Brief Steampunk FAQ

Posted by on July 12th,2006

What is Steampunk!?

Very good question, and there are different (but similar) answers out there. Here’s mine: Steampunk is a genre of fiction set somewhere in the 1800’s during the Victorian Era. The fictional part comes in that technology has gone a bit skewed – though the exact methods vary, generally steam-powered devices that would have been impossible or unfeasible at the time are found to exist. Examples include steam-robots, flying castles, under-water bases, moon rockets, time machines etc.

But I know that as…

Yes, Steampunk has many names and very close relations -

  • Victorian Science Fiction – Steampunk by any other name, though possibly leaning more towards fiction actually written in Victorian era, as opposed to fiction retroactively set in Victorian times. Abbreviated as VSF.
  • Gaslamp Fantasy – The Girl Genius equivalent of Steampunk, with more leeway for very tight bodices, slapstick comedy and non-humans. Not set in any real Victorian historical location, Girl Genius has its own time and place.
  • Steampulp – Perhaps if I had the opportunity to rename Steampunk, it would be to Steampulp – the -punk suffix causes a lot of confusion amongst those who imagine it means strife and rebellion.
  • Fireside Science Fiction – A warm and cozy alternative name where decent Victorian gentlefolk may begin their adventure around a fireplace with a small brandy, but could end up on the moon or beyond!
  • Neo-Victoriania – A Japanese originated alternative where the aim is to recreate certain Victorian aspects of life using modern tools and ways. Elegant Gothic Lolita is a variety of Neo-Victoriania, and were this some kind of many limbed diagram, we’d be at our closest point to Gothic in Neo-Victoriania.
  • Wild/Weird West – Specifically focused on the American West in the 19th Century, and you’ll find cowboys and scientists alongside saloon girls and giant mechanical spiders.
  • Voyages Extraordinaire – The title of the series of works of Jules Verne, when he decided to explore the wonders and potential of science and exploration in his tales of adventure. Now almost synonymous with Victorian adventures with a larger than life twist.
  • Scientific Romance – An early, mostly British, name for science fiction, that fell out of fashion, but was also used to describe Verne’s works. Now being used more for nostalgic Victorian based science fiction – just how I like my Steampunk!

I use Steampunk because it’s what I’m used to, and I post about what I believe Steampunk to be. It’s a controvercial topic (just check out the discussion page on the Wikipedia entry) but I’m happy with my own definition. I’m sure you will discover your very own Steampunk flavour or equivalent.

More! More information!

Certainly – for more info on Steampunk genres, you’d be very much encouraged to check out the Wikipedia Steampunk entry.

Other Languages:

I am always interested to know what other words Steampunk goes by, particularly other languages, so if you know of some other words, please let me know.

If you know any more, please do let me know!