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Author Topic: What exactly is Steampunk to you?  (Read 1661 times)
VictoriaC67
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« on: November 10, 2015, 05:35:59 am »

Hello all, I'm doing a research project on Steampunk, and one of the objectives is to attempt to give a definition to Steampunk. I've been reading a lot of different opinions, and I'd like more! So please respond with what Steampunk means to you, I'm interested in how others define it. I'm also looking at Bioshock Infinite through a Steampunk lens, and I'm trying to prove it IS a Steampunk video game, so if you have any opinions on specifically Bioshock Infinite please feel free to share.
Thank you to everyone who responds!  Smiley
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Shadow Of The Tower
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« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2015, 07:41:07 am »

Good luck...seriously, this is something that avowed steampunk argue about constantly.

First off, you probably shouldn't listen to me as I am pretty much a small minority in my view. Most people view steampunk as an artstyle that mixes victorian age aesthetics with science fiction concepts.

But if your interested I think my views most closely match the one put forth in this essay by Bruce Sterling:

http://2008.gogbot.nl/thema/


"We are a technological society. When we trifle, in our sly, Gothic, grave-robbing fashion, with archaic and eclipsed technologies, we are secretly preparing ourselves for the death of our own tech. Steampunk is popular now because people are unconsciously realizing that the way that we live has already died. We are sleepwalking. We are ruled by rapacious, dogmatic, heavily-armed fossil-moguls who rob us and force us to live like corpses. Steampunk is a pretty way of coping with this truth.:


Quote
I'm also looking at Bioshock Infinite through a Steampunk lens, and I'm trying to prove it IS a Steampunk video game, so if you have any opinions on specifically Bioshock Infinite please feel free to share.


Is there anyone who thinks it isn't?  What is the argument against it being steampunk. I've never heard anyone call it otherwise.
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Hez
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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2015, 08:13:37 am »

Fun

and a great excuse to make things
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Sludge Van Diesel
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« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2015, 10:35:17 am »

An excuse to dress a bit more flamboyantly than I would otherwise.  A source of some excellent music & a lot of my friends.
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Caledonian
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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2015, 10:38:25 am »

steampunk, to me, is...

a place to meet friends, to see their new projects. a place to look the way whatever I want, whatever I like. just... it's home.
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2015, 02:34:07 pm »

This article has defined some types of people involved in SteamPunk, which actually explains some other aspects of the genre:
http://steampunk.wonderhowto.com/forum/15-types-annoying-steampunks-0142496/

For myself, right now, I'd say SteamPunk is about things/fashion/characters that look Old-Timey (aka Victorian) but have a sci-fi or fantasy twist. 

The sci-fi element is usually framed with technologies and styling that is still Old-Timey with wood, brass, steam and pistons rather than hi-tech modern elements/appearance. 

Thus, Steampunking your smart phone means embedding it in a fancy wooden box with cranks and dials and such, because an iPhone itself is already modern and not Steampunk.

Some Steampunk contrivances are faux-functional, meaning they are meant to look "real" and have some fictional purpose, but for costume (and technological) constraints, doesn't actually do anything.

Conversely, other Steampunk devices are adaptations/modifications of real working technology, wrapped in a veneer of "Victorian" or deconstructed and re-worked in a larger "antique" style.  Thus, that iPhone might be wrapped in a box that supplies power and a classic handset with only the screen showing.  Or it might be disassembled and it's constituent parts re-worked so the mechanical elements are handled by larger more time period appropriate components.
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Dr Fidelius
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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2015, 03:20:13 pm »

Personal opinion only. You are warned.

To me, Steampunk is an attempt to recreate the aesthetic of Victorian / Edwardian adventure fiction in our daily life. It can be as subtle as wearing a vest and bowtie to work, and has a definite appreciation for craftsmanship.
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Crescat Scientia
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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2015, 04:21:23 pm »

We are still the Victorians, nor have we left them behind.

