I know the Steampunk community seems to be constantly talking about the use of the word "Punk" in Steampunk. I've seen some propose dumping Steampunk to alternative terms, such as Gaslight Romance and so forth. Audelia Flint, who writes the excellent blog Trial by Steam recently wrote what I think is an excellent post on the subject. I highly recommend the article. "Why Steam Needs Punk."
The great thing about Steampunk and Dieselpunk is that it isn't dependent on one person's interpretation. I may not consider what you do right, but then again is that such an odd thing. Politics, religion, parenting, excersising... you name it and people have differing views on it. It's fun to discuss it with different people, they maybe able to shed a differnet light on it. Unfortunately, I've already made my mind up regarding punk in SP/DP involving punks, so I 'll quit this discussion with this final thought on the matter. I hate trying to discuss things with people that have already made up their minds on things. I think it's a waste of time, and I don't want to waste anybody's time. My hypocrisy only goes so far...
I flat out do not see any late 20th century punk elements in Steampunk or Dieselpunk. There are people that would call themselves punk that are attracted to SP/DP right along side peoplet that are into anime, cosplay, historical reenactors, prop makers, seamstresses, and everybody else that is invovled with them. The punks bring punk elements into SP/DP and add to the variety, but they are not responsible for driving SP/DP. To try and defend that the heart and soul of SP/DP comes from the real punks seems to be pretty arrogant and elitist, which from what I heard is inline with the punk attitude. To define the "punk" in SP/DP as deviating from historical accuracy in favor of creativity in which to express one's desire to build and create, seems more inline with SP/DP. What some people say is the punks' DIY is not solely a punk trait, once again I find that arrogant and elitist.
That is not to say that all of the people in SP/DP have not been touched by punk to some degree. One can not say that they have not been fully uninfluenced by such things. But that would be an entirely different discussion.
To me, the label for ' 50s-60s punk would be "Atomicpunk"- such things as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or The Prisoner to the Batman TV series to Irwin Allen's shows (particularly the original Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea film). Throw in the world-wide influence of things like japanese "suit-mation" Kaiju movies and TV shows, Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation style TV series, etc. Concealed electronic gadgets and colorful uniforms or vehicles are common tropes.
And as for our main topic- I came to the steampunk "movement" from science fiction fandom, and would maintain that the "punk" element in the ethos can be evidenced not only from a maker /DIY stance (living the ideal certainly qualifies, but should be an example/inspiration to others, not a requirement), but from the very nature of science fiction literature- social commentary on the part of the artist in the format of a speculative reality.
In participating in steampunk art and social activity, the steampunk seeks an experience that is outside the norms of the contemporary world that fundamentally examines or questions what was, what might have been, against what is. Travel broadens the mind, y'know.
Who here has read Jules Verne's stories?
His go to stories involved anarchs who pretty much such "fuck this place, I'm building my own culture because you guys are destroying yours. And if I come back, you guys are in deep shit."
(Nemo is a central subject of the first article)
(The last one I feel like applies equally to Dieselpunk.)
While the site is actually an anime site I thought it handled the subjects quite well. I'm in full agreement with the opinions of the writer of these articles.
"Who here has read Jules Verne's stories?
His go to stories involved anarchs who pretty much such "fuck this place, I'm building my own culture because you guys are destroying yours. And if I come back, you guys are in deep shit.""
I´ve read several of his stories. I can´t think of any besides those starring Robur and Nemo that features such themes.
While I agree with you that the body of his work doesn't share the same themes throughout (who's does?), the "go to" stories that a lot of people in Steampunk gravitate to are the ones starring Nemo and Robur, and to a lesser extent the travelling protagonists of Face au drapeau, the mad scientists of Dr. Ox or La Chasse au météore, or the fantastic technologies that actually could be built today (La maison à vapeur).
I'll admit, I'm not a literary scholar and I don't know what Verne's real world political stance was, but there are some "punk" undertones that drive his most famous stories, and that's what a lot of steampunks latch on to.
Playing Devil's Advocate here. I personally see *punk as an apolitical artistic aesthetic.
There's a new book coming out called The Steampunk Bible. It promises to be interesting. For the purpose of this discussion I want to point out that the article opens with a quote from Bruce Sterling, (co-author of The Difference Engine) in which he wrote in his essay "The User's Guide to Steampunk":
"Frankly, the heaviest guys in the Steampunk scene are not really all that into 'steam.' Instead, they are into punk. Specifically, punk's do-it-yourself aspects and its determination to take the means of production away from big, mind-deadening companies who want to package and sell shrink-wrapped cultural products."
I've included a link to an article on the book. An interesting point about the article is that it does mention "Dieselpunk."
I just found the entire essay by Sterling. I thought others might want to read it since it ties well here.
The essay, by the way, is enthusiastically endorsed by the one and only Jake Van Slatt: