There are delightful aspects of steampunk that draws interest. If you are into cosplay nothing beats a fantastic steampunk outfit: Corsets, brass goggles, top hats or newsy caps, pocket watches and fascinating sci-fi level gadgets. A blend between the Victorian steam-powered world and advanced machines. Wow what a combination!
There was the Wild Wild West series and decades later a movie with the same name. Both fit the above description but when I began reading steampunk, I realized it really is poorly or loosely defined. Some were labeled steampunk but had little of the four core elements. So today I’m going to take a crack at defining it.
Let’s start with the fact that the world has to run on steam: cars, dirigibles, trains, factories all steam powered. That places the general era as sometime from 1870 to 1915, roughly, if the story takes place on Earth though it’s really an alternate timeline or history. It fits as a sub-genre of science fiction or science fantasy so it can take place on another world as long as all other characteristics are correct.
Elements of that time period set the society in an early industrial frame complete with the tug of the problems that era had. It was gritty with old social standards yet going against convention (which is the PUNK in the title).
The era had the very rich and the very poor. Factories were becoming the main working situation but regulations were not necessarily in place. It was free-wheeling and fanciful yet at the same time outlandish, dangerous and possibly grotesque. Sometimes the change is handled through the players of the story. Kick-ass heroines step out of the Victorian norm to be cutting edge, society changing characters. Other times the culture itself is on a pivotal point of transformation.
The birth of the change between the old and the emerging new opens up with the fantasy inventions that are liberally sprinkled in the stories. Steampunk could be seen as Victorian science fiction. Believe me, that’s a fascinating part of it’s charm!
Steampunk has the romance of that bygone time yet has incredible, futuristic inventions and mechanicals that run with gears, clockworks, primitive computers and pressure plates. It can have robotics from household helpers to war machines and these inventions are woven into the life and story line.
A FANTASY MIX?
There can be magic (shades of Harry Potter) or can have elements of Sherlock Holmes. Fantasy creatures can be present as can elements of the occult but these are secondary to the above core elements: steam, change and fantastic mechanicals.
I hope that helps. I’d love to hear your input as it is a fascinating genre. Go forth and read Steampunk! 😀