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Author Topic: What *isn't* Steampunk  (Read 11037 times)
19th Century Space Pilot
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« on: May 14, 2010, 06:32:59 pm »

Rather than rehash the question of 'what is Steampunk' - which is quite impossible to define, as it is a 'know it when I see it' issue - I wish to ask the question of whether we can know what, most certainly, isn't Steampunk.

This should be interesting...
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Steamgrue
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blackgrue
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2010, 06:34:34 pm »

I'll start right off the bat and say internal combustion engines are not steampunk.

That said they *CAN* be dieselpunk which is awesome in and of itself.
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Uploaded Lobster
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Phylum: Arthropoda; Class: Victoriana


« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2010, 06:43:57 pm »

Cheese in a can. Even if it's a brown can, labeled in a script font. Even with cogs on.
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markf
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2010, 06:46:45 pm »

Of course internal combustion engines are part of the steampunk genre since the earliest ones in motorized vehicles were created in 1862 by A. Bear de Rochas, and anything which existed over 40 solid years of Victoriana cannot be excluded. Perhaps nuclear, or definitely fusion power cannot be steampunk.  markf
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Steamgrue
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blackgrue
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2010, 07:07:15 pm »

You are correct, I should have done research.

Revision: Plastics are not steampunk, though primitive ones can be Dieselpunk, and they're certainly atomicpunk.

With the exception of Celluloid plastics which can be considered new and novel but not a very good building material.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2010, 07:08:55 pm by Steamgrue » Logged
jringling
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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2010, 07:09:40 pm »

I'll start right off the bat and say internal combustion engines are not steampunk.

That said they *CAN* be dieselpunk which is awesome in and of itself.


ummm... http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,23741.msg537796.html#msg537796
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ValancyJane
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2010, 08:21:25 pm »

Of course internal combustion engines are part of the steampunk genre since the earliest ones in motorized vehicles were created in 1862 by A. Bear de Rochas, and anything which existed over 40 solid years of Victoriana cannot be excluded. Perhaps nuclear, or definitely fusion power cannot be steampunk.  markf

Ah, but one part of Steampunk is the "what if" factor, such as what if Charles Babbage had completed the difference engine.  So I must pose the question, what if Madame Currie made larger stides in her work and discovered how to harnes nuclear energy?  Would that not be considered steampunk?

I think if you can't somehow tie some element of Victorana to it, it isn't steampunk.
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blackgrue
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2010, 09:04:35 pm »

I'll start right off the bat and say internal combustion engines are not steampunk.

That said they *CAN* be dieselpunk which is awesome in and of itself.


ummm... http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,23741.msg537796.html#msg537796


You said that after I was corrected and revised my statement.
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akumabito
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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2010, 10:01:46 pm »

I'll start right off the bat and say internal combustion engines are not steampunk.

That said they *CAN* be dieselpunk which is awesome in and of itself.

How are IC engines inherrently non-SP? The first useful examples came around right at the end of the 19th century. Plus, if SP is about Victorian-era Sci-Fi, then IC engines are as much part of SP as warp drives are part of the modern sci-fi repetoire!
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Dr Neko
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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2010, 10:27:49 pm »

hypersonic Jets, Formula One Race Cars, "Space Age" Ceramics, Laser Etched Circuitry, Tower of Dubai and  Solid State Drives. Well all of this and more without modification and artistic liscence.
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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2010, 10:38:50 pm »

Well, there's a can o'worms:

Personally, and I don't expect anyone to agree with me, I follow the reasoning that any progressive, forward thinking society (especially one as technologically upwardly-mobile as the British Empire circa 1899) would co-opt and absorb any new inventions, and bend them to their will, both aesthetically and technically: to that end, nothing is out of bounds: Bakelite telephones, aluminium steam engines, carbon fibre masts on steam turbine yachts, fibre optic transatlantic telegraph lines- it would have happened...

Essentially, EVERYTHING is potentially 'steampunk'...
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Hikaro Takayama
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« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2010, 10:46:43 pm »

You are correct, I should have done research.

Revision: Plastics are not steampunk, though primitive ones can be Dieselpunk, and they're certainly atomicpunk.

With the exception of Celluloid plastics which can be considered new and novel but not a very good building material.

Actually, Bakelite and similar resin plastics could be considered steampunk (especially since Bakelite was invented in 1907)...
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Narsil
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« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2010, 10:47:58 pm »

What you'll never get is a concise definition of x is SP and y is not. It's not as simple as that.

As far as I'm concerned its not about a specific period in history so you can;t say that anything which existed between 1800 and 1900 is automatically 'steampunk'.  Bear in mind that people like Thomas Telford, Robert Stephenson and Isembard Kingdom Brunel were innovators using the latest materials and processes at their disposal, materials and processes which they understood intimately.