Their attitudes, their prejudices, their opinions on what mattered and what one ought to do, their ideas of boundaries and nations, their hobbies and obsessions still underly our nations and their actions and decisions on what is important and what should be addressed and what is invisible and what is not.

I saw someone here say that steampunks lament that so much today is cheap and made of plastic, unlike the elegant items of Victorian manufacture. 

But the Victorians themselves lamented that so much at that time was cheap and made in factories, unlike the elegant handcrafted items of earlier centuries. 

Look at photographs of Victorian interiors and life and you will soon realize that the Victorians didn't live half so romantically as we think. 

Steampunk, to me, is built on the Victorians' own daydreams of what  life could perhaps be.  It is an aesthetic and an exploring of possibility and alternatives using handcrafts and science and creativity and imagination.
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Kensington Locke
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« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2015, 04:35:27 pm »

Personal opinion only. You are warned.

To me, Steampunk is an attempt to recreate the aesthetic of Victorian / Edwardian adventure fiction in our daily life. It can be as subtle as wearing a vest and bowtie to work, and has a definite appreciation for craftsmanship.


In the scenario of going to work, with some victorian clothes, you seem to indicate that would be steampunk.

Is that because it is the juxtaposition of antiquated dress in a modern environment?

Or...

If you dress up in a victorian suit, with no other adornments, and attend a steampunk event, are you steampunk?

To me, the occasion has some context.

In the former example, the worker is being deviant from the norm by dressing up (rather than down).

In the latter, dressing like an extra from a Dickens play doesn't differentiate from dressing as an extra in a Dickens play vs. being SteamPunk (TM).

As an example, in a few weekends, I'll be attending Dickens on the Strand in Galveston.  Lots of people dressed up in victorian garb.  They aren't inherently steampunks because "everybody" will be dressed in victorian styles.  The steampunks will have something extra that differentiates them from the crowd.

Taken as an extreme, my view could define other folks' way as BadWrongFun, which is not my intent.  But in a hobby with a lot of "hey look at what I did!", seeing a costume that looks like a period recreation is about the same as looking at somebody dress up for a civil war re-enactment or for the RenFair.  It's missing that "deviation" that I expect to look for.
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Kensington Locke
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« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2015, 04:48:23 pm »

..snip..
Steampunk, to me, is built on the Victorians' own daydreams of what  life could perhaps be.  It is an aesthetic and an exploring of possibility and alternatives using handcrafts and science and creativity and imagination.


I think this is apt.  I usually see part of this in the crafting and sci-fi/fantastical nature of contraptions accompanying a steampunk, rather than just a victorian outfit.

But the point is to enact a "better tomorrow, today" with an emphasis on manners, quality, detailing, rather than mass produced homogeneity.

iPhones are nice and sleek looking, but a designer could build a rectangle that is absolute black with crisp sharp corners and that could win an award for "awesome smartphone design"   The modern design aesthetic looses what the old-timey design had.  Which was usually natural (looking) materials, hand-made/crafted, primitive components (by our standards) and lots of detailing.  I have the Tesla watch, which is a really cool piece (probably more dieselpunk, but whatever).  However, it technically is lacking the extra swirls and engravings a Victorian object would have.  That's the extra detail sauce most victorian artifacts feature.

Here's a pic:
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Atterton
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« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2015, 06:21:42 pm »

To me steampunk is a genre.
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J XD
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2015, 07:15:45 pm »

- short answer:  google it!
- for those who want more, I have cobbled this together and find it sums things up nicely:
"Steampunk" refers to a science fiction genre inspired by industrialization, the Victorian era, and the work of writers such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.  The "steam" refers to steam power - as in fire-breathing machines of antique locomotion. 
The "punk" is an important reference to an outsider attitude.
Steampunk is characterized by romanticism, fantasy and optimism about the possibilities offered by technology.  Featured in steampunk literature are homemade inventions with grandiose scope, such as machines for time and space travel.  Steampunk literature has in turn inspired steampunk fashion, resulting in a quirky style of dress that mixes Victorian clothing with futuristic accessories and a bit of rebellious, do-it-yourself flair.   Goggles, gears, Bowler hats and corsets are popular in steampunk style, but the key is to make it your own.
-- am I the only one who fids it odd spellcheck is saying steampunk needs checking on a steampunk forum.....
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Kensington Locke
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« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2015, 07:49:49 pm »

I like J XD's definition, too.

