The Dictionary Defines Steampunk as:
a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.
“if you like steampunk, this is a great book for you”
a style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction.
“the essence of steampunk is homage to vintage fashion with a modern, sassy twist”
A variety of styles of video games have used Steampunk settings:
The Chaos Engine (1993) is a run and gun video game inspired by the Gibson/Sterling novel The Difference Engine (1990), set in a Victorian steampunk age. Developed by the Bitmap Brothers, it was first released on the Amiga in 1993; a sequel was released in 1996.
The graphic adventure puzzle video games Myst (1993), Riven (1997), and Myst III: Exile (2001) (all produced by Cyan Worlds) take place in an alternate steampunk universe, where elaborate infrastructures have been built to run on steam power.
The SteamWorld series of games has the player controlling steam-powered robots.
Dishonored is a 2012 stealth action-adventure video game developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Set in the fictional, plague-ridden industrial city of Dunwall, Dishonored follows the story of Corvo Attano, bodyguard to the Empress of the Isles. He is framed for her murder and forced to become an assassin, seeking revenge on those who conspired against him. Corvo is aided in his quest by the Loyalists—a resistance group fighting to reclaim Dunwall, and the Outsider—a powerful being who imbues Corvo with magical abilities.
Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Therefore, steampunk may be described as neo-Victorian.
Steampunk perhaps most recognisably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era’s perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art.
Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or of the modern authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, Stephen Hunt, and China Miéville. Other examples of steampunk contain alternative-history-style presentations of such technology as lighter-than-air airships, analogue computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.
Steampunk may also incorporate additional elements from the genres of fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction, making it often a hybrid genre. The first known appearance of the term steampunk was in 1987, though it now retroactively refers to many works of fiction created as far back as the 1950s or 1960s.
Steampunk also refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century.
Embed from Getty Images
Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.
Steampunk fashion has no set guidelines but tends to synthesize modern styles with influences from the Victorian era. Such influences may include bustles, corsets, gowns, and petticoats; suits with waistcoats, coats, top hats and bowler hats (themselves originating in 1850 England), tailcoats and spats; or military-inspired garments.
Steampunk-influenced outfits are usually accented with several technological and “period” accessories: timepieces, parasols, flying/driving goggles, and ray guns. Modern accessories like cell phones or music players can be found in steampunk outfits, after being modified to give them the appearance of Victorian-era objects. Post-apocalyptic elements, such as gas masks, ragged clothing, and tribal motifs, can also be included. Aspects of steampunk fashion have been anticipated by mainstream high fashion, the Lolita and aristocrat styles, neo-Victorianism, and the romantic goth subculture.
Embed from Getty Images
Steampunk music is very broadly defined. Abney Park’s lead singer Robert Brown defined it as “mixing Victorian elements and modern elements”. There is a broad range of musical influences that make up the Steampunk sound, from industrial dance and world music to folk rock, Punk cabaret to straightforward punk,Carnatic to industrial, hip-hop to opera (and even industrial hip-hop opera), darkwave to progressive rock, barbershop to big band.
Embed from Getty Images
Joshua Pfeiffer (of Vernian Process) is quoted as saying, “As for Paul Roland, if anyone deserves credit for spearheading Steampunk music, it is him. He was one of the inspirations I had in starting my project. He was writing songs about the first attempt at manned flight, and an Edwardian airship raid in the mid-80s long before almost anyone else….” Thomas Dolby is also considered one of the early pioneers of retro-futurist (i.e., steampunk and dieselpunk) music. Amanda Palmer was once quoted as saying, “Thomas Dolby is to Steampunk what Iggy Pop was to Punk!”
Steampunk has also appeared in the work of musicians who do not specifically identify as steampunk. For example, the music video of “Turn Me On”, by David Guetta and featuring Nicki Minaj, takes place in a steampunk universe where Guetta creates human droids. Another music video is “The Ballad of Mona Lisa”, by Panic! at the Disco, which has a distinct Victorian Steampunk theme.
A continuation of this theme has in fact been used throughout the 2011 album Vices & Virtues, in the music videos, album art, and tour set and costumes. In addition, the album Clockwork Angels (2012) and its supporting tour by progressive rock band Rush contain lyrics, themes, and imagery based around steampunk. Similarly, Abney Park headlined the first “Steamstock” outdoor steampunk music festival in Richmond, California, which also featured Thomas Dolby, Frenchy and the Punk, Lee Presson and the Nails, Vernian Process, and others.
Please remember to catch my Talk Show: Unveiling the Obscurities on Evolution Pop Every Tuesday at 2pm CST!