I’ve spent a long time thinking about this. I have a firm belief that steampunk is as individual as the person who considers themselves one. If it wasn’t, we’d all dress the same and the “punk” part of the name would be redundant.
That being said, there’s no denying that we all share a common theme of interest that draws us into this heady world of invention, brass and tea. There’s such a broad field of design and aesthetic across the culture, that it’s difficult to pin point one exact area that one can say: “That’s steampunk”.
There are many elements that make up steampunk and it would be close minded of anyone to think that they shouldn’t all be considered in their own right. However, they are and that’s why this project has been undertaken. The biggest struggle that I’ve seen online recently is the argument over whether anything can be considered steampunk. Annoyingly my answer to that is yes; with a little bit of no. Let me try to make things clearer:
I firmly believe that anything can become steampunk, but not everything is steampunk.
By that, I mean that you can pretty much take anything in the world and by sticking to some basic guidelines, you can turn it into steampunk. I’ve devised these guidelines to combat the many arguments that appear daily on social media. They’re not intended to be taken as rules. Steampunk has no rules and I’m more than happy to keep it that way. However, in the spirit of maintaining some continuity and in order that we don’t start taking over other sub-culture’s eras, we need to keep within certain boundaries.
Please read Concerning Steampunks first. Links to more indepth articles on the guidelines are contained in the blue headlines.
Guidelines to steampunk:
Aesthetics reminiscent of the late 19th/early 20th century
This would be the Victorian age in Britain and is generally recognised as the “Victorian era”, though it can expand slightly to the Edwardian era. This doesn’t mean you have to dress as a Victorian, but to keep in with the general consensus of the culture, it helps to include references to the those ages.
- If someone says they are a steampunk and that their work is steampunk, then they are a steampunk
Steampunk is so individual, who is one person to say what is and what isn’t steampunk?
Science fiction plays a part in steampunk as much as Victorian
Many people think that steampunk generally ends in the early 1900s, but it in fact can go on further, way out into the far future. The only limit is your imagination.
Create a background
By creating a background for your invention, you can explain areas that others may find hard to see the steampunk in
Be nice and thoughtful, but honest
A lot of steampunk is conveyed through social media. Give your thoughts but be polite and consider they may have a different outlook to steampunk
Steampunk is Victorian Inspired Science Fiction
Victorian science fiction was written by the Victorians in the Victorian era and therefore differs to steampunk which is written in the modern age. We draw our inspiration from the great authors of the Victorian age as well as others who wrote similar work before the term “steampunk” was coined in 1987
These are guidelines that I consider to be a logical approach, but are not at all definitive. I’ve tried to take an open minded approach that can fulfill as many people’s views on what represents steampunk as possible. There are countless other guidelines for particular areas of steampunk, but these will get you started if nothing else. If you feel they could be added to in some way, then please get in touch.