Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is Steampunk? Exploring the Multiverse

Steampunk Awareness stemmed from a single idea: to create awareness of a cultural phenomenon that had penetrated the foundation of the con world and that of our own group mentality. For what is it that makes people drawn to the wonder of the clockwork world? The rich aesthetic? Or is it an even further quality? Steampunk was an endeavour to rediscover that which was lost, a past rewritten as a future that never was.

"Steampunk" was first coined by K. W. Jeter, a science fiction writer in the 80's, who coined the term to describe the growing genre of literature that was growing in emulation of a modern Victorian world. The aesthetic was undeniably powerful: a world where technology prepared a dimension that highlighted a thriving world of resonating character and civilities. Eventually, steampunk took on newer roles by incorporating the post-apocalyptic genre through a revival of its "punk" culture. Today, steampunk's reach is almost limitless. Steampunk became a culture through this his
tory of shared interest by creating a mentality, values, and set of beliefs to mirror the world that each DIY agent would create.

Why are people drawn to steampunk though? To answer that is a simple exploration of human curiousity.

What is the mysterious?

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed." -Albert Einstein

The mysterious is based in imagination, and imagination is the innovation that is required in a world where fantasy and community becomes merged. Steampunk is a social movement that describes a community that lives in a realm of historical fantasy and of rebellion against a mainstream identity. They exist in a counterpart claim with a new reality, where the multiverse dimensions that separate each steampunk world can gather and engage in a hobby, a passion, chivalry and companionship. The diversity of the steampunk world is immensely scattered, but the genre has created a passion that thrives with others and created a community.

Imagine a world, where the wheels of time remain ticking in the background of steam engines, corsets, monocles, leather, and brass. Imagine wiping the lens of your goggles as you stop for a brief moment of rest atop a pillar of the post-apocalypse. Imagine the laughter of the crew as you converse amongst one another, knowing no lonliness for a brief moment, where the expansive world still waited. Imagine the airship captain and her crew who stands at the ready as the ship moves with the wind, bracing for battle.

Dream. Belong. And imagine: because steampunk is where imagination becomes real.

Captain Vivienne Eeva Valentina
Airship Constantine


  1. You scratch the surface in this post, but Steampunk is deeper than that:
    Jeter used the term Steampunk as a direct reply to the Cyberpunk movement - of which he was among the fore of the genre. Which is the at the heart of the popularity of Steampunk today: we live in a cyber world. For most of us - a day's labor leaves no tangible traces. Increasingly, if you work with computers, medicine, broadcasting, service industries and so on - when you are finished with a day's work, your hands are empty - unlike the inventors and factory workers from a century ago, who could point to something solid and heavy and say "See what I made today?" We return to our tangible needs in Steampunk. DIY.
    Secondly, we can do no other than to look back at that period in time through our 21st Century eyes. We modify class and culture to fit the morality of our current state - thereby subverting the culture of the late 18th Century. Corsets worn on the outside of the clothing, women dressing as men and the other way round. Glorifying air pirates and tattered saloon girls. The way we play with class and gender is one of the hallmarks of Steampunk as well.
    Lastly, starting with Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and then with Vern and Wells, Shelly and so on, we start to see in literature of the period a shift toward intellect over class. My intelligence trumps my bloodline. Me and my invention can reshape the world, and time, and life itself. That's why the literature of this time is part of modern Steampunkery.
    Some jokingly say that Steampunk is when Goths do brown, but that cliche really misses the point. Goths - by nature - are pessimists. Life is a Gothic Tragedy. Steampunks, by nature, are optimists. We are the geeks that keep trying, using our wits to create great and clever things.
    Thanks for letting me offer my $0.02.
    Emilie P. Bush - Steampunk writer
    Chenda and the Airship Brofman
    The Gospel According to Verdu

  2. While we probably won't delve into the competition between cyberpunk and steampunk fans, I can tell you, as the writer of this piece, that I'm well aware of the downfalls of this description. There were reasons it was written as a broad subtext. It was meant to be the first piece in a set, a topical series ranging from the role of history in steampunk to character development and even the dynamic social structure as well as its inherent problems that relate to the depth of the community's reach. I seperated it out in order to create a layer of depth that this initial piece would not touch due to the fact that it's meant to inspire newcomers into the genre by the aesthetic. And as we all know, aesthetics are surface qualities. While I thank you for your informative review, I want you to realize the intent and we will discuss these topics in future blogs.