It's not anything which is made out of brass, its definitely not anything with brass paint sprayed on it.

Its also not 'anything you want it to be' this is a silly cop out phrase which means absolutely nothing, a fuzzy definition isn't the same as no definition.

I think that the absolute core of SP is individual creativity and innovation, stuff created with your own hands and brain rather than anything mass produced to a formula, this largely puts certain types of technology out of reach, not because they break the fundamental laws of steampunk but because you can't make them in a shed.

As far as I'm concerned its really all about using materials and technology and process and really understanding and getting to grips with them not doing a faux Victorian makeover on something about which you have not the faintest clue of its fundamental workings. Building a carbon fibre and epoxy rocket in your kitchen is infinitely more steampunk than buying a top hat and spraying a laptop with brass paint.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2010, 10:58:41 pm by Narsil » Logged







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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2010, 10:54:06 pm »

I've been seeing random buttons on a lot of "steampunk" stuff, are they edging out gears as a steampunk marker?

I mean, some buttons can be Victorian and/or steampunk but buttons themselves are not in my book.
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Mr. Boltneck
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« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2010, 11:01:34 pm »

Clearly, it is hard to say when any era stops. Sort of like William Gibson's famous statement about the future already being here, but not being evenly distributed.
That said, I personally tend to look at some of the major shifts in science and engineering. For example, 19th Century science is largely characterized by a sense that everything was knowable, and rationally deducible. If you read a late-19th Century text, you sort of get the impression of "well, we just have to paint in a few corners, and we'll have it all wrapped up." Not surprising, really, as they had developed unprecedented ideas in huge areas of biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. They had the start of organic chemistry, the Periodic Table, Maxwell's Equations, the theory of evolution through natural selection, and so forth.
Then, right at either side of the turn of the century, you get the first stirrings of trouble in this happy paradise: Mach, Boltzmann, Lorenz, Einstein... All of a sudden, the smooth, reliable, Newtonian world view is in trouble. Special Relativity, the Photoelectric Effect, the explanation of Brownian motion, and the foundations of the quantum-mechanical, statistically-based concepts which give us our modern physics, chemistry, and engineering all start here. All the things that bring us lasers, transistors, integrated circuits, computers, information theory, and so on.
So rather than trying to draw an exact line between specific technological developments, I tend to look at the mainstream world-view of science and technology—the thinking of the people who made those developments. There isn't a nice clean line to draw, but it gives me some sort of methodical way to think about how I want to divide things, should a sudden urge to taxonomy overwhelm me.
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Narsil
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« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2010, 11:25:49 pm »

Clearly, it is hard to say when any era stops. Sort of like William Gibson's famous statement about the future already being here, but not being evenly distributed.
That said, I personally tend to look at some of the major shifts in science and engineering. For example, 19th Century science is largely characterized by a sense that everything was knowable, and rationally deducible. If you read a late-19th Century text, you sort of get the impression of "well, we just have to paint in a few corners, and we'll have it all wrapped up." Not surprising, really, as they had developed unprecedented ideas in huge areas of biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. They had the start of organic chemistry, the Periodic Table, Maxwell's Equations, the theory of evolution through natural selection, and so forth.
Then, right at either side of the turn of the century, you get the first stirrings of trouble in this happy paradise: Mach, Boltzmann, Lorenz, Einstein... All of a sudden, the smooth, reliable, Newtonian world view is in trouble. Special Relativity, the Photoelectric Effect, the explanation of Brownian motion, and the foundations of the quantum-mechanical, statistically-based concepts which give us our modern physics, chemistry, and engineering all start here. All the things that bring us lasers, transistors, integrated circuits, computers, information theory, and so on.
So rather than trying to draw an exact line between specific technological developments, I tend to look at the mainstream world-view of science and technology—the thinking of the people who made those developments. There isn't a nice clean line to draw, but it gives me some sort of methodical way to think about how I want to divide things, should a sudden urge to taxonomy overwhelm me.

YEah I think that a very valid point. I think a big part if it is your view of what is possible and achievable. Perhaps one of the key characteristics of the Victorian innovators is that they didn't have 'brute force' engineering methods available to them so they had to com eup with clever solutions to pressing problems, whereas now we have almost the opposite situation where, certainly from a cinsumer perspective its actually a marketing driven evolution where needs are being created rather than satisfied and we've almost got more technology than we know what to do with.

A lot of stuff, especially computers etc are sold purely on performance numbers rather then their ability to actually solve a particular problem.

One of the things I find deeply appealing about Victorian era technology is the way people found more and more elegant solutions to problems using quite basic technology. It;ls the difference betewwn solving a problem and battering it into submission with heavy wads of cash.

