1. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Steampunk

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Mallory, Feb 14, 2011.

    I really don't know a whole lot about it, aside from the fact that it's old-fashioned combined with hardcore industrial gadgets and technology.

    I mean, I know what it looks like as far as clothing, weaponry, buildings etc.

    But what else characterized steampunk? After all, you can't exactly say a sci fi or fantasy or horror or romance is categorized as such because of the stylistic appearances of the setting, right?

    Are there other characteristics marking steampunk?
     
  2. nzric
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    nzric Active Member

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    I'm by no means an expert, but I think steampunk can be anything, starting from the most basic visual characteristics.

    I mean, if you say to someone "sherlock holmes vs a giant clockwork spider", it's a great, easy way to leverage off world-building that someone has already done. Most people have a general frame of reference for 19th century stories/fashion/idioms, and you don't need to be a science fiction reader to 'get it' when someone says "a robot, but using cogs and gears instead of computers".

    I'll probably get flamed for this, but I'd say the genre is fairly superficial, only in that it doesn't take a huge amount of world-building. If there's any characteristics marking the genre, I'd say it's in borrowing from the "coolest" parts of victorian stories/worlds, in order to have a handy frame of reference for a reader's imagination.

    I have found the more 'hardcore' steampunk starts approaching more fantasy territory, i.e. especially using golems, leading to alchemy scenarios. I'm sure you'll get a lot of "....punk" references - subgenres of subgenres, but the bottom line is the mashup of victorian culture/fashion with "what if the tech actually worked" is a gimmick that worked.

    On the other hand look at China Meilville - parts of Perdito Station are steampunk-esque but is more of an urban fantasy.
     
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  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tends to be set in a victoriana type setting (not always but mostly) my favourite examples tend to come from computer games and the ghibli films Howls Moving Castle and Laputa being my favourite - have a look for clips on youtube.

    They tend to use some sort of transport often aircraft etc

    Because it is a form of fantasy it may well just be the setting that characterises it.
     
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  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is not a steampunk if you read the book and it makes me cry whenever anyone mentions the film. :p

    Steampunk IS basically "stick cogs on it and give the main character goggles" - there's not much else you need to do. :p
     
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  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know the book isn't but I love the film and the film is lol It wouldn't be a trade mark Miyazaki film if it didn't have at least a couple of cogs, a few goggles and an airship.

    For me personally steampunk only works when it has a feel of being Japanese but set in Victorian London or Paris :)
     
  6. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    The League of Extrordinary Gentelmen is a good example from the movies.
     
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  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Thanks for the replies. :)

    So I guess it's nothing too deep then, just lots of gadgets and stuff. Got it. Thanks!
     
  8. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Gareth L Powell (an excellent sci-fi writer) has a piece in today's Irish Times about steampunk, which you might find interesting. You can read it on their website: http://s.coop/dy2
     
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  9. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just because the word steam is in the name of the genre doesn't mean everything has to be steam powered. ;)
     
  10. goldhawk
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    goldhawk Senior Member

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    Steampunk, like all *punk genres, tends to emphasis the dystopia elements of society. Retro-futurism tends to emphasis the utopia elements (and is a little bit campy). Gaslamp Fantasy is somewhere in between and often is a love romance.
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    At the recent SFX weekender, China Miéville suggested that one of the defining characteristics of steampunk is not technological but political: that it consistently glorifies empire and imperialism and so is politically reactionary. As Miéville observes, there's no Belgian Congo steampunk.
     
  12. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Writing excuses recently did a 15 minutes podcast on it.
     

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