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Author Topic: What is Steampunk, really?  (Read 3234 times)
Aemilia
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Wales Wales



« on: April 27, 2015, 07:51:15 pm »

I've been really interested in steampunk for a while now but I've always been an observer, recently I decided I was going to take the plunge and try to join the community. I'd say I know more than most about the Victorian era, Gothic and other important movements during this period than most people my age. However when I started looking into steampunk and what makes something steampunk all I've been met with is contradictions. I've been told it's all about being historically accurate but women are wearing trousers and skirts above ankle level in their costumes. That it's all about the mechanics of the era but not everything that has gears and the goggles is really steampunk. That it's a subculture, That it's a genre That its a fashion. I've been told you need a persona but every list I look at has a completely different list of archetypes to choose from. I'm so lost I literally feel like I'm stuck in the middle of a tundra of conflicting opinions. The only things I've found online that everyone seem to agree on are very basic or vague.

Can someone just tell me what steampunk actually is? All I want to do is take part but I'm too scared to do anything in case it's the wrong thing.
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Argus McJohnsten
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rovingtriker
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2015, 08:05:41 pm »

The horribly great thing is that there are no true boundaries. Since it's all fiction based, everyone can interpret it in their own way. At least that's what I've gathered.
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Find out what you cannot do, and then, go out and do it.
Aemilia
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« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2015, 08:08:09 pm »

I get that it's subjective but I cant even find a base to work off Sad
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Knight Walker
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« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2015, 08:09:45 pm »

I get that it's subjective but I cant even find a base to work off Sad

I good base is your imagination.  Grin
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Atterton
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« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2015, 08:10:00 pm »

It's a genre, the rest is just garnish.
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Aemilia
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« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2015, 08:20:02 pm »

But surely if their are no rules and guidelines everything could be classed as steampunk?
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Atterton
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Only The Shadow knows


« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2015, 08:23:18 pm »

Only if you remember to glue a gear to it.
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Major Vincent Smith
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« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2015, 08:29:05 pm »

This has been asked before, and I remember we agreed that it's much easier to define what isn't steampunk than what is! My personal definition of steampunk is pretty wide...some say electricity isn't steampunk, I say it really is! (E.g.:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

EDIT: Tinkergirl herself makes a pretty good definition in the FAQ post in this very board (Link for the lazy: http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,66.0.html)

EDIT2: "All I want to do is take part but I'm too scared to do anything in case it's the wrong thing" There's no such thing as the wrong thing in steampunk really!  Cool
« Last Edit: April 27, 2015, 08:31:50 pm by Major Vincent Smith » Logged

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Aemilia
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Wales Wales



« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2015, 08:34:31 pm »

Thanks Major Smith, You've been a big help
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Maets
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« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2015, 09:16:49 pm »

Brass Goggles is steampunk.  Just take some time to look around.  Notice all the different sections.  You will see lots of variations.  None of it is more or less steampunk than the rest of it.

Welcome to BG, good luck, and we look forward to you sharing in the various conversations.
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Sludge Van Diesel
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« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2015, 11:19:55 pm »

I've been told you need a persona 
NO you do not
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von Corax
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Prof. Darwin Prætorius von Corax


« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2015, 12:08:32 am »

I've been told you need a persona 
NO you do not
Ya beat me to it, Sludge old chap.

Some people enjoy roleplay, and some don't. Some enjoy costuming and some don't. Some build gadgets, some create artwork or illustrations, and some merely discuss what it means to be a Steampunk.

Some will create a persona out of "whole cloth." On the other hand, when I am Professor von Corax I am simply myself, only moreso.

To help us answer your question more completely, please tell me: What was it that attracted you to Steampunk in the first place?
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Colonel Hawthorne
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« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2015, 03:34:36 am »

Greetings, Aemilia.  Welcome to BG and to the wonderful, confusing world we've chosen.

One of the popular themes wherever steampunks gather is what is, and isn't, steampunk.  And it's rare that everybody agrees; we pretty much do our own individual things and enjoy ourselves.  That might be Rule 1: if you're not enjoying it, it probably isn't steampunk!

