What is Steampunk?

Posted by Terrill Richardson on

What exactly is steampunk? Definitions and interpretations of steampunk vary, but essentially, it is an art form that influences and spans many mediums, including literary works, fashion, décor, linguistics, technology, and much more. The steampunk style can be adapted and incorporated into everyday objects for aesthetic purposes; distinct steampunk features include references to the turn of the 19th century Victorian era and the industrial revolution.

That definition of steampunk probably didn’t help a whole lot unless you already had some kind of idea of what you thought steampunk was.

First and foremost, it is a literary subgenre of science fiction and fantasy, with influences from both factual historical events and time periods, as well as fictitious dystopian society. Author K.W. Jeter coined the term “steam-punk” for an editorial letter about his 1979 book, Morlock Night, to describe authors of “gonzo-historical Victorian fantasies”.  The steampunk literary genre has grown to include many renowned books and famous authors that have helped to create the modern steampunk culture.

The Victorian era refers to the mid 1800s to early 1900s, when Britain was under the rule of Queen Victoria. This period of time is when factories, and most notably for us, the steam engine, became widely used and Britain went from being relatively rural to highly industrial.
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What is steampunk fashion? Steampunk fashion includes elements of the Victorian era, the early 19<sup>th</sup> century, the industrial revolution, and post apocalyptic or dystopian society influences. Most great steampunk costumes are based on traditional Victorian time period wear, which are modified (steampunked) to suit the creator’s artistic liking. Steampunk fashion is closely associated with gothic and cyber punk fashion trends, and often features accents of an industrial or mechanical nature, such as metal or gears. Most often, steampunk clothing is dark or neutral colored, but it doesn’t have to be. Steampunk fashion is also characterized by an almost overly eccentric use of props, accessories, and even weapons. My blog on [steampunk fashion] goes into clothing types and styles, if you’d like more on Victorian era and steampunk fashion.
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Steampunk décor includes elements of Victorian Britain and the industrial revolution, such as machinery, steam engines, or clockwork, as well as furniture and textile designs from the late 1800s. Steampunk décor is essentially anything reminiscent of that time period or descriptions of it from steampunk literary works.
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Most importantly, a huge part of steampunk is personal interpretation and preference. I could write pages more on my conceptions of steampunk as an art and style; this blog is just a short synopsis on my definition of steampunk. Steampunking your outfit can be as basic as accessorizing with extra belts and harnesses or gears, and it can be as extravagant as full authentic Victorian era wear combined with mechanical limbs or wings. Incorporate your own personal preferences into your steampunk style, stay within your comfort zone, and HAVE FUN steampunking your world.
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