I think most of what needs to be said has been said. Perhaps the only things left to discuss are:
1. Are there any rules to Steampunk? Is it confined to a given period? I guess circa 1900, in your case?
2. How did the subculture of Steampunk expand throughout the world? Is it just UK and the US?
I guess it's only natural that being a type of science fiction, that technology might be central of the genre. And that implies the centrality of the Industrial Revolution. And being a technological movement, whose first expression was found in the invention of the locomotive, then you'd probably realise that that people in Great Britain - and other English Speaking countries, would find most of this aesthetic somewhat... "folkloric" shall we say? After all, the 19th. C saw the peak of the British Empire. And what about the United States, emerging as a global power toward the beginning of the 20th. C? If so, the 19th. C seems to be the "chosen" period, and English Speaking nations are the "hosts" of Steampunk. Does it not seem natural the the movement would be strongest and have started in these two countries?
Well that’s exactly what happened; English Speaking countries came first into Steampunk. But I must say that Steampunk did not stay confined within the English Speaking sphere, for the simple reason that the Industrial Revolution was not confined among English speaking countries - in no small part, because Great Britain was wholly invested in exporting the Industrial Revolution to the rest of the world.
All in all - which regions / countries developed their own Steampunk movements after the English Speaking countries and mainland Europe? What if I told you that non-English speaking countries developed their own Steampunk movements more or less in the same order as the Industrial Revolution Spread around the world in the late 19th. C? How's that for a coincidence? To understand that look at the locomotive as a technological icon.
The locomotive seems to be another one of those clichés in Steampunk, and with good reason: it is the symbol of the technology that was dominant in the period. This technology actually ties the whole world, culturally speaking, during the late 19th. C. So does the locomotive tie all Steampunks globally.
The implication, is of course, that Steampunk can't be limited to the Victorian Era in the UK, of the Gilded Age in the US. Instead, you’d have to take a look at when the Industrial Revolution arrived in other parts of the world. That is why it's so difficult to pin Steampunk to just the Victorian Era (1837 -1901). Instead, you'd have to stretch it to the relevant historical periods in non-English Speaking countries, when the Industrial Era was manifested in their culture. That usually means expanding Steampunk into the Edwardian Period (1901 _1910), and a little beyond, just before the Roaring 20's which belong to another subculture called "Dieselpunk" (I will leave that explanation for another thread).
Look at the the way in which the Industrial revolution was brought to the (formerly Spanish) Americas after the birth of many new independent nations, like for example, Britain's exports of locomotive and railway technology to Mexico, and the role train system had decades between their Independence war (1810-21), and their Revolution (Civil War) of 1910-1920. There's plenty of inspiration for the Steampunk Mexico forum:
The oldest forum in Mexico (Estd. 2011), of which I was one of the founding members (albeit remotely as I live in the US)https://www.facebook.com/Steampunk.Mexico/
Steampunk Subculture Analysis by Vodoo Girl
(Skip to 5:32 to see actual Mexican Steampunks from the "Retrofuturist Mexico Collective" a newer group made of some original Steampunk Mexico members)
The basis for their movement could easily be inspired from these historical scenes and period movies:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_Revolution
Rebel soldiers moving by rail during the Mexican Revolution
And what about the United States' influence in Japan, after Commodore Perry's visit, vis-a-vis the Japanese Meiji Restoration Period 1868 to 1912? Japan very quickly became a military power and an industrialized nation during that period. They merged their culture with Western culture including their clothing. Similar to the way the Mexicans adopted Continental European attire and customs in the historical drama above. The Meiji Period is a perfect starting point for the Tokyo Inventors Societyhttp://www.tokyosteampunk.com/designfesta44report/
At some point Meiji period clothing can also be inspired from historical records and period cinema. Any historical aesthetic you want to study is available online:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meiji_Restoration
And who can forget the role of locomotives in Russia?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Revolutionhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport_in_Russiahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikzhel
To which out forum member and friend, Mr. Morozow, can bring you examples (and hopefully some videos), better than I can...
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Technology in an antiquated sense, yet aspiring to reach toward the future: that is Steampunk. Even beyond our present, toward the future, technology is what ties all Steampunk together.
Steampunk is Industrial Folklore more than anything else in my mind. The Steampunk aethetic is the aesthetic natural to the onset or beginnings of the Industrial Age, which is the most romantic way of representing technology - quite literally, as that is - from a Fine Arts perspective - coincidental with the "Romantic Period."
Steampunk is centered around the 19th. C and beginning of the 20th, because that was the golden era of the Industrial Revolution. These are fantastical folkloric tales of a past that never was but that could have been. And there are no limits to what technology you want to use - as long as it looks anachronistic - as if some terrible time warp had placed the technology in the hands of mid 19th or early 20th. C people.
There is no rule that says that you can't have nuclear reactors or airplanes in Steampunk. Especially when you consider the efforts by Sir George Cayley (1773-1857), Otto Lilienthal (1848 -1896), Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840 – 1916), Samuel Langley (1834 – 1906), and the Wright Brothers, Wilbur (1867 - 1912) and Orville (1871 -1948). Plus the fact that a nuclear reactor is basically a heat generator for a turbine steam engine
... Let your imagination fly.
Now if I really wanted to stretch your mind (assuming you're still reading my post), then I'd tell you that Anachronism is not the only way to "do" Steampunk. Anachriosnism as a literary device, more or less means that you take something from one era, and place it in another. More or less preserving history and geography. England is still England, and America is still America, if not politically, at least geographically. But to really test your Steampunk brain muscles, you have to ask yourself whether Steampunk can be created in an alternate world.
How about a world in which the history is all made up? Where you can't really place the story or plot withing any real know historical period? Then, if you can make that fictitious world look convincingly Steampunk, then the story is not an anachronsim, but rather a "Uchronism" or Uchronia," meaning you can't pinpoint a historical period. Like Robert E. Howard 1930's pulp fictions about Conan the Barbarian. Howard purposely avoided a historical period because he found it to hard to tie in with real historical societies, like the Ancient Greek, for example. The caveat is that you have to make it look believable. I think that one example of a Uchronic Steampunk would be the anime "Trigun," where the characters have a 19th. C Wild West-esque look, but the whole plot takes part in some far unspecified future. What about the TV series "Firefly"?
OK, so let's stretch the mind a little more.... What if the Steampunk world is not even on Planet Earth? Is that possible? Could you device some sort of alien race who undergo some similar Industrial Revolution and 19th C aesthetic? And then by accident or warfare, launch them into space? I would call this style "Virtual Steampunk," because you'd be generating Steampunk out of nothing... no Earth history, nor Earth geography... a universe entirely made by you - but in the Steampunk style.
Perhaps some human like race like the Centauri, in the 1990's Sci Fi TV Series Babylon 5?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylon_5https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centauri_(Babylon_5)
Centauri Males in Babylon 5
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If you really want to get pedantic about it, and would like to have a chuckle at my madness, look at the link below. One night when I was delirious with a high fever, and when I was, apparently, channelling my graduate school mathematics professor, I came with a Steampunk theorem"
The Principle of Virtual Steampunk http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,33164.0.html
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I remain (truly in madness) yours,
Adm. J. Wilhelm
United States Airship Orca