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Author Topic: Aren't 'steam punk' items that don't work a betrayal of the genre?  (Read 4016 times)
cossoft
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« on: January 27, 2016, 03:24:23 am »

I have some questions.  As I understand it, and not wishing to stereotype the whole community, isn't steam punk a genre based on Victorian engineering per se?  I don't know where the general community's understanding of it originates, but for me it's typified in the media /literature of H G Wells, Wild Wild West and the Nautilus.  Some of those things were powered by steam, but also incorporated rudimentary electrical circuits and wasn't the Nautilus nuclear powered?

In all those examples, the steam punk devices functionally operate.  [I concede the time machine, but who knows  Roll Eyes ]  Steam tractors are clearly a pinnacle of steam punk. In more enlightened jurisdictions than the UK, steam punk weapons such as flame throwers and the Steam Gun (Sally Lockhart) could be built and operated.   Other quasi engineering come scientific devices such as the galvanometer or telegraph had functional mechanical parts that the community often transplants to non functional items.  There is nothing stopping us from still building and using these devices even though Fluke and Twitter are available.  Could there be anything cooler than a voltaic pile driven, heavy brass telegraph key streaming Morse to a mobile text number?

The men and women of steam punk often wear top hats and corsets.  Perhaps visa versa too.  That is Victoriana though, not steam punk.  Simply adding goggles does not substantially alter that.  Neither does gluing plastic cogs onto a jewellery box.  In fact you won't find a single antique Victorian jewellery box featuring gears or copper pipes.  Only the steam punk ones.  Is this not a betrayal of Victorian engineering and a perversion of their cultural norms? 

Victorians appreciated smart clothing, art as well as engineering. Yet these were never conflated.   Picture the Victorian adventurer sitting beside his steam belching brass contraption.  Wearing a plain velvet smoking jacket he sits on a, albeit beautifully carved, wooden chair.  This all requires engineering but not necessarily art skills.  The Victorian device can be beautiful solely in it's conception and functionality.  Clearly my interpretation would reduce the opportunity for most to participate, but cave diving is unashamedly not for the many either.  Perhaps I will be accused of ultra orthodoxy or elitism.  Or perhaps there has been a sacrifice of authenticity on the alter of popularism.

As the genre evolves, I see a predominantly white educated male demographic which from economics 101 means large discretionary spending power.  The inevitable commercialisation of steam punk has already been alluded to by others elsewhere in this forum. Surely it cannot be long before we find steam punked baked beans and steam punk tailored insurance.  If we then insist “well it's all steam punk isn't it,”  and let ruthless marketing departments impose a blanket dogma upon us; that would be the final betrayal.  Brunel would turn in his top hat.

This all leads me to ask:-

Should steam punk be reserved only for those with engineering skills?

Could there be a more targeted characterisation of "Functional Steam Punk"?

Is it really real steam punk if it doesn't work at all?

Is this post too long?
 
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Maets
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« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2016, 03:46:41 am »

This could be interesting.

I am very much a fan of functional steampunk, but also a fan of nonfunctional steampunk.  Some of my work is very functional, although it does not use actual steam.  Some of it is designed with function in mind, ie a steam weapon that does not actually fire but looks like it could.  Some it is more a model of what would be a functional piece if made on the appropriate scale with a little adjustment to physics, ie airships.

Not too many fans of just glue a gear on it here at Brass Goggles. But there is room for everyone.
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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2016, 03:51:21 am »

Being a newish member of the Steampunk community (Three years now), and two on brass goggles, I would say that you are going into dangerous territory. Although Steampunk is based o  the Victorian age, it is in no way  direct replica of its morals, values, and ideas. We have an openly gay section on Brassgoggles, while Victorians has the green corsage (something like that). Also, with Victorian influences, not everyone knew how a steam engine worked, just that it did. And for fear of shutting out those who so righteously belong in the group just because they cannot tell a cog from a shaft does not make sense. This is also due to the punk in steampunk. It means to be rebellious and independent. And not all steampunk is functional. An arm gatling gun? Tesla guns, airships in the fantastical capacity we design and subdue them too, even our clothing, are all just remnants of an earlier time, that we, the creator, have decided to augment.

Beauty and function, as I once posd this question, are in the eyes of the beholder. What I view as function, you view as aesthetic.

It is steampunk if it does not work, as steampunk is fantasy in the first place. And your definition of an end result of "working" is different than mine or the creators, which is a beautiful part of steampunk that keeps it unique. We are a unique, view crossing, pan-accepting subculture. So yes, limiting is bad.

