For those of you not in the know, a new subculture has exploded into the mainstream in the last few years from a branch of science fiction called “steampunk.”
Imagine, if you will, a world where people still dress in Victorian fashions and favor 19th Century etiquette. A world where complex machinery, robots and ray guns are not only the norm but powered by steam. Where women consistently kick as much butt in sciences and world exploration as men do.
This is a world where airships dominate the skies and pocket watches can be time machines into the future or into the past.
Welcome to steampunk.
The phrase “steampunk” was coined as a tongue-in-cheek comparison to “cyberpunk” (think "The Matrix" and "Hackers") by author K.W. Jeter in the 1980s. Though steampunk has no real roots in punk, fans of the literature and fashion style say that the “do-it-yourself” attitude that comes with creating your own outfits and technology is what makes it punk.
There are people out there who have turned computers into typewriter-reminiscent functional works of art and created steam-powered chargers for their iPods, no joke. The possibilities are endless.
But although the phrase “steampunk” has only been around for three or so decades, the literature has been around since the Victorian-era that has inspired it. Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days showed the authors exploration of space, air and underwater travel before the means had been invented.
H.G. Wells' The Time Machine is also considered a steampunk novel.
Now, modern authors such as Cherie Priest and Scott Westerfeld are pioneers in science fiction amongst a growing field of steampunk authors. I had the pleasure recently of interviewing for Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders steampunk magazine a Port Saint Lucie, Florida author named Sean Hayden who is co-writing a six-part steampunk series with his 11-year-old son.
Not only though is steampunk a genre of high adventure, technology-laden science fiction, but a dress style as well. Steampunks all over the world are donning top hats, pocket watches, goggles and gear and cog-adorned period clothing to attend steampunk conventions, renaissance festivals, comic cons and more. For a good visual of the steampunk archetypes, check out Steampunk Savagery’s article on “Creating Your Steampunk Style.”
There is so much to write about that I’ll be doing a series covering different topics on steampunk.- literature, movies, conventions, the Tampa Bay steampunk scene and more. I've already done a steampunk write-up for the Land O' Lakes branch of Patch on the Florida Modeling Network's steampunk-themed modeling events.
I myself am the founder of the Tampa Bay Steampunk Society, a like-minded group of individuals who meet up for tea lounge outings, movie nights, crafty workshops and thrift and antique store scouring days.
In the meantime, what do you guys want to know about steampunk? Leave me a comment!