Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan “What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.” It includes fiction with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes.
Medieval Steampunk: Speculative fiction set during the Middle Ages.
Victorian Steampunk: A modern Science Fiction work (post-1930s) that is set in the early parts of the industrial revolution.
Western Steampunk: Science fiction set in the American Old West.
Industrial/Modern Steampunk: Science fiction taking place in the late industrial age, early modern age; i.e. World War 1, World War 2
Examples of steampunk:
Wild Wild West
Final Fantasy 7
The Time Machine
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Definitions are really just guidelines, right?
Whew. I’ve been remiss in editing this thing. Sound like a right pompous prick, don’t I? Steampunk is so much more than a definition compiled by people who think they know something about something. Not saying they don’t, but “definition” is loose here. Steampunk is one of those things that you can define for yourself. There’s only one catch: any technology within the story must be powered by steam.
Unless you’re writing diesel punk, or cyberpunk. Then, you know, the rules can change. Hardcore punks will say “steampunk” stories are defined by their time, they can *only* happen during the British Industrial Revolution (which was much longer than the American counterpart, believe it or not). That’s when steam was huge, and *obviously* the genre is called Steampunk and what was big during the Industrial Revoultion? Steam. So, you know, *thbt*. Calling Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Steampunk is liable to get you beaten with a silver-topped walking stick. While on the other side of the pond, other hardcore punks down play American Steampunk as nothing more than gas lamp romance.
What does it matter what time we define ourselves? Should we be restricted to a time where the Thames was still polluted and Darwin had just “killed” God? Why can’t Victorian age technology go all the way up to WWII? How would the war have played out if the Axis were armed with a mixture of German heavy machinery and Japanese science experiments? Would Europe scramble to put Darwinism and Eugenics to the test in order to match this very real and terrifying threat?
How awesome would that story be?
I love Steampunk. I love imagining what would happen, and I love creating it. One of these days I’ll be one of those guys you see all sorts of dressed up for a Con. I will be that person, because steampunk isn’t about writing it, it’s about living it.
Steampunk is Victorian science fiction, the stuff that could pop out of Victorian days with our technology attached to it. Just powered a different way. That’s why it’s so much fun. It’s a thrill to sit and think; what could happen if….? And besides, it’s much more fun to tinker with history than read about it.
(by the way; Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was an awesome movie. *thbt*)