Steampunk Means Different Things in Different Places

In a discussion about the punk in steampunk at The Steampunk Forum, Vagabond GentleMan from the United States raises an interesting point: steampunk can have different meanings depending on one’s location.

Vagabond GentleMan suggests that steampunk isn’t a genuine sub- or counterculture because, unlike earlier countercultures, it isn’t just scattered but divided geographically.

When a New York hippie in the 1960s traveled to San Francisco, he “pretty much found that the West Coast hippies had the same basic sociocultural mores and the same basic ethos” that he had, according to Vagabond. When punks from Los Angeles traveled to Baltimore, “they found that though there might be some superficial differences in self-presentation or philosophy, they knew the Eastern punks were gonna ‘be about’ the same sorts of things.” Same thing with Goths.

Not with steampunks. Continue reading “Steampunk Means Different Things in Different Places”

Stefan Prohaczka artwork

The Philosophy of Dieselpunk

Often when one reads of the Jazz Age, the term is limited to the 1920s. But there’s a relatively young philosophy known as dieselpunk that is trying to keep the glory of the Jazz Age alive.

The term “dieselpunk” was first used by Lewis Pollak in 2001 to describe his role-playing game Children of the Sun. Dieselpunk has since grown far beyond his initial usage to describe a philosophy that forms the basis of a subculture and art movement with distinctive music, art, fiction and cinema.

Dieselpunk philosophy is a postmodern phenomenon that comprises three aspects: decodence, contemporary and punk. To understand this young philosophy one must understand each of these aspects. Continue reading “The Philosophy of Dieselpunk”

Tea cup

Get Your Punk Out of My Steam

Tor.com‘s Steampunk Month is over. For the last four weeks, the website has published an impressive collection of artwork, essays and fiction that has kept us thoroughly entertained.

About midway through, one article appeared I would like to comment on.

In “There is Totally Punk in Steampunk” Jaymee Goh writes about how the ‘punk suffix relates to the genre and the developing subculture that we understand today under the banner of “steampunk.” Continue reading “Get Your Punk Out of My Steam”

Steampunk girl

Battle of the Sexes: How Steampunk Should Be Informed by Feminism

During the reign of Victoria, the women’s suffrage movement began and, shortly after her death, culminated in women receiving the same legal right to vote as men. It was a landmark period in history for thinking about gender equity. Informed by such works as A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, written by Mary Wollstonecraft almost a half century prior to the Victorian era, it spawned such well-known feminist thinkers as John Stuart Mill, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward and Florence Fenwick Miller. In spite of the oppressive atmosphere created by a focus on eradicating “vice” via the Comstock Laws and other means, as well as the caricature of women as weak and feeble-minded by many scientists of the day, women were making strides toward being recognized as equal to men and having autonomy.

This is the historical background which inspires much of steampunk fiction and we should take its lessons to heart when building our steampunk community. Continue reading “Battle of the Sexes: How Steampunk Should Be Informed by Feminism”

Steampunk girl goggles

Steampunkness: A New State of Open Mind

Steampunk has come a long way in recent years. No longer an obscure subgenre of speculative fiction, steampunk today encompasses besides literature and film, design, fashion and a community that spans worldwide. Although firmly rooted in British Victorianism, steampunk enthusiasts hail from all nations with fascinating variations on the theme being explored in France, Japan and the United States especially.

As the steampunk movement continues to grow, it is only inevitable that the many people involved in it try to shape it to their personal liking. There is no harm in that. Steampunk is a versatile concept that can adapt to different times, different places, different philosophies even. New interpretations of steampunk should always be welcomed as refreshing in the first place before we attempt to dissect or, eventually, discard of them. Continue reading “Steampunkness: A New State of Open Mind”

Institute of Radio Engineers banquet

Steampunk Politics Anno 2010

As a genre, steampunk was hardly political. Cyberpunk, in its reverence of alienated hackers and all sorts of outcasts, might carry some political weight, but the very term “steampunk” was coined as a joke (by author K.W. Jeter in 1987) and never meant to describe the sort of movement we know today.

Because of its newly-acquired subculture status, steampunk has made bold fashion and design statements, but it struggles to find an ideology. While some recognize anarchist potential in putting the “punk” back in steampunk, others emphasize that steampunk is inherently apolitical. Others yet seek a middle way by interpreting the “punk” as a broad rejection of modern-day consumerism and the loss of individualism associated with twenty-first-century industrial society. Continue reading “Steampunk Politics Anno 2010”