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Author Topic: What is the punk in Steampunk.  (Read 13547 times)
Jaynee sims
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« on: September 29, 2011, 02:46:46 pm »

Im new to this so please forgive me if I say anything silly.Ok here I go.

I can understand the whole Steam thing in Steampunk ,all retro looking tech etc. But what about the punk element,whats that about. I dont quite get it I can see the punk ethos in some areas making and so on.But in others events sometimes look really corporate all money based.Im cofused.
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« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2011, 02:59:35 pm »

Steampunk (the name for the Genre not the genre its self) was spun from Cyberpunk although much of the works classed as Steampunk clearly predate this they had no collective name at the time, Cyberpunk was first used as a title for a short story where the word "punk" refered to a "change in social order" in the plot. so its pretty safe to assume it has similar meaning in Steampunk.

so in short Steam (technology) Punk (Society and structure)
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« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2011, 03:01:42 pm »

The 'Punk' element refers mainly to the DIY ethic that runs strong through the heart of steampunk, people having a go and sharing ideas, rather than be led from the centre.

There are few rules within steampunk, we have no leaders, we are free to determine for ourselves what is 'steampunk' and that interpretation might well vary from one individual to the next, but we all have this loose but vaguely common interest which brings us together.

There's also the punk coming through in the sense that we are rebelling against 'modern society', spurning the mass-produced, mass market commercial world in favour of craftsmanship, uniqueness and style.

Events, by their very nature, usually require someone to act as co-ordinator/organiser, especially where money becomes involved (venue hire, artist hire, etc) so the larger events do necessarily appear more commercially driven even where, as with the VSS-organised Asylum, it's done on a not-for-profit basis (and I take my hat off to the VSS for making such a splendid event happen)

And of course, some of the music is definitely in the punk genre (TMTWNBBFN fr'instance) and I have been known to mix my tartan bondage trousers into a steampunk outfit  Cheesy
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 03:12:39 pm by Mécanicien de Vapeur » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2011, 03:02:02 pm »

I'm new to this so please forgive me if I say anything silly. OK here I go.

I can understand the whole Steam thing in Steampunk, all retro looking tech etc. But what about the punk element, what's that about. I don't quite get it; I can see the punk ethos in some areas - making and so on. But in others, events sometimes look really corporate - all money based. I'm confused.
Folks in the Marketing / Advertising world are
"Makers", too - they cast about for breaking
trends and then attempt to mainstream them
in hopes of "Making" a profit from them.

Parasites need love, too.   Wink
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« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2011, 03:09:53 pm »

You need to understand that the name "Steampunk" does not define the movement, scene, genre or community.  It was a joke term coined by KW Jeter many years ago that has come to be a label/signpost for people who share an interest.   In that sense neither "steam" nor "punk" has an overbearing nor defining character for what goes on under the banner of steampunk.

Even so many people do use both terms as indicators and inspiration.

Try to get two punks to agree on what punk is and you will find disagreements.  There is no way therefore that you will get two steampunks to agree on the punk element of the scene.

You can try it and it usually ends up with pretty earnest and entrenched discussion but at the end of the day:

STEAMPUNK IS WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE....STEAMPUNK IS WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE....STEAMPUNK IS WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE

That is - it is down to the individual and your take on steampunk is going to be different to someone elses.  Even so we tend to concentrate on the interests we share rather than the divisions.

With regards to events - there are lots of events which are free and spontaneous from flashmobs and punknics to pubmeets and camps.

There are also events which are fee paying.  Some are corporate - if by that you mean they are run as a business with a view to making a profit.  Others are simply paying their way - running the event has costs and these have to be met somehow.

The best way for you to really get a feel for it all is to spend some "face time" with other steampunks and attend a few get togethers.
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2011, 03:20:29 pm »

sorry i did give kind of a literal translation there, but between us you have everything you should need to answer your question
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Dr Fidelius
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2011, 03:45:24 pm »

It's a joke, son.
We have, however, embraced the joke. If "punk" has any meaning, then it refers to a rejection of mainstream values. We reject the shallow plastic materialism of the modern world, we show our disdain for the creeping meatballism of modern life by being polite, well-read, respectful and encouraging of each other, and delighting in the well-made physical item. We celebrate the individual and the sense of adventure.
Here, sit down and have a cup of tea and we can have a nice civil talk about it all.
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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2011, 04:23:31 pm »

You can try it and it usually ends up with pretty earnest and entrenched discussion but at the end of the day:

STEAMPUNK IS WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE....STEAMPUNK IS WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE....STEAMPUNK IS WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE
That is - it is down to the individual and your take on steampunk is going to be different to someone elses.  Even so we tend to concentrate on the interests we share rather than the divisions.
This is the most important thing to remember.  When you ask the question, "What is the punk in Steampunk?" you need to avoid looking for THE answer and instead look for YOUR answer.  This community can be very helpful in offering ideas and suggestions, but you have to decide for yourself.

