Monday, 2 May 2011

What is Steampunk?

There is a great amount of information out there for all those interested in the genre, but also for those who are at all familiar with what Steampunk is. For all interested, feel free to dive into…

 The report I have written below is a result of my research in Steampunk genre.

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history and speculative fiction and involves an era or world where steam power is used ( Wikipedia )– usually the time period and aesthetics of the industrialized 19th century Victorian Era Britain, incorporating elements of sci-fi or fantasy. In other words Steampunk envisions a world in which technology is risen to higher level of development. 

he Victorian period is associated with an introduction and development of such aspects of the modern world as:
mechanized manufacturing
 extensive urbanization
 office life and mass-transit ( 
 Steampunk main aim is the use of this existing technology and structure to imagine an even more advanced 19th century often complete with Victorian-inspired wonders for example anachronistic technology and futuristic innovations envisioned by Victorians. It may include fictional machines like those in the works of HG. Wells “The Time Machine”; technology like analog or digital mechanized computers by Charles Babbage in his “ Analitical Engine” ( proposed steam- powered mechanical computer, which he called a difference engine).

Charles Babbage, “Analitycal Engine “ (project)
 Another worth mentioning is Albert Robida  -  a French author and illustrator who produced several works of science fiction interpretations of the future in the late 19th century. Robida's 1887 piece La Guerre au vingtième siècle ("War in the 20th century") shows futuristic weapons, armored war machines and submarine combat. Similarly, his 1883 book Le Vingtième Siècle ("The 20th Century) present views of a future that is dramatically improved, both technologically and socially. Advancements predicted in these works include mass transportation, private aircraft, and the "téléphonoscope", a machine allowing both visual and audio communications over distances.       

 "Maison tournante aérienne" (aerial rotating house) by Albert Robida for his book Le Vingtième Siècle, a 19th-century conception of life in the 20th century

From the Fashion point of view Robida also presents his characters dressed in 19th century clothing -  modified to suit particular circumstances, for example women wearing bloomers instead of skirts for ease of movement.
Early influences and the Origin of Steampunk
The influences of the genre adopt the style of 19th century romances of Jules Verne and Mark Twain. Authors writing  - before the genre was named as steampunk are:
Mervyn Peake “Titus Alone” (1959)
CBS TV series “The Wild Wild West” ( 1965- 1969)
Film “Brazil” 1985 – being a cinematic influence to steampunk
Although  first works associated with Steampunk were published in 1960’s and 1970’s the term Steampunk only arose  during the 1980s, as a variant of cyberpunk when author K. W. Jeter was trying to find general term for his work “ Morlock Knight” (1979) and other authors like Tim Powers “The Anubis Gates” (1983). They used the term Steampunk to describe a grouping of stories set in the Victorian period, which imitate the fiction of H.G Wells “The Time Machine”.
The first use of name Steampunk was in 1995 by Paul di Filippo in his work “Steampunk Trilogy”, that features three novels :
“Victoria”, Hottenhots”, “Walt and Emily”.
Steampunk was popularized by Alan More and Kevin O’Neill in their 1999 “ The League of Extraordinary Gentelmen” comic book and then its 2003 film adaptation.

Types of Steampunk
Early steampunk works had a  historical setting-  taking place in a period where the Industrial Revolution has begun but electricity has not, with a high emphasis on steam gadgets. We can see it in works such as “ The Difference Engine”, “ Atlantis: The Lost Empire” ( Disney Animation).
Later Steampunk relates to Fantasy setting- set in the fantasy world that rely on steam- and spring- propelled technology, which are visible in computer games such as “ Final Fantasy VI” and “ World of Warcraft”.
Another for is Western Steampunk, which overlaps Weird West and ScFi visible in the film: Wild Wild West” featuring the actor Will Smith.

Characteristics of Steampunk style and look

Stempunk look and style has no set guidelines and synthesizes modern styles influenced by the Victorian and Edwardian eras ( The Frick Collection Web site) (“What Is Steampunk? A Subculture Infiltrating Films, Music, Fashion, More”; Sep 29 2008 by Andrew Ross Rowe
 It features such garments as corsets, gowns, frock coats, petticoats, bustles, vests, military inspired garments and top hats that are accompanied by timepieces, compasses, parasols, ray guns and DIY accessories, as according to the Steampunk people even the everyday items can perform unconventional tasks.

 The basic rule for creating the steampunk look is “start period and then add.”.The starting point for getting the ideas can be  the countless vintage photographs and film reels left over from the 19th century and then improved by  adding gadgets characteristic for steampunk genre.
The gear is a key symbol of steampunk. It joins related devices such as flywheels and pistons as the “power lines” of the steam age. Steam power is mechanical power and its transmission demands a network of moving parts in the same way that electrical power transmission demands wires.
Goggles are often encountered in steampunk and are associated with science and mechanized travel.  Goggles are a piece of fashion that can help give life to a steampunk world. Cell phones and music players being modified to give the look of Victorian made objects are also a key icon of the look. The person that huge credit should be given in terms of creating the steampunk fashion gadgets is steampunker Kit Stolen. According to the co-founder of the Internet community blog – Evelyn Kriete “ He invented these hair falls, which almost appear like he's wearing electronics in his hair" shown in the picture below That was taken by Nadya Lev and uploaded on her website (

As some people have claimed that the main Steampunk colour is brown tone- really there is no "steampunk color”. Any color can be steampunk, as the genre is set in a world of comparatively advanced technology, so it is perfectly reasonable to have vibrant colors and complicated machine-made patterns.( A sense of structure Aug. 15th, 2008 at 12:55 AM forum by squirrelmadness, “ Steampunk for beginners”)

Steampunk goes far beyond fashion; it evolves around every day use items like handcrafted
Laptops,  iPhones,  home and office décor 

  There are steampunk housewares and steampunk bands with the most famous one of them called Abney Park or James Gang band, during whose performances you can see a gramophone with a crank and velvet turntable, an old wooden icebox and a wardrobe rack made from brass pipes.
 Magazines like Steampunk and blogs like Brass Goggles and the Heliograph track the scene. A museum in Oxford, England was also holding an exhibition of steampunk art. The steampunk meet-up take place during  summer's Comic-Con in San Diego and also every late October during Seattle hosted Steamcon convention.
Who is the customer?
Aspects of Steampunk have been anticipated by Lolita Fashion, aristocrat styles and romantic goth subculture though the genre itself has even wider has appeal, as  some people are drawn by the love of  the Victorian period, while  others enjoy steampunk’s unique approach to technology.  The reason so many people are interested in steampunk is that it allows them to combine a range of clothing styles and accessories with almost no limitation in terms of diversity in use of the gadgets. This means that steampunk offers something for just about everyone.

I attached a few links and also the report a prepared and which will highlight the most important facts about Steampunk- worth having a look


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