Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Ms. Foxxy asked me the other day, "what is steampunk?"  What's funny is that I never really gave it much thought.  I'm like an American judge looking at porn, "I'll know it when I see it!"

But, that doesn't mean that steampunk doesn't have roots and that doesn't mean it has no commonalities across the genre.  Here's my response.  Feel free to chime in, because I'd love to hear what you think.

So, you want to know about steampunk?

The word itself was coined in the 1980s, during the height of a sci-fi genre named "cyberpunk." 

Common themes in cyberpunk include: advanced technologies, overbearing authorities (e.g. government, mega-corporations, etc.), and a focus on the little guy who, through his wits and bravado, was able to win a small victory against "the man."  Steampunk was the tongue-in-cheek name given to fiction written at the time that shared the same concepts as cyberpunk, but instead of being set in the future, a Steampunk book was set in the Victorian-era past.

All of cyberpunk's themes were translated; steam-powered robots and computers replaced Virtual Reality goggles, airships replaced flying cars, and mustache twirling railroad moguls replaced world-spanning microchip corporations.

As steampunk grew as a genre, the authors drew upon the "Scientific Romances" written during the Victorian era for inspiration.  As it turns out, some of the Scientific Romances (the word used to describe sci-fi stories before sci-fi was a word) were better "steampunk" tales than their contemporaries!  Authors like Jules Verne described world-traveling, airship anarchists back in the 1890s, while HG Wells wrote about fantastic Victorian technology that could throw the user through the ages of time.

The genre was pretty quiet through the '90s and early 2000s, producing few works that combined cyberpunk sensibilities within a Victorian setting.  That all changed when the social internet took hold of steampunk and fans across the world joined together in their admiration for the genre. 

Now, the word has reached almost every country in the world, and "steampunks" (fans of the genre) can be found everywhere you look.  The thing to remember is that it all started with fiction, but unlike other sci-fi fan-bases, steampunk has achieved popularity not from a specific story, but from the aesthetics of the genre.  That's why you'll be hard-pressed to find a definitive answer for "what is steampunk," and so many variations on the genre; from Victorian English, to Wild West, to Indian and Far Eastern takes on the genre.

If there is one thing all steampunks have in common, it's a love for "a past that never was."

Photo from Regretsy's "Not remotely steampunk"

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The League of STEAM, aka the "Steampunk Ghostbusters" (http://www.leagueofsteam.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/League_of_STEAM) just did a commercial for the upcoming Wild Wild West Con, that I think captures perfectly the spirit of steampunk. Check it out:



If there is one thing all steampunks have in common, it's a love for "a past that never was."

And a love for... the love, the bizarre, the art.

I'm sorry, but I just have to ask.

Is that a...Hipster Lincoln?

It's a poster from "Regretsy."

Regretsy is a parody website that finds items for sale on Etsy that are inappropriately tagged for no apparent reason other than to trick people into clicking on the seller's link.  For example, the shirt in the picture (sans Lincoln) was being sold as a "Steampunk shirt."

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