Explaining Steampunk to people who are entirely unfamiliar with the subject is enough of a difficult task to begin with. It seems as though people are first introduced to the concept most frequently through our aesthetic and find it surprising that there is more to Steampunk than just in the way something looks.
Steampunk as a philosophy, mindset, or lifestyle is a small but powerful subset of overall Steampunk and has a huge influence on the subculture’s focus on DIY and individual artisans. Explaining this facet of Steampunk to people who have just been introduced to Steampunk in general is particularly challenging because the topic is so hotly contested among its participants.
Adding to the discussion of philosophical Steampunk is the article Steampunk as a Philosophy by Inventrix at Clockwork Dreams. This is her take on the whole question of Steampunk as more than just an aesthetic, and you’re sure to find her commentary thought provoking at the very least. Check it out!
Steampunk has many passionate adherents that love taking their love of the aesthetic and subculture to some rather impressive heights.
Earl S. Wynn has created a list entitled, 101 Signs That You Might Be Addicted To Steampunk, which may help put into perspective just how much you love Steampunk. The list is rather amusing and at points, painfully truthful regarding the Steampunk community’s love of all things steamy.
For a few good laughs and a bit of brutal honesty about the quirks and eccentricities of Steampunks, check out the entire list here.
I love that Steampunk has such a strong emphasis on individual artisans and makers. In a time when most of what the populace consumes is mass produced and disposable goods, Steampunk makes a stand and consciously supports its artists and creators. And that’s a good thing because it gets people asking a lot of the right questions they should be asking about everything they buy. Questions like, “Who made this?” “Where did it come from?” and “How do I take care of it?” aren’t questions that need be limited to the arena of Steampunk.
That Maker Ethic plays a huge role in Steampunk philosophy, lifestyle and politics, and recently an article entitled When Punk Gains Steam by Jennifer Hendrix was published that focuses on the DIY aspect of Steampunk and is definitely worth your attention. Here’s a blurb of the article I found particularly insightful on the whole idea of what it means to have Punk in Steampunk:
As does punk, the steampunk community applies the idea of individual freedom and openness, beginning with our relationship to technology, to an entire lifestyle involving everything from a unique style of dress to music and film. Through its aesthetic, it provides a way to question the status quo definition of “progress.”
The article goes on to talk about how Steampunk has and continues to adapt to an increasing audience as more people become interested in it on a variety of levels.
Although something of a lengthy article, When Punk Gains Steam is certianly worth your time and consideration, so do be sure to give it a look.
The anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster recently passed on May the 6th. The event became something of a landmark in modern transportation as interest in airships waned over safety concerns and the appeal of the airplane as a faster mode of transportation. For a long time, the airship became something appreciated for it’s novelty rather than its practicality.
But all of that could change in the future. Is There a Future for Airships? written by Bruce Dorminey and The Daily Climate for Scientific American addresses the notion of dirigibles being used in the future as a means for transporting cargo.
These cousins of the old airships of the twentieth century are a cross between lighter than air technology and fixed wing aircraft. The advancements made in airship technology have been astounding, and the airship’s ability to do things aircraft cannot, such as landing without an airship or tarmac and its significantly smaller demands for fuel, make the dirigible an interesting contender for the future of aerospace.
To read all about it, check out the article here.
I make no secret about my belief that Steam and Punk are both important facets to the Steampunk philosophy and lifestyle. That combination of mindset and aesthetic makes Steampunk as beautiful as it is counter cultural.
The Steampunk Bible, edited by Jeff VanderMeer, was recently published and features some of the best in the many facets of Steampunk at present. This compendium of the movement is a beautiful and enlightening volume of which the subculture can be genuinely proud.
Introducing the Steampunk Bible is science fiction writer Bruce Sterling in his article, “The User’s Guide to Steampunk.” He offers some fantastic insight to Steampunk beyond Steam:
“Frankly, the heaviest guys in the Steampunk scene are not really all that into ‘steam.’ Instead, they are into punk. Specifically, punk’s do-it-yourself aspects and its determination to take the means of production away from big, mind-deadening companies who want to package and sell shrink-wrapped cultural products.”
– Bruce Sterling, from his essay “The User’s Guide to Steampunk” in The Steampunk Bible
I honestly couldn’t agree more with Sterling’s assessment, and so does Jake Von Slatt. Go here and read the entire article right now. Your views on and interpretations of Steampunk may be forever changed.
Back in 2005, a book called The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana by Jess Nevins was published. Within, it chronicled what was, up to that point, important aspects of Steampunk fiction before it became overwhelmingly popular a few years later. Listed in alphabetical order as a proper encyclopedia should, the book details the most outstanding aspects of “fantastic Victoriana” in fiction from Nemo to Frankenstein.
Unfortunately, however, this volume has been out of print for sometime now, and with the current resurgence and interest in Steampunk, the remaining copies of Fantastic Victoriana are going for hundreds to thousands of dollars. Case in point: the only volume up for sale on Amazon is currently running for 2,475 USD. Guys, that’s a lot of money.
If perhaps you don’t find yourself with a grand fortune to spend on experiencing this work, you’ll be happy to know that you can read much of the information presented in the encyclopedia on Jess’s website. There, you can peruse all the entries and become better versed in the characters and features of Victorian science fiction and fantasy from before Steampunk went big.
Because I love both Steam and Punk, I love showing off how Steampunk as an aesthetic and subculture go hand in hand. What is ultimately recognized as the most beautiful in Steampunk, regardless of the creation or its medium, is something that has been created by hand.
Punk Pride is an article published recently in the City Weekly, an Australian newspaper based in Docklands, Victoria. It describes Steampunk as seen through the eyes of some of the local Steampunks out there. I particularly love this article because it succeeds in going beyond the surface layer of Steampunk as an impressive aesthetic and delves into the Maker ethic. It’s fantastic that people as far away as Australia are delving into Steampunk not only as a way to look, but also a state of mind.
Read all of Punk Pride here. If you’ve found yourself enamored with Australian Steampunk, do be sure to visit the multitude of resources for Aussie Steampunks including (but certianly not limited to) the Australian Steampunk and NeoVictorian Live Journal Community and The Antipodean League of Temporal Voyagers.