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Author Topic: why no medieval steam punk?  (Read 21257 times)
marr5
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« on: January 29, 2010, 03:04:14 pm »

so me being new to steam punk and all, I am probably going to ask an ignorant question.
why no middle ages steam punk? if the library of Alexandria didn't burn to the ground or at least heron's work was saved and expanded upon, I see no reason  why steam could not have caused an industrial revolution in the 14th century or earlier. It would be an interesting clash at least.
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« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2010, 03:24:47 pm »

There is a well known aphorism that states, 'there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers' and I think we can usefully transpose stupid for ignorant in this particular saying.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

marr5, welcome to steampunk and the forum and thank you for a very interesting question, well supported with a valid hypothesis. I tried googling 'steam knight' and didn't come up with anything interesting, so you may have tapped a rich vein of inspiration. Indeed, some makers on here do fashion bracers and other body protection that lends more than a hint to middle ages. In fact, I guess somethings didn't really change much between then and the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Steampunk has a fairly loose interpretation and I think we focus on the Victorians as being contemporary with the benefits that came from the industrial revolution and many like the aesthetic. However, I can think of no good reason why we should not have medieval steampunk, unless, of course, others know better!
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« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2010, 03:30:28 pm »

While that would be an interesting alternate history it wouldn't be traditional steampunk.  Steampunk assumes an alternate history for the 19th century.  Whether it's modern inventions appearing earlier in time than they did (Computers like the Difference Engine for example) or the past brought forward (a modern day based on Victorian principles, designs and technologies), or the envisioning that Victorian science fiction was fact rather than speculation.  

The name came specifically from some particular science fiction books, and while the name might not be totally accurate, it has stuck.

It would be a related topic though...  Just like Dieselpunk is a related topic to Steampunk.  Both posit an anachronistic past combined with some portions of the present.  So, having said that, what would you envision such a world to be like?  What would be so different about the past?  Would society still be predominantly rural and feudal?

Z.
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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2010, 03:31:13 pm »

Actually, if we start with inventors and scientists such as Da Vinci and Galileo, there's no reason that there couldn't be a sort of medieval/Renaissance version of Steampunk.
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« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2010, 03:40:53 pm »

Why no medieval steam punk ?

THERE IS medieval steampunk....mostly medieval fantasy steampunk. Tongue

I talk here of thing like Warcraft or Warhammer or Final Fantasy or Eberron or Chaotic or...or...etc .

But nothing prevent steampunk story happening in our middle-age,really.

Howewer, i use the term steampunk as a very general sens here. Technically the ''steam'' in steampunk refer exclusively to the victorian era. If steampunk as anything to do with steam is mostly a answer who change from who you ask, and the steam prefix mostly refer to the era the powersource was use not the powersource himself. Medieval steampunk would be call middlepunk or candlepunk.

But you can forget this last precision because we usually annoyed by this multiplication of the punk genre so not only we permit  you to use the term medieval steampunk, WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU.


Off course, is now a question of second before someone say something completely opposite to me...the steampunk community is like that...we love so being ill defined.
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« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2010, 03:59:41 pm »

I believe that Steampunked medieval things do play a part in Steampunk, but mainly if they are placed in the Victorian era/style/context. IMHO the Victorians contributed to the concept of a fantastical world in many ways. One is the science fiction that has evolved into what now called steampunk. But they had fantastical ideas about other aspects of the world, and the medieval period was one of them. Just like the renaissance had reenactments or parties based on the Ancients etc, the Victorians looked back at what they thought were the good sides of the middle ages and liked what they saw. The chivalry and courtly love were some of the concepts they would play with. Therefore, the existence of Victorian medieval things is explainable. Therefore, these things can then be steampunked further.

Of course, I have no proof for any of this. It just has always been to me part of what makes up the Victorian romance and culture. And I have been involved in the SCA for over a decade, and that has always been labelled as taking a very Victorian attitude towards the middles ages. It is also one of the reasons I was attracted towards steampunk.

Sorontar
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« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2010, 04:11:37 pm »

my view is that the drark ages would have had to of never happened and the industrial revolution would most likely have taken place in 13-14th centuries to allow all these wonderful technologies to be present by the victorian era, merely medieval steampunk is steampunk history? steampunk before steam if you will....
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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2010, 04:19:20 pm »

Yeah there's no reason not to have a hypothetical medieval industrial revolution, there certainly wasn't anything physically stopping it.