To use a modern analogy the Bugatti Veron leaves me absolutely cold as a  piece of engineering, it had so much cash thrown at it that it bloody well should be good, I find cars like Morgans and Caterhams much more exciting since they do very much the same thing for  a fraction of the price by being clever and creative and a bit weird.

I hate marketing BS about 'made without compromise' etc, I like compromise, its at the heart of all creativity and engineering innovation, the trick is to pick the right compromise . The alleged choice we haev now is betwen products so bland and generic ans similar to each other that we forget about the possibility of choosing one quality over another and god forbid, the possibility  that we should have to think about our choices becasue they might actually have some consequences.

So perhaps we shodl stop asking questions along the lines of 'whats the absolute easiest way that I can do this, to the minimum possibe standard?' and look more towards 'how do I learn the best way to do this ?'
« Last Edit: May 14, 2010, 11:46:16 pm by Narsil » Logged
MWBailey
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« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2010, 12:13:23 am »

Well, there's a can o'worms:

Personally, and I don't expect anyone to agree with me, I follow the reasoning that any progressive, forward thinking society (especially one as technologically upwardly-mobile as the British Empire circa 1899) would co-opt and absorb any new inventions, and bend them to their will, both aesthetically and technically: to that end, nothing is out of bounds: Bakelite telephones, aluminium steam engines, carbon fibre masts on steam turbine yachts, fibre optic transatlantic telegraph lines- it would have happened...

Essentially, EVERYTHING is potentially 'steampunk'...

Steam Worms?
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« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2010, 12:44:26 am »


There's a paralell with the old 'what is art?'debate. I'm prepared to swallow the idea that anything can be art but that doesn;t mean that everything is art.

A far more useful question is 'what is good art?' and I think that people need to start being prepared to make value judgements on and individual basis rather than politically correct sweeping statements that everything is equally valid.

It's much more interesting to debate how interesting or relevant or successful something is that what label should be attached to it.

Rather than endless debates about the generalities of what is and isn't SP lets perhaps look at some specific things and discuss exactly how they may or may not have something to say about individual's interpretations of SP and indeed the actual quality and success of the item in question.

One problem is that its quite difficult to get decent critique going on a web forum since the tendency is to be either polite or rude rather than constructive. A possible way round this might be to have critique thread wher all responses are phrased as questions


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Khem Caigan
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« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2010, 01:09:21 am »

Perhaps nuclear, or definitely fusion power cannot be steampunk.

" There's something about Radium that is
deliciously Victorian. "

Henry Moseley's Atomic Battery just misses
the mark by 12 years. But, hey, we fudge
a bit for the sake of zeppelins...
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« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2010, 02:36:04 am »

When dealing with a genre that holds amazing inventions as one of it's core concepts the very question "what is not steampunk" could possibly be less steampunk than single object named.

How an object is utilized and applied is possibly a more accurate subject for "steampunk or not" discussions.
It really seems as though the journey and the final results (metaphorically speaking, in some cases, as many inventors never truly finish) are the better indicators.
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« Reply #20 on: May 15, 2010, 03:03:58 am »

Neon hotpants.

Bright orange fake tan.

Pride and Prejidice.

White running shoes.

White running shorts.

Prednisolone.

Hedgehogs.
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Angus McCarthy
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« Reply #21 on: May 15, 2010, 03:39:31 am »

I believe Cpt. Brandsson and the good Mr. Narsil have hit the nail on the head, so to speak. Like I was saying in the "Steampunk Plays" thread, it is hardly about whether a thing IS Steampunk, but rather if it can be made Steampunk.
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jringling
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« Reply #22 on: May 15, 2010, 03:40:37 am »

Neon hotpants.

Bright orange fake tan.

Pride and Prejidice.

White running shoes.

White running shorts.

Prednisolone.

Hedgehogs.

I must call shenanigans on this statement! Hedgehogs are almost the most steampunk land mammal there is, second only to platypuses...
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jringling
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« Reply #23 on: May 15, 2010, 03:41:46 am »

When dealing with a genre that holds amazing inventions as one of it's core concepts the very question "what is not steampunk" could possibly be less steampunk than single object named.

yup...
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lord Ghia Direpond
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« Reply #24 on: May 15, 2010, 01:18:03 pm »

My dear Flynn, are you suggesting that HEDGEHOGS are a "modern" invention? Hmmm well i never! you  learn something new every day, this chap called DARWIN must be right as animals appear to be "evolving" before our very eyes!!
Sir i tip my hat to you as i obliterate as many of these creatures as possible, in a few years they will be as big as horses and be completely covered in unicorn spines!
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