On spellchecking, I believe it is Chrome's built-in spell checker that is faulting on "steampunk" as it offers "steam-punk" or "steam punk"

My own thoughts are trending toward visual things, basically what flags something as SteamPunk to me is that it has design/fashion traits common for the genre.  It's more about tangible things than a philosophy.

A guy in jeans and a metallica shirt saying "I'm a steampunk!" is getting a big "no you're not" in my head.

Likewise, a person who reads a lot of steampunk also is not steampunk themselves because of it any more than a guy who only reads westerns is a cowboy.  There's looking and acting the part that I suspect cross that threshold.  Fiction may inform or re-inforce the idea to the person, but just reading does not cross the finish line in my book.  Pun intended.

This is where that list I posted in the beginning lists the Definers and "Everything's Steampunk" extremes of behavior.  I think a "know it when I see it" rule of thumb is a bit more flexible that strict guidelines Definers might have, and a bit more useful than "Everything" being valid as its so broad as to be useless.

I would suspect that for practical purposes, everybody on this forum (barring trolls or truly clueless) is a steampunk or interested in steampunk because they cross the threshold of making an account to discuss the topic of steampunk.  That eliminates a requirement to have created or worn something (given that I can't see what you're wearing/made).  That line of thought should grant grace to anybody conversing reasonably on the topic.




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Cora Courcelle
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« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2015, 10:28:24 pm »

To me steampunk is a way of expressing part of my personality, although to be honest I am still trying to work out exactly what part.  I hope the journey of discovery continues for a long time as I am really enjoying the scenery.
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Atterton
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« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2015, 10:38:35 pm »

Probably the brown part.
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Aubreay Fallowfield
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« Reply #15 on: November 11, 2015, 01:52:23 pm »

steampunk to me is friends, crafting and walks in costume (with walking canes of course)
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Miranda.T
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« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2015, 08:46:03 pm »

Inter-dimentional time-travel without all that tedious faffing about with worm-holes and paradoxes.

Yours,
Miranda.

P.S. seriously - a chance to visit, if ever so briefly and approximately, past times and times that never were.
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MWBailey
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« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2015, 03:02:26 am »

Personal opinion only. You are warned.

To me, Steampunk is an attempt to recreate the aesthetic of Victorian / Edwardian adventure fiction in our daily life. It can be as subtle as wearing a vest and bowtie to work, and has a definite appreciation for craftsmanship.


In the scenario of going to work, with some victorian clothes, you seem to indicate that would be steampunk.

Is that because it is the juxtaposition of antiquated dress in a modern environment?

Or...

If you dress up in a victorian suit, with no other adornments, and attend a steampunk event, are you steampunk?

To me, the occasion has some context.

In the former example, the worker is being deviant from the norm by dressing up (rather than down).

In the latter, dressing like an extra from a Dickens play doesn't differentiate from dressing as an extra in a Dickens play vs. being SteamPunk (TM).

As an example, in a few weekends, I'll be attending Dickens on the Strand in Galveston.  Lots of people dressed up in victorian garb.  They aren't inherently steampunks because "everybody" will be dressed in victorian styles.  The steampunks will have something extra that differentiates them from the crowd.

Taken as an extreme, my view could define other folks' way as BadWrongFun, which is not my intent.  But in a hobby with a lot of "hey look at what I did!", seeing a costume that looks like a period recreation is about the same as looking at somebody dress up for a civil war re-enactment or for the RenFair.  It's missing that "deviation" that I expect to look for.