Probably the biggest barrier to technological development was a combination of political instability throughout much of europe and the fact that religious institutions were very effective at discouraging innovative thinking on all levels. In fact the prevailing political and ideological structures generally encouraged the maintenance of the status quo so the idea of innovation in general was pretty alien to most people.

One of the major factors was the growth of a cash rather than land based economy. A lot of the basic skills and technology were in place but one of the big changes needed was to have an artisan/merchant class motivated towards wealth creation rather than relying on income from inherited/conquered land assets.

I think that the key thing is that the industrial revolution wasn't just a random succession of inventions because people suddenly became more innovative, there were a whole series of political, economic and social factors which came together which created the right environment for it to happen eg :

-a cash based economy where there is the potential for manufacturing industry to make money ie there are enough people with disposable income to be able to afford manufactured goods and invest in developing new industries.
-a reasonably liberal society which permits and encourages free thinking and scientific enquiry and is able to accept new ideas and technologies.
-the local geography needs to allow for easy availability of fuel, raw materials etc and distribution of finished products, either by these things being locally available or the means to easily transport them being available.
-social and political conditions need to provide reasonable stability and security.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2010, 04:34:33 pm by Narsil » Logged







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« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2010, 04:46:05 pm »

...and there's some beautiful clockwork mechanisms from the medieval and early rennaisance periods, of course!

Salisbury Cathedral has one dating from the 14th century... and no mention of early clocks would be complete without the wonderful Astronomical Clock in Prague - certainly one of my favourites!

So, even if the metalworking wasn't fully up to scratch for big boilers, we can always go Clockpunk in the middle ages...
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« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2010, 05:15:00 pm »

How about Renaissance Steampunk:

http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,15548.msg325667.html#msg325667

 Grin
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« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2010, 05:18:33 pm »

There's plenty of medieval and Renaissance steampunk out there; we just don't get much of it around here.

There's evidence to support the argument that a feudal society can't really survive an industrial revolution.  You skip too many steps.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2010, 05:20:41 pm by Mr. Hatchett » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2010, 05:48:05 pm »

I saw a Renpunk in Cardiff city centre the other day. He was dressed like Edmund Blackadder, but with goggles and huge boots on. It was pretty awesome.
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« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2010, 08:06:11 pm »

Considering how much the Victorians were influenced and inspired by those eras aesthetically, I'd say it's in there somewhere already !!
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marr5
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« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2010, 08:32:18 pm »

thanks for the replies they been helpful. before I had even considered steam punk I used to play a game called Warmachine (go Cygnar!) and I guess that was my first taste in a steam punk world, granted it was a fantasy setting but then most steam punk is one way or another. I liked the feel of a Medieval type setting with swords and armor, guns and smoke billowing from large monstrous machines.

to be honest I don't really get why everyone likes zeppelin type airships when they don't take much to go down but there is a sense of freedom in the skies. I am more of a Railrunner myself though. give me a good armored train any day. Grin I guess I am more of the Literal crowd when it comes to steampunk- everything (or nearly) runs off of steam. I keep hearing about Tesla coils and death rays but to me that's more of a cyberpunk.... thing (runs away from angry mob Shocked)
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mightygoose
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« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2010, 08:45:56 pm »

raygun, i have never heard of such a device, but can i show you my scintillating phosphorescent waveform caster....
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Gurvan
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« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2010, 08:47:07 pm »

There is something that might interest you :

http://www.webscription.net/p-80-conrad-stargard-the-radiant-warrior.aspx

That is for an ebook version but paper copies might be available somewhere...
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« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2010, 09:05:57 pm »

As mentioned earlier, World of Warcraft has some steamy elements, the gnomes have automatons. I have been on a site in the last few days which has banners for some other RPG with gnomes using mechanics. Also the computer game Arcanum had a mix of medieval and technology I think.
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« Reply #17 on: January 30, 2010, 01:48:55 am »

You might enjoy A Connecticut Yankee in
King Arthur's Court
by Mark Twain, and
Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen by Henry Beam
Piper.

