An interesting sounding word. But what does it mean?
At a quick glance it would seem to have something to do with punks and steam, which begs the image of spiky-haired, leather-clad social deviants with a penchant for hot, vaporous water. Not exactly what it's all about, really, but not entirely off the mark either. Anything not on the main-stream radar could be considered deviant, and certainly Steampunk imagery is often powered by corseted ladies captaining air-ships or mad-scientist gentlemen, with wild hair and amazing spectacles, employing steam-billowing engines for dastardly means. Not exactly your run-of-the-mill role for a historically accurate ladies and gentlemen.
Steampunk is 19th century with a twist. A re-imagining of how history might have unfolded had certain devices and choices been made. Think Victorian bustles and parasols, heeled boots and brass buttons, dirigibles, steam-locomotives, printing presses, clockwork gears and a host of mechanical inventions which embody the adventurous spirit and optimism of the Victorian era.
Not that Steampunk has to be set in Victorian England. No, no, it works equally well in the 'Wild West' of America, or in a post-apocalyptic world which has been reborn with 19th century aesthetics. To be true to the genre, however, and resist the temptation to dabble in Dieselpunk and Cyberpunk, it is generally considered that Steampunk should not rely on elements of invention which predominantly occur in the 20th century such as gas engines, television and digital computers.
As a sub-genre of science fiction literature, according to Wikipedia, we can blame--or admire--K.W. Jeter for coining the term in an effort to describe a relatively "new" adventure in writing which incorporated 19th century style and setting with the mechanical devices imagined by the writings of H.G Wells and Jules Verne.
The Time Machine. 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea. Victorian era adventurism and invention, with just a hint of the fantastic....that's what Steampunk is all about. Just imagine the adventures you could go on by reading it.
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