A trend that is hiding in plain sight, steampunk has been on the rise for decades now. Not sure what it is? Follow along and I will let you in on the details, you just might like it.
Personally, I am not someone who goes to great lengths to show off steampunk style, but I do love the intricate details and craftsmanship that often goes into it. In a beautiful blend of fantasy, Victoriana, and gadgetry its complex designs are a sight to behold. Steampunk fosters creativity and incredible imagination in its fans by challenging them to see the world in a new way. Combining the elegance of the 19th century with the ingenuity of steam power and new technologies creates the world set in a romanticized utopia that is steampunk.
Originating in the 1980’s, steampunk has been gaining popularity for two decades. It was after cyberpunk came into being that steampunk took root as a “tongue in cheek” variant of cyberpunk forming its own movement. Although the two subcultures have an influence on one another, they are different because cyberpunk often had dystopian themes and steampunk usually doesn’t. The term “steampunk” is believed to have been coined by science fiction author K.W. Jeter as he was searching for a common term to reference the works of himself Tim Powers, and James Blaylock. Other main contributing authors of the steampunk culture are H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Mary Shelley.
There are two main types of steampunk; historical and fantasy. Historical steampunk film and literature is usually set in historical settings (the 19th century) presenting an alternate history of some kind. It would have real places and historical figures, yet different technologies and events. Often times it takes place after the industrial revolution has begun but before electricity has become widespread, with steam power or spring propelled gadgets being the emphasis. Historical steampunk also emphasizes science fiction more than fantasy. A few examples include: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Girl Genius (web comic), Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the sky, and most recently the new Sherlock Holmes.
Fantasy steampunk film and literature will usually be set in a fantasy realm that includes legendary creatures and steam-era technologies. This variant of the steampunk movement is much more widespread and can be found in many of today’s video games, movies, and books. Video games like World of Warcraft include it with characters such as the tech savvy gnome race. Other movies include it as well; for example the Golden Compass, Hellboy and even Disney tried their hand at it with Treasure Planet.
To the individual fan of steampunk style (a steampunker) it provides a new channel for self expression. Corsets, gowns, petticoats, bustles, frock coats, vests, and top hats are blended with oversize goggles, ancillary wings, compasses, and other various DIY accessories, sometimes including military-inspired garments. There are talented few who can craft for themselves intricate hair falls that make it appear that they have electrical cables sprouting from their heads; others can craft shiny brass robotic looking limb covers to make it appear as if they were part cyborg from an older era. There are also the tinkerers who like to create retro looking versions of modern technologies such as cell phones, computers, and flash drives. Finally there are those who would simply cosplay the idea and dress up on occasion in their steampunk best.
In 2006, the steampunkers finally got a convention, SalonCon. There were musicians such as Voltaire and Abney Park, authors such as Catherynne M. Valente and Ekaterina Sedia, and even a parade hosted by G.D Falksen and Evelyn Kriete. In addition to that there were various artists all showing their amazing works, workshops and panels, ballroom dance instruction, and a séance. This event sounds like it would have been a ton of fun to go to and it really sucks that SalonCon is no longer in existence. However, I did some hunting and found another con for all of you to flock to! It’s called Steamcon II and it is happening November 21st of this year in Seattle Washington. If that isn’t in your local areas… try Googling steampunk conventions and you will likely find them near you as well since the movement has gained so much popularity.
Overall it’s a style that I have been in love with for years and I thought I should bring it to the forefront for all to see.