I would also recommend Keith Roberts'
Pavane.
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« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2010, 02:00:11 am »

The Industrial Revolution may very well have come about a couple of hundred years earlier, were it not for that pesky Plague. No respecter of persons, it killed priest and peasant, Count and commoner, intelligent and idiot alike. With half of Europe dead, there can be no doubt that some who would have been talented inventors perished thereby.

Pity, but there it is.

~T
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« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2010, 03:01:12 am »

Leonardo designed a robot!

.... Kinda.

Anyway, thought that might be something relevant to look into.
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LadyAsprin
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« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2010, 03:13:15 am »

If you want to go slightly more modern and mix technology and the Occult look in to John Napier, he invented logarithms and the decimal point but was though to be a 'magician'.

He is the father of engineering.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Napier
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« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2010, 03:33:22 am »

There's plenty of medieval and Renaissance steampunk out there; we just don't get much of it around here.

There's evidence to support the argument that a feudal society can't really survive an industrial revolution.  You skip too many steps.
That's true. A fully fledged industrial revolution in the 13th century would have caused terrible chaos in some ways. But I can't help but wonder about a couple of possibilities. Could you have a steampunk-type industry start with only the upper classes benifiting from it, while the peasants and serfs are still stuck in the middle ages, so to speak, without causing said chaos? What if it came in the middle of the 14th century during the post-plague, post-peasant rebellion upheaval? With all the other changes going on, adding a technological edge there, bringing the Renaissance on early and with added extras, it wouldn't necessarily have made society collapse. What if the steampunk technology was discovered at the height of the Islamic renaissance in the 10th century? That would have put Europe on a strong back-footing going into the Crusades, or rather, as Islam spread further into the continent through Byzantium. The technology (at least the war-mongering parts) would have been adapted into Christendom quickly enough.

For (yet another) Renaissance-ish version, the alternate history 1632 (written/edited by Eric Brust) series might be interesting to you, and Eifelheim by Michael Flynn.
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marr5
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« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2010, 05:54:51 am »

again thank you guys for all your input. (and possible books to read).
though I would guess if Roman Empire had not fallen I wonder what it would have looked like in the medieval ages or the Renaissance. could you imagine a steam punk Roman Empire? Shocked from little I have researched of that time period I know that the Persian Empire had flush toilets (though not as fancy as today's) and the Romans had advanced structures. so it probably wouldn't to have been that difficult for the Romans to have gone all out with steampunking their society. ( though I am more of a fan with Celtic steampunk Tongue

I would imagine that advanced clock works wouldn't have come into play until the Renaissance with Leonardo da Vinci, and that the black plague would have had a different twist and possibly would have made locomotives and other contraptions to take on a morbid feel. ( death trains- trains carrying those that have been hit with the black plague *shudders*)

Choreocrat I agree with you in that the higher the class got the more Renaissance or Victorian it got, and the lower classes would probably would have looked like well a medieval slums. though I would argue that most blacksmiths would have possibly been boiler makers as well and there forge would have been running long enough to have a boiler attached to it.
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« Reply #23 on: January 30, 2010, 07:25:38 am »

yeah, Connecticut Yankee is both Victorian in age, and not a bad read.

I think the chief culprit, James Watt, was just born too late to take part...Wink

Lord Kalvan was more of a different genre, which I've heard of as 'gunpowder gods'...but a lot of fun to read, as I remember.
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« Reply #24 on: January 31, 2010, 06:48:19 pm »

What an intersting thread! Coming from the medieval re-enactment background myself, I can certainly see the strong connection. The Victorians were obsessed with all things Medieval. Aside from the values of honour and chivalry, the world around was heavily influenced. Just look at gothic-revival buildings such as the Houses of Parliament and the Natural History Museum, not to mention Scottish castles and even suburban villas with their romantic turrets. Maybe that's why (and this is just the outside perception of a newbie), the line between Steampunk and Goth is so blurred...... The Victorians were terribly fascinated with the gothic and the macabre along with discovery and adventure.

Perhaps it is simply through Victorian ingenuity, that past, present and future collide giving us Steampunk?Huh You say 'what if there had been an industrial revolution in the middle ages or even Roman era'. To me the Victorians were the first society to appreciate and learn from the past as well as look forward.


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