My answer?  I like to focus on the dystopian Dickensian aspects of a hyper-industrialized Victorian society.  That's where the "punk" is for me.  However, I definitely do not expect anyone else to automatically agree with me or even enjoy that aspect of the scene.  But we can still talk about it, and that's the fun.
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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2011, 05:09:09 pm »

I assumed it was from the meaning of punk as "trash, rubbish" - as used to refer to flammables used to start a fire. However, having gone searching in dictionaries, I came across this little (Victorian) gem:

punk

1896, "inferior, bad," also "something worthless," earlier "rotten wood used as tinder" (1687), probably from Delaware (Algonquian) ponk, lit. "dust, powder, ashes;" but Gaelic spong "tinder" also has been suggested (cf. spunk "touchwood, tinder," 1582). Meaning "Chinese incense" is from 1870.


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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2011, 05:24:25 pm »

Unfortunately Lady Chrystal that is definition which has been postulated after the fact as it were.

When Jeter first coined the term he was referring to his shift from the Cyberpunk genre to stories set in a Victorian inspired world.  In Cyberpunk  the characters are predominantly outside the conservative (wage slave/suit/corporate) society and are clearly inspired by "punk" as it manifested itself in the early eighties in the US.  The punk in steampunk could therefore be reasonably surmised to be from the same root therefore.

HOWEVER - and this is crucial - steampunk as it currently exists is NOT dependent upon Jeter, his definitions nor his ideas.  The punk element is now an optional part as chosen or defined by any individual steampunk.

THIS DOES MEAN - that your definition is perfectly valid...

...but only for yourself however. Grin

(as I know you know and understand so this is not directly aimed at you dear lady but as a discussion around the topic.)
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« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2011, 05:28:50 pm »

Aha - thank you for elaborating, Sir.

We had difficulties earlier this year in Chepstow, with the Waltz on the Wye. People would ask why we were dressed as we were - and get very confused by the term "punk". Which is why I sided with the "punk = rubbish" explanation.

And yes - one of the delights of Steampunk is that we all define it differently. :-D

(And another is that we enjoy a good discussion!)
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2011, 05:49:47 pm »

*Looks at playlist...looks at the jacket from high school and college that was a DIY job and covered in studs, pins, and patches*  I put the PUNK in steampunk!   Grin  Carry on.  *quietly slinks away to listen to The Misfits*
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« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2011, 06:20:33 pm »

*Looks at playlist...looks at the jacket from high school and college that was a DIY job and covered in studs, pins, and patches*  I put the PUNK in steampunk!   Grin  Carry on.  *quietly slinks away to listen to The Misfits*

At least you picked a band who were almost there when Punk started.

Classic way to prove the point though D.Oakes but unless you are the long preached of steampunk messiah don't you actually mean:

Quote
I put my PUNK in my steampunk!  
 Grin
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 06:24:24 pm by TimeTinker » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2011, 06:27:55 pm »

*Looks at playlist...looks at the jacket from high school and college that was a DIY job and covered in studs, pins, and patches*  I put the PUNK in steampunk!   Grin  Carry on.  *quietly slinks away to listen to The Misfits*

At least you picked a band who were almost there when Punk started.

Classic way to prove the point though D.Oakes but unless you are the long preached of steampunk messiah don't you actually mean:

Quote
I put my PUNK in my steampunk!  
 Grin

In a few weeks once the songs are written, for now they are separate.   Wink

*Edit:  Unless you count the grunge song I wrote about drinking absinthe at a French cabaret. 
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 06:29:51 pm by D.Oakes » Logged
helenelizza
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« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2011, 06:49:48 pm »

I love this!

remember it is about what might have been
so it is exactly what you want it to be
and it should be about having fun - that is the point for me

enjoy!!

 Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2011, 07:12:37 pm »

Where is it? Why it's just after the 'steam' bit! Tongue
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« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2011, 09:07:21 pm »


It would probably be reasonable (in hindsight) to interpret the 'punk' as reflecting the fact that SP is obviously distinct from the standard issue cultural norms, or to put it another way its something that you actively choose to peruse rather than a default way of life.

But as TimeTinker rightly says it's probably not that helpful to take the 'Steampunk' label too literally, since it originated as a somewhat ironic description of what is now just one aspect of SP.

It's important to remember that Jeter didn't in any way 'invent' Steampunk, he simply coined a term to describe a very specific literary trend.

It's probably safe to say that a lot of the people now into SP were either into it long before the term was coined or would have had very similar interests anyway. Let's fact it Victorian culture covers a lot of ground and had been mined by designers and artists almost since it stopped being contemporary.

You could even argue that the arts and Crafts movement were saying a lot of the things that the maker side of the community is interested in even while Victoria was still on the throne. You could go even further and say that in many ways SP is actually a continuum of certain Victorian and Edwardian ideas, certainly in respect to taste and visual arts.
 
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« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2011, 01:20:21 am »

Steampunk's variable definition makes any real movements within it impossible. You gentlemen would do good to read more Aristotle and less postmodern bunk about popular movements! The lack of organization within steampunk is the reason it is doomed to fail at implementing any kind of social change. As such, while it may attempt to "punk" society, in the end it has and will utterly fail to do so. The title "punk" then is purely rhetorical.