I perform old-time music with a local dulcimer society; we do a lot of "period" plays, most of which require varying styles of "period' dress, all the way from Runaway Scrape (Texian revolution, specifically the period in which Santa Anna was chasing the Anglo Celtic settlers and empresarios out of Texas or attempting to do so) to Civil War (contrary to popular kneejerk belief, at least three battles, and probably more, were fought on Texas soil) on up through early 20th century (so far, no later than about 1929-1935).

I don't consider the period costuming to be "steampunk," though I have mixed in elements therefrom in my costume for reasons of comfort or convenience
-Willsons brazing or driving goggles to counteract the sun, as my meds and natural genetic makeup make my eyes extremely light-sensitive

-handtooled (by me) leather eyepatch to cosmetically cover my independently wandering eyes - it's an actual named opthamalgic condition involving a genetic defect, and can make people stare at me for a while trying to figure out which eyeball to address when speaking (lol).

-handtooled (by me) leather flute and fife scabbard to carry my Irish flute and folk fife around with me, so that I don't stupidly put the pieces in a pocket and sit on them (which happens to fifers a lot more often than you'd think)

-file knife originally made by the craftsman that I bought it from in the vendors area at a local reenactment, but heavily reworked and retempered by myself into its current form and a much more believable and usable length; I'm told it resembles a sgian dubh(sp?), but that was not my intent when I reworked it.

-other things as they occur to me. I don't get all stupid and carry ray guns to San Jacinto, though (lol).

Steampunk, then, to me is application of old tech to current problems and needs. Yes, it's also the SF I write and the Roleplays I do, but the first definition is the most apt for me.

--at the moment, at any rate. I'm sure it'll change tomorrow or next week...
« Last Edit: November 12, 2015, 03:07:55 am by MWBailey » Logged

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RJBowman
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« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2015, 05:14:18 am »

In my youth I built a construct in my mind that contained all the cool scientific and electrical apparatus that I read about in outdated science experimenters guides, and all the H.G. Wells and Jules Verne books and films that I absorbed, and all the odd gadgets that I ever saw at antique shows, and the crazy gadgetry from films like Willy Wonka and Chitty Chitty Bang Bank and all the various Frankenstein mad scientist and jalopy racing films, and the kinetic sculptures by an eccentric British artist that was interviewed on television, and the mechanical computer that a historic genius had tried to build and failed.

In the late eighties I was just out of high school, and had a notion to create a role playing game based in this realm; I wish I had. I found out that there was already a game called "Space: 1989". A read a little bit of the source book but it somehow just wasn't to my taste.

And I found out that many other people had build similar imaginary realms, and someone had named it steampunk (not a name I would have invented myself).
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pakled
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« Reply #19 on: November 14, 2015, 04:49:23 am »

I don't really consider an 'exactly' to it. I know what I like, but I don't really define it.
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« Reply #20 on: November 14, 2015, 12:33:09 pm »

A reexploration of the victorian era with emphasis on steam powered technology that may have existed.
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Hurricane Annie
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« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2015, 04:06:14 am »



 There will be fisticuffs over this thread

 attacks of the Vapours

 and absolute apoplexy
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frances
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« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2015, 11:45:22 pm »

Do tell us more about your research OP.
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GCCC
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« Reply #23 on: March 23, 2016, 05:24:09 am »

(Paraphrasing from Charles Schultz:)

"Steampunk is a warm, coal-fed brass-works puppy."
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creagmor
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« Reply #24 on: March 23, 2016, 06:26:15 am »

If I were wealthy I would consider myself to be "eccentric". Although not broke, I am badly bent, so I'm just weird. Anyway my tastes are rather eclectic. I like tall ships, almost everything in the *Victorian/Edwardian era, Scottish history and Science Fiction. The simple fact is that Steampunk ticks all my boxes. I guess one could say I became Steampunk upon the release of Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in the 50's

* According to my understanding this was an era where, if one was unhappy with where he was he could pack up and move, particularly in the US, with little red tape and similar hassles. the main exceptions being racial, and class, attitudes, plus medical and communication issues. One can only wonder how many things could have been prevented if there had been cell phones in those days  
« Last Edit: March 24, 2016, 04:08:52 am by creagmor » Logged

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