The post, along with this one, should not really even be necessary. There is no point in prohibit and castigate those with no engineering expertise. That would even limit people from finding out about steampunk.

And to make the hyperbole about steampunk beans and a steampunk huge marketing is purely out of proportion.

And finally, we do not need a targeted section of "functional steampun" because of my above stated reasons. No need to separate.

I am sure others will chime in, but this is what I believe, and have seen others on the forum post like. Good day! Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2016, 08:04:45 am »

Some of it is designed with function in mind, ie a steam weapon that does not actually fire but looks like it could. 

Mr Maets hits the (brass) nail on the head (with his steam hammer).

Many of us - I certainly include myself - are somewhat less than competent when it comes to putting things together, but the important thing is we have fun trying.  And yes, while 'stick a cog on it' is something of a cliche, some of us will still do it as part of the 'punk' side of things.  Rebels to the core, we are.

But returning to the point (sorry; tonight's cocktail was rather a good one!); it's not important that steampunk creations do anything. But it's splendid if they look like they should.  We all know that your ray gun isn't able to produce a stream of luminiferous aether, but that it looks like a ray gun is the main thing.
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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2016, 09:42:15 am »

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
I'm not a fan of cogs, myself, as a decorative motive. I much prefer using filigree and graceful lines to the objects I make, including my time machine!

Let's not forget the other meaning of punk- to pull someone's leg. I'm of the opinion Steampunk owes a great deal to Monty Python, myself.

In any case, you've raised some interesting questions, cossoft. I'll be looking forward to reading the ideas of our fellow steamers.

I remain yours,
Prof. Cecily
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elShoggotho
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« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2016, 10:32:10 am »

The problem isn't so much the underattempting, but the praise it earns. The Regretsy blog had a point, some things deserve finger pointing and ridicule. I mean, why put up any effort beyond the minimum necessary if you earn praise for it anyway? Glue some gears on, call it steampunk, especially if making something outstanding would take more effort and earn the same amount of praise.
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Drew P
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« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2016, 01:27:10 pm »

Yeah, you're right....we're all a bunch of fakes. You caught us, now the movement is dead. Everyone remove your goggles.
*awww, grumble, grumble.........*

Of course then, this would go for Dieselpunk, Clockpunk, those that do Cosplay, damn, might as well shut down those horrible Cons, too.  Crap, they're called 'cons'.....right there infront of our faces.........

Seems a little silly to take some things so literal.

As a point if this was meant for good discussion, it seems a bit late and useless. IE: should we just stop doing aything that is creative?
Maybe I need more sleep.
Maybe I don't.
Will it really be sleep?
Or am I just closing my eyes?
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2016, 02:13:40 pm »

Short answer "No!"
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Maets
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« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2016, 02:19:34 pm »

As a friend of mine likes to say when asked if his pieces "work".

"Yes, they work to inspire your imagination."
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Dr Fidelius
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« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2016, 02:22:48 pm »

I refuse to limit my imagination to that which is functional.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2016, 02:27:10 pm by Dr Fidelius » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2016, 02:50:15 pm »

Personally, i value more the cultural aspect than the technical aspect of steampunk. Like every fiction genre, is daydreaming at the base.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2016, 02:52:51 pm by chicar » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2016, 03:13:48 pm »

Steampunk isn't real. It's a fantasy.
However Steampunks are very real and I lean more towards the social interaction.
The fact that so many are skilled at designing, creating, building, writing, painting, sewing, etc. just creates a great interest where said social interaction is enhanced enormously.

But do I really care if an item is functional or decorative or is restricted to a set of faux Victorian values or spurious time-line. Not one jot.
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« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2016, 03:26:16 pm »

completely functional steampunk would be absolutely dangerous! in many cases, at least.
looking like it could function is something that I think is important though, why else would you carry something around?
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« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2016, 06:16:59 pm »

Steampunk occupies the world of 'what if' not 'what is'; if my imagination outstrips my technical skills I don't consider myself any less steampunk.
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« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2016, 08:56:47 pm »

Steampunk isn't real. It's a fantasy.
However Steampunks are very real and I lean more towards the social interaction.
The fact that so many are skilled at designing, creating, building, writing, painting, sewing, etc. just creates a great interest where said social interaction is enhanced enormously.

But do I really care if an item is functional or decorative or is restricted to a set of faux Victorian values or spurious time-line. Not one jot.

