This article aims to discuss the need or want for creating a background for your steampunk characters, books, products or art.
Because steampunk is so broad and encompassing, you can pretty much do what you like. You will find that most people come to the same logical conclusion about modifications, though. Generally, the consensus throughout the community is that if you build or modify something or draw an attachment or describe a gizmo in a book, then the steampunk parts should have some kind of function. Don’t get that mixed up with them actually having TO function. After all, no one expects you to have that missile firing jet pack actually weapons hot. To that end, it can be worth some time establishing a background to what ever you create; be it a novel, accessory or character. By creating a background, it will actually help you immerse yourself into steampunk more and make your products interesting to look at.
Example: I have a character based on the 1980’s Nightmare on Elm Street horror franchise. Steampunk Freddy is a character I use for photo shoots and to go to Whitby Goth Weekend. I’ve adapted his actual background from the films to fit around the Victorian age which includes an actual road in London called Elm Street and some of his murders being blamed on Jack the Ripper due to the thin slicing blades of his glove which sports cut throat razors.
This part of the guidelines fits into the Punk DIY element. You see, there are plenty of people out there who label their products as steampunk when all they’ve done is glue watch parts to it and given a half hearted attempt at fatiguing. By putting some work into your product, people will see your vision more if you give it a background. This can be extremely good fun, making up an entire existence around a small attachment to your rifle, or building a whole alternate history to explain the time travel device. It can also help to distill any comments online if someone doesn’t feel it fits into their personal view of steampunk. Having a background to your creation or character will also help with topics of conversation if you’re going to an event for the first time.