V/r,

~SO
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« Reply #18 on: September 30, 2011, 01:43:41 am »

Steampunk's variable definition makes any real movements within it impossible. You gentlemen would do good to read more Aristotle and less postmodern bunk about popular movements! The lack of organization within steampunk is the reason it is doomed to fail at implementing any kind of social change. As such, while it may attempt to "punk" society, in the end it has and will utterly fail to do so. The title "punk" then is purely rhetorical.

V/r,

~SO

But SO you seem to be assuming that there is an agenda for social change and a drive to be a "real" movement.

There is an inherent tendency to establish social norms within a group of people sharing a common frame of reference and this is evident in steampunk to a lesser or greater degree based upon the individual. This is in and of itself a "social change" but there is no generalised movement towards affecting wider social change.  (There may be some individuals or sub groups which do seek such but they do not represent the majority of steampunks.)

I think the point that steampunk is NOT attempting to "punk society" and that the "punk" element holds no inherent meaning or value to the wider steampunk community is the point most of us are making.

I am afraid your point may well be rhetorical therefore.
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« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2011, 01:48:17 am »

Steampunk's variable definition makes any real movements within it impossible. You gentlemen would do good to read more Aristotle and less postmodern bunk about popular movements! The lack of organization within steampunk is the reason it is doomed to fail at implementing any kind of social change. As such, while it may attempt to "punk" society, in the end it has and will utterly fail to do so. The title "punk" then is purely rhetorical.

V/r,

~SO

But SO you seem to be assuming that there is an agenda for social change and a drive to be a "real" movement.

There is an inherent tendency to establish social norms within a group of people sharing a common frame of reference and this is evident in steampunk to a lesser or greater degree based upon the individual. This is in and of itself a "social change" but there is no generalised movement towards affecting wider social change.  (There may be some individuals or sub groups which do seek such but they do not represent the majority of steampunks.)

I think the point that steampunk is NOT attempting to "punk society" and that the "punk" element holds no inherent meaning or value to the wider steampunk community is the point most of us are making.

I am afraid your point may well be rhetorical therefore.

And those of us within the movement who have goals of affecting wider social change tend toward steampunk more or less as a matter of taste or as a source for symbolism and not as a vehicle in itself.   

So yes, I second TimeTinker. 
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« Reply #20 on: September 30, 2011, 01:50:28 am »

Steampunk's variable definition makes any real movements within it impossible. You gentlemen would do good to read more Aristotle and less postmodern bunk about popular movements! The lack of organization within steampunk is the reason it is doomed to fail at implementing any kind of social change. As such, while it may attempt to "punk" society, in the end it has and will utterly fail to do so. The title "punk" then is purely rhetorical.

V/r,

~SO

Oh. We're supposed to be trying to make a lasting change to society? I knew I was doing something wrong -- I was just here because I found a group of people who seem to have read many of the same books that I have, and so are likely to get my jokes.
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« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2011, 01:53:45 am »

It's you, and it's us... and if you aren't steampunk it's just us.

*Looks at playlist...looks at the jacket from high school and college that was a DIY job and covered in studs, pins, and patches*  I put the PUNK in steampunk!   Grin  Carry on.  *quietly slinks away to listen to The Misfits*

At least you picked a band who were almost there when Punk started.

Classic way to prove the point though D.Oakes but unless you are the long preached of steampunk messiah don't you actually mean:

Quote
I put my PUNK in my steampunk!  
 Grin

In a few weeks once the songs are written, for now they are separate.   Wink

*Edit:  Unless you count the grunge song I wrote about drinking absinthe at a French cabaret. 

Am I the only one that thinks this is going to come back to haunt us? They shall speak of D.Oakes, and the wonders he did in times of old...
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« Reply #22 on: September 30, 2011, 02:04:54 am »

I'm just hoping that your social goals, Mr. Oakes, don't mess with mine! You know how hard it is to start of a social revolution on your own? Last thing I need is you going and starting a different one! Wink
~Longeye~
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« Reply #23 on: September 30, 2011, 02:10:43 am »

Steampunk's variable definition makes any real movements within it impossible. You gentlemen would do good to read more Aristotle and less postmodern bunk about popular movements! The lack of organization within steampunk is the reason it is doomed to fail at implementing any kind of social change. As such, while it may attempt to "punk" society, in the end it has and will utterly fail to do so. The title "punk" then is purely rhetorical.

V/r,

~SO

Really?

Well buggery, I didn't board this train to join some social revolution! I'm disembarking at the next stop, and taking my entourage of strappingly handsome young collegiate field researchers and Lascar manservants with me. On, to find another movement - preferably one without an agenda-slash-obligation to achieve global transformation!
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« Reply #24 on: September 30, 2011, 02:12:18 am »

Not gonna lie, I don't have much else to do in life but become famous.   Grin
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