What Is Steampunk and How it Started
Welcome to Steampunk Frederick!
If you’ve come across this unfamiliar term, that’s gotten you curious – and I mean Steampunk obviously – you are in the right place.
Steampunk is a general term that came from science fiction – which is so realistic and similar to our own real life.
First, to understand what Steampunk is, let’s break it into 2 words – steam, as in a steam-engine; and punk, representing the whole world as well as human nature. Put together we get a world with mechanics and steam-engine based technology.
Imagine a whole world with people, houses, trains, cars and pretty much every technological advancement we know from our daily life – only without electricity.
Usually when speaking of Steampunk, it is presented as a parallel world with a fashion style that mixes the British Victorian era, with 19th century wild west.
Women of this parallel world are elegantly dressed in tight garments that accentuate their feminine features, wearing long skirts, tight girdles, net stockings, and tiny hats (the kind that can be seen on British ladies to this day).
For men it is the cylinder high hats, tall long jackets, white laced buttoned-down shirts, and elegantly designed wrist watches.
And to top this fashion style – for both men and women – Steampunk fashion incorporates mechanical pistons and valves, with spiky studs to add flare to the clothes.
One of the most popular items in Steampunk fashion is none other than the Steampunk Goggles – hip Steampunk glasses that got their high exposure thanks to huge festivals such as the famous Nevada Burning Man, where thanks to the fact that they are sealed all around, people who wore Steampunk goggles were able to see clearly even during the Nevada infamous sand storms and not hurt their eyes.
Who came up with, or “invented” Steampunk?
It is hard to name a single person for coming up with Steampunk – it’s like asking who invented the skinny jeans.
However, early Steampunk characteristics are clearly apparent in 19th century science fiction novels, which seem to have opened a hatch, pardon the pun, to a wide variety of stories and novels in the years to follow.
Early Steampunk novelists
Let us give proper respect to honor some of the pioneers of the Steampunk based science fiction writers are still widely read to these days thanks to their ingenuity and vivid descriptions from their wild imagination:
The French novelist, poet, and playwright Jules Verne who is one of the most recognized pioneers in the science fiction genre. Some of his books were translated into 148 languages! And in his books he wrote mostly adventure tales, including the well known Around The World In 80 Days and the futuristic (very Steampunk in nature) Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Seas about the submarine Nautilus and its Captain Nemo.
The English author H.G. Wells who wrote mainly critical science fiction novels, critiquing the society in which he lived. Wells is the one that coined the term “Atom Bomb” in his novel The World Set Free (1914). Among his most famous literary creations are The Time Machine (1895) and of course The War of the Worlds (1898) which had numerous Steampunk features.
The American humoristic novelist Mark Twain who wrote about the adventures of Tom Swayer and Huckleberry Finn and From The London Times of 1904 in which he mentions the Telectroscope – which is basically the internet LOL.
And last but definitely not least in this list is the female author who has made a great contribution to the Steampunk culture was none other than Mary Shelley – who wrote about Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and his monster who had clear Steampunk features, in a fantasy science fiction story that raised controversy and interest in readers throughout the world.
Where does the term Steampunk come from?
As a matter of fact, the term Steampunk refers to and appears in many science fiction stories and novels, long before it was coined Steampunk.
In literature, the term mostly refers to adventurous, dark goth 19 century-ish literary works, although you can find more advanced and evolved SF tales from the 20th century, and even today.
The term itself first appeared in the 1980’s probably as an ironic version of Cyberpunk, which (similar to Steampunk) is a sub-genre to SF, only that Cyberpunk fiction describes a parallel world (or a futuristic one – you decide) of an alienated technological society, which centers around complex tech and technologically enhancements such as bionic implants (you guys remember Steve Austin?), man-machines and over technologyfication digitalization of the world, whereas in Steampunk we are talking about manual steam based devices.
Where was Steampunk first mentioned?
The term was coined by American novelist Kevin W Jeter, who wrote quite a few novels for Star Trek and Star Wars, as well as 3 sequels to Blade Runner.
He was trying to find a general term for his own works along with the works of famous novelists Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates – 1983) and James Blaylock (Homunculus – 1986).
In the April 1987 issue of the SF magazine Locus they printed a letter from Jeter in which he says “Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of that era; like ‘steam-punks’, perhaps”
The name caught on and defined the genre.
Why do I love Steampunk so much?
To us – myself and the audience of people who follow, create, purchase, sell, watch, and read Steampunk – this is a fascinating world, with magical air, not unlike Harry Potter’s.
Things are creatively, complexly happening there – in a colorful vivid parallel world, imagined yet vitally real.
Anyone who enters this world wants some of it for themselves – don’t you?
Whether it is to create a handmade Steampunk item, or to buy a designed jewelry piece.
You can find people who live in a Steampunk houses, wear costumes and fashionables, along with hats and goggles, not to mention marvelously inspirational art works – and that’s just the beginning.
Here on my website you will find a door into the world of Steampunk – be it the digital part of it, or the physical.
So now that you know a little bit more about the magick of Steampunk, I invite you to explore further through the articles, and to introduce this magical aroma into your life.
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