Do you have to be historically accurate?  No.  Much of steampunk is certainly based on Victorian/Edwardian styles, but the way I see it the 'punk' gives permission to play.  Queen Victoria wasn't steampunk, but give her a ray gun and she probably is.  External corsets would never have been countenanced back in 1850 but they're one of the most visible signs of steampunk (possibly now a cliché, along with goggles, but don't let that put you off).  If you find a Victorian skirt but would prefer it not to brush the ground, shorten it.  Search BG for 'bifurcated women' and scandalise your community by wearing trousers.  And don't worry about using colour - one of our local group was most upset when somebody claiming to be 'an expert on steampunk' told her her outfit wasn't steampunk because 'it's not brown'.  Balderdash!  Rule 2: people who say they're experts on steampunk probably aren't.

Do you need a persona?  Entirely up to you.  Some, as you've seen, are vehemently against it.  I like mine; he's flexible enough I can do almost anything with him.  Some people have a new persona for different occasions.  Pick somewhere in the continuum (none - one - several) you're comfortable with.  Speaking only for myself, I think it helps guide what one's next outfit looks like if one has some idea of who's wearing it (the explorer, the scientist, the pirate ...) but it's entirely up to you.  There's probably a Rule 3 in there somewhere.

As others have said, explore BG and you'll see there are many different ways to be steampunk.  Always remember Rule 1.

And in conclusion, permit me introduce a slogan for a t-shirt I've just thought of and may do one or two of for my own use:

Steampunk.  You keep using that word.  I don't think it means what you think it means.
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Colonel Sir Julius Hawthorne
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http://capitalsteampunknz.org

Whatever did we do before retro-futurism?
Maets
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« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2015, 03:41:21 am »

Steampunk.  You keep using that word.  I don't think it means what you think it means.

That's great!
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VampirateMace
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United States United States


Mein Hexapod


« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2015, 04:45:36 am »

Colonel, will you be making your t-shirts available for purchase at some point? 

Aemilia, once you've had a look around, it's really about deciding what Steampunk means to you. As stated it's simply a genera, which leaves it pretty open to interpretation. Consider the horror genera for example; there's only one rule, it's supposed to be scary. That's why we have living dolls, swamp monsters, shark filled tornados, vengeful spirits, serial killers, mummies, vampires, werewolves, giant spiders. . . eh, you get the idea. Scary is subjective, not everyone is afraid of the same thing, and just the same, not everyone invasions the Victorian world with modern/futuristic amenities the same way (or a modern/futuristic world with Victorian aesthetics if you prefer).

Don't be afraid to just try something. You'll probably find you just know if it's Steampunk or not once you've done it. And if you run into elitists who want to tell you you're wrong, and Steampunk needs to be one thing or another. . . RUN LIKE HECK!
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von Corax
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Canada Canada

Prof. Darwin Prætorius von Corax


« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2015, 04:52:18 am »

The Three Rules of Steampunk, According to Darwin Prætorius von Corax:
  • If you aren't enjoying it, you're doing it wrong.
  • There are no rules, only guidelines. Feel free to colour outside of them.
  • See Rule #2
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Aemilia
Gunner
**
Wales Wales



« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2015, 10:35:23 am »

Well I've loved learning about the Victorian era since I was about 7-8ish, I really got into the Gothic literature and Gothic/Romanticist poetry when I was about 12 so my knowledge and love just grew from then on. Then in year 11 I had to do my first independent art project and sort of stumbled onto steampunk by accident. I was amazed that there were people who were keeping alive the things I loved most about the things I'd read about, they were no longer pictures in books or my imagination they were real and tangible and that blew my mind. So I based my project on that and conducted lots of research into it because of my art. That's pretty much it.  
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SeVeNeVeS
Immortal
**
England England



« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2015, 10:52:55 am »

What is Steampunk, really?.......

Hours of your life spent trudging around carboots, autojumbles, charity shops, antique shops and e-bay
looking for the ultimate bargain that will inevitably become the latest dust harbouring trinket for
shelf, project or costume.  Grin

Only joking, it is what you want it to be, my Steampunk isn't some-elses and that's cool with me.

Just be you, there is no right and wrong as long as you enjoy what you are doing.
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Hurricane Annie
Zeppelin Captain
*****
New Zealand New Zealand



« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2015, 10:53:57 am »

Greetings, Aemilia.  Welcome to BG and to the wonderful, confusing world we've chosen.

One of the popular themes wherever steampunks gather is what is, and isn't, steampunk.  And it's rare that everybody agrees; we pretty much do our own individual things and enjoy ourselves.  That might be Rule 1: if you're not enjoying it, it probably isn't steampunk!

