Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What is steampunk?

Steampunk Gear
As my blog description this online dictionary here says, steampunk is "a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world." But here's a quick list of how to work out if what you think is steampunk, actually is part of this genre:

  • Is it set in the 19th century, particularly Victorian times?
  • Does it include technology that is far advanced for the 19th century?
  • Is the technology largely steam based?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you're probably reading or watching something set firmly within the steampunk genre.

Simple, right?

Er, no.

Steampunk has many variations, which are often given slightly different names.

  • The technology can be based around clockwork: Clockpunk
  • It doesn't have to be set in the 19th Century, eg Scott Westerfeld's LEVIATHAN (alternative history steampunk), or set in another world altogether, eg INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher.
  • It can have supernatural elements, eg, THE PARASOL PROTECTORATE series, by Gail Carriger
  • Or be a downright strange mix of genres, eg DEARLY, DEPARTED by Lia Habel (a steampunk zombie romance)

Steampunk is difficult to define because it is really the feel to it that makes it steampunk. Steampunk worlds are complex, dark and often philosophical. And that's the beauty of it.

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