This-----------^

If I want to discuss engineering reality,  there are plenty of other places I can do that.  Having stated that,  we don't exactly shy away from discussing engineering reality in this forum.  Just read the Meta Club section.  Steampunk is just a subset of reality where we speculate what reality would look like if we played with the universe a bit.  Both in alternate timelines and the physical laws.
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« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2016, 09:00:08 pm »

I like to make things with some sort of functionality, but that's just my personal preference. Creating within the Steampunk genre is essentially a art form, so really the only function that is required is to be interesting, intriguing and captivating.

Yours.
Miranda.
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elShoggotho
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« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2016, 09:07:57 pm »

It doesn't strictly HAVE to be real, but it should look like it could be. In a steampunk universe, the laws of physics are fundamentally different anyway. Retrofitting a wood and brass case to modern gadgetry works just fine, but in the end, your steampunk pocket calculator should look more like a Curta than like an electronic device. Inspiring imagination is a good thing, stretching suspense of disbelief isn't.
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Richard H
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« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2016, 10:15:36 pm »

well I dont know about steampunk beans but I can recognize a can of worms when I see one.
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« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2016, 05:04:04 am »

Steampunk beans?  About 18 years ago I remember watching the TV commercials about an American company, Bush's canned beans,  featuring the CEO, Jay Bush, and his talking dog, Duke.  The punchline of the commercials was that the dog was a liability because, as a talking dog, he could try to sell the secret family recipe for Bush's Beans.  Perhaps Dukes' puppy (would have to be after 18 years) is behind the "Steampunk Beans" as some sort of marketing campaign.
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« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2016, 05:19:11 am »

For some things, yes, & for others, NO!...  For examples, think of the repercussions if someone made a fully functional steam ray gun...
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« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2016, 05:20:40 am »

i See Steampunk as Fostering Creativeness & Fun, Don't Take it So Seriously that You lose Sight of that!a Brother of Mine once had a Pair of Goggles that Screamed Steampunk Before i Knew the Term. Don't Ask Questions that can Become like a Double Edged  Sword,OK?  Didn't mean to Sound like a Nutter, but on Another Forum i go to, Some Are So Serious they Take The Fun out of Things!
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cossoft
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« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2016, 05:55:35 am »

And to make the hyperbole about steampunk beans ...



Good day Sir too!

You've pulled my chain now so I offer this: cookingsteampunk.blogspot in defence of my argument.  How far behind can the beans be?  Someone might already be reaching for a bolt handled brass saucepan and some haricots.  I also offer Steampunk Dragonflies indeed. And is public liability insurance tailored to the nuances of a stream punk rally so unimaginable?

My issue isn't with these people.  Those dragon flies actually look pretty good to me, and coincidently  I have some hand made copper ones on my living room wall.  I don't call them steam punk though.  They're art.  As the genre's popularity spreads, it leads to dilution of the concept to accommodate everyone's tastes.  I fear that we risk reaching a saturation point where all is steam punk, with the lowest common denominator being the words "steam" and "punk".  I dread the banality of ubiquity.  You might fear with me because it's coming.  Look at the general public's perception of steam punk.  What do you see?  Corsets and hats.

I was floating the notion of a return to core engineering values that made Victorian Britain great.  You might think of it as a tightening up of the specification.
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« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2016, 07:25:13 am »

Is this post too long?

Yes.
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Prof. Cecily
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« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2016, 09:02:39 am »

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
...I was floating the notion of a return to core engineering values that made Victorian Britain great.  You might think of it as a tightening up of the specification.


An excellent notion, sir.
Though I'd take it farther and include core craftsmanship values, also the core values of scholarship, manners, politics and food. Especially food, of course.

I think we're all of us at BG quite aware that steampunk splendidness is born of painstaking devotion to the subject at hand; who hasn't been staggered by the Antikythera Mechanism Build thread?
 http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,43364.0/topicseen.html

Or Miss Miranda's delightful Christmas ornament?
Finally finished my contribution. Here are (most of) the bits I started with:



A few baubles, a tin left over from last year's Christmas presents, and bits from pump-soaps. So, after some cutting, painting and lots of spraying, here is Her Majesty's Airship Yule:









She's an arctic scout - hence the sleds and all the running lights for the long, long nights north of the arctic circle.

Yours,
Miranda.


Both projects represent the very best of steampunk to me.

I remain yours,
Prof. Cecily


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Maets
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« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2016, 02:22:03 pm »

And Cossoft - we are all looking forward to seeing your contribution to the world of steampunk creativity. Be it functional, fantasy or just fun.
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