steampunk adventure podcast based on the fiction of Michael Rigg.

Texas Steampunk Connection — A “Steampunk podcast on happenings in Texas. News and reviews of novels, comics, movies, and anything Steampunk.”

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