Do you have to be historically accurate?  No.  Much of steampunk is certainly based on Victorian/Edwardian styles, but the way I see it the 'punk' gives permission to play.  Queen Victoria wasn't steampunk, but give her a ray gun and she probably is.  External corsets would never have been countenanced back in 1850 but they're one of the most visible signs of steampunk (possibly now a cliché, along with goggles, but don't let that put you off).  If you find a Victorian skirt but would prefer it not to brush the ground, shorten it.  Search BG for 'bifurcated women' and scandalise your community by wearing trousers.  And don't worry about using colour - one of our local group was most upset when somebody claiming to be 'an expert on steampunk' told her her outfit wasn't steampunk because 'it's not brown'.  Balderdash!  Rule 2: people who say they're experts on steampunk probably aren't.

Do you need a persona?  Entirely up to you.  Some, as you've seen, are vehemently against it.  I like mine; he's flexible enough I can do almost anything with him.  Some people have a new persona for different occasions.  Pick somewhere in the continuum (none - one - several) you're comfortable with.  Speaking only for myself, I think it helps guide what one's next outfit looks like if one has some idea of who's wearing it (the explorer, the scientist, the pirate ...) but it's entirely up to you.  There's probably a Rule 3 in there somewhere.

As others have said, explore BG and you'll see there are many different ways to be steampunk.  Always remember Rule 1.

And in conclusion, permit me introduce a slogan for a t-shirt I've just thought of and may do one or two of for my own use:

Steampunk.  You keep using that word.  I don't think it means what you think it means.

 while we are on steampunk marketing in the antipodes. This years is the 175th  anniversary of  the  NZ land company arrivals  to New Zealand and the signing of our treaty - yet there is no festivities !!!

 This is extremely remiss of the tourism board or whom ever is in charge of exploiting these  promotional activities. The Steampunk Community in New Zealand will have to  fix  this!
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Dr Fidelius
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United States United States


Professor of Applied Paleontology, Miskatonic U.


« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2015, 01:38:00 pm »

What is "steampunk"? I wil be damned if I know.

All I can tell you is that these people are doing things which are fun and amuse me. They get my jokes and references. And it gives me an excuse to wear tweed, carry a pocketwatch and grow a handlebar moustache.
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The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not represent any other persons, organizations, spirits, thinking machines, hive minds or other sentient beings on this world or any adjacent dimensions in the multiverse.
Fairley B. Strange
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« Reply #20 on: April 28, 2015, 01:51:14 pm »

What is "steampunk"? I wil be damned if I know.

All I can tell you is that these people are doing things which are fun and amuse me. They get my jokes and references. And it gives me an excuse to wear tweed, carry a pocketwatch and grow a handlebar moustache.

Seconded - you really should start with a well-groomed moustache, then expand to a nice pocketwatch... everything after that is simple...
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Madasasteamfish
A clanger waiting to be dropped......
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09madasafish
« Reply #21 on: April 28, 2015, 02:20:19 pm »

I don't think I can add much more to the discussion than what's already been added, but I can add this:

The first and only rule of the VSS (the folks who organise the weekend at the asylum festival) which perfectly  encapsulates Steampunk for me:

BE SPLENDID!
In what you do, how you dress and in how you act.

You reference some of the contradictions in Steampunk, but that's what makes us Steampunks rather than re-enactors. We may well look to the 19th Century but we do so through modern eyes (and with modern views on gender, race, sexuality and clothing) which makes it a complicated issue. Ultimately, Steampunk is whatever you want it to be and whatever you do with it.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2015, 04:59:37 pm by Madasasteamfish » Logged

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Aemilia
Gunner
**
Wales Wales



« Reply #22 on: April 28, 2015, 03:57:33 pm »

Thank you everyone, you've helped answer a lot of my questions. The community here is so friendly Smiley

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Kevin C Cooper Esq
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« Reply #23 on: April 28, 2015, 04:16:39 pm »

Of course there must be rules, if you want to know what they are simply forward £25 to me. Paypal accepted.
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Maets
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« Reply #24 on: April 28, 2015, 04:18:43 pm »

Of course there must be rules, if you want to know what they are simply forward £25 to me. Paypal accepted.

Such a deal!
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