So You think You’re Steampunk?

Today girls and boys, I’d like to kick off my research on “Steampunk” – well you call it Steampunk, many call it a way of life, but to each her own.

so what is steampunk? A silly game of adult dress-up? High fashion for grown-ups? Or maybe it’s all about movies and video games, books and television? As it turns out, lots of things fall under the steampunk umbrella.

Wikipedia states:

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used – usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain – that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.

Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” for such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace’s Analytical engine.

Steampunk is often associated with cyberpunk. They have considerable influence on each other and share a similar fan base, but steampunk developed as a separate movement. Apart from time period and level of technology, the main difference is that steampunk settings tend to be less dystopian.

But then all sorts of things fall under steampunk for their atmosphere if nothing else – literature like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and perhaps more interestingly (as it doesn’t really fit the mold of that wiki quote), Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Also movies like Spirited Away and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, comic books like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and video games like Bioshock. Even Batman – and I’ll argue this (if I even need to) in an upcoming post.

My job, with my interest in both history and fantasy is to seek out this peculiar genre in and out of games, literature and film, analyse it, give it a bash and examine the cogs that fall out when I do so.

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