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What is Steampunk

What is Steampunk?

It is elegance with functionality.  Aesthetic practicality.  Victorian science-fiction trimmed with cogs, rivets, brass, and leather.  It is a literary genre, a sense of style, a community, and a frame of mind.  Basically, it is seeing the future with eyes from the past.  However, there’s no summing steampunk up in a few short words because it can mean many different things to many different people.  For some steampunk may mean fashion and style, for others it is a literary world which awakens intrigue and endless possibilities, while to others still it is all about an art form they can put their heart and hands into.  Steampunk may be a way of life, an accent to a personality, or romanticism made mechanical.  It’s only appropriate that so many meanings and inspirations can be born from this culture as it’s very nature suggests limitless potential and the manifestation of invention and ideas.

Where did Steampunk Come From?

While the steampunk genre has been greatly influenced by 19th century by authors such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, their works now even being considered as steampunk, the name of the genre didn’t exist until the 1980’s when this style starting gaining popularity.  K.W. Jeter, along with a handful of other authors, wrote in this style but had no genre name to describe this type of writing.  Cyberpunk was becoming the popular genre of the time and Jeter had cheekily proposed “steampunk” as the term to describe the Victorian science-fiction/ fantasy type of genre.  As steampunk history would have it, the name stuck.

Steampunk in Literature

As it applies to fiction and literature, the steampunk genre is a fantastical approach to the Victorian era with a futuristic spin on steam powered technology.  This genre may take the form of science fiction meets the Wild West or it may shape itself from the splendour of a Victorian-era backdrop filled with anachronistic gadgetry.  Typically steampunk works will be written as an alternative history type of fiction, used as a reimagining of the world had steam technology been the dominating power source and electricity never been invited, which oftentimes can add a fair bit of mystique and whimsy to any story.

Steampunk Art, Fashion, and Culture

While steampunk had previously been reserved for use as a literary genre the elegantly inventive style caught on in the world of fashion, art, and architecture.  The concept of steampunk style gadgets and clothing in the world of fiction offered too great a temptation to fans and as such steampunk transformed itself from a dreamer’s fantasy to an actual style.  Now artists, designers, sculptors, and even plain old tinkerers dedicate all of their skill and talent to the pursuit of steampunk realization.

Steampunk art may be explored in the restyling of everyday items such as computers, cell phones, and furniture into a glass, brass, leather, and copper celebration of Victorian fantasy.  Some may express their steampunk selves through their wardrobes with the addition of corsets, petticoats, vests, and top hats coupled with technological devices such as ray guns, time pieces, and goggles.  Others still have explored steampunk through music with the thought to discover a “steampunk sound”.  With the very basis of steampunk being founded on invention and fantasy, no limit exists of what can be imagined and created to express this culture genre.

Steampunk can be used as a means to explore an alternate history, to express you inner Victorian inventor, or to replace all that science fiction chrome with science fiction brass.  It can hold a variety of meanings to different types of people but it always come back to the same elements; Victorian elegance, scientific anachronisms, and limitless imagination.

© 2014 Steampunk District

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