About Steampunk!

Bioshock Infinite

I had previously written an article about science fiction and its subgenres. I felt the need to write an article about one of these subgenres, "Steampunk," on the site as well. Even though science fiction is a well-known genre, "Steampunk" is not as well-known of a subgenre. However, it is a subgenre that people are familiar with. I can hear you asking, "Familiarity?" So, let's start from the beginning.

The Victorian Era, the Edwardian Era, Gears, Cogs, Steam, Gold, Analog Computers... These are just some of the factors that make Steampunk what it is. Can you imagine scenes from novels, movies, or TV shows in your mind right now? If not, I will provide some examples at the end of the article.

Let's start by explaining the term "Steampunk". What is Steampunk? Where did this word come from? Who came up with the idea to use it? Let's shed some light on Steampunk with these questions.

Many Steampunk-themed novels were written in the 1960s and 1970s. Earlier, authors like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne had also used this theme. However, only the themes of these books were referred to as Science Fiction. But in later years, the main headings began to be divided into subheadings. For example, in 1983, Bruce Bethke published a short story in the magazine Amazing Science Fiction and named it "Cyberpunk". However, because the themes of Bethke's and other authors' stories and novels were similar to the atmosphere of the Cyberpunk story, their genre began to be referred to as Cyberpunk. This also brought the Cyberpunk sub-genre into existence.

The same thing happened to Steampunk writers. Readers, magazine publishers, and even the authors themselves were in search of a name and decided to add this theme to a specific category. At that moment, in April 1987, K.W. Jeter wrote a letter to the magazine Locus. In the letter, he explained that Victorian Fantasy writings were a new era, and he and Powers, Blaylock, and himself would create the best situation and term suitable for this era. He stated that they would approach the technology age depicted in the stories in the most appropriate way and finally ended with, "It could be something like Steam-punk..." As mentioned in the letter, they did not decide on this name, and K.W. Jeter just wanted to use a similar expression due to his familiarity with Cyberpunk. However, what Jeter did not know was that this term would be used forever for all works dealing with this theme.

Although this theme had been explored for years before, the Steampunk era was born and found its identity. So why was this approach taken? Why was the Victorian era and Edwardian era chosen, and why was the technology always based on steam? Let's take a look at these questions as well.

First, let's start with the eras. Let me introduce two people who have produced the most important works of the Science Fiction genre. The first is H.G. Wells, the author of The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, and Modern Utopia.

The other is Jules Verne, who has works like Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Moon, and The Green Ray. The most important and similar feature of these two authors is that they both lived in the Victorian era and used Steampunk themes in their Science Fiction novels.

In later years, authors inspired by them also unwittingly used this atmosphere. However, there were some differences between them. For example, although H.G. Wells was a Victorian era writer, the author of The Machine Stops, E. M. Forster, was an Edwardian era writer. However, The Machine Stops contained impressions of both eras. But its content was completely steeped in Steampunk atmosphere.

So why always steam and steam-powered vehicles?

You may know about the Industrial Revolution. Everything had started to become mechanized and the power of steam was increasing rapidly. Coal usage had rapidly increased, electricity was being generated from the resulting steam, and this had led to the birth of machines. Writers of that period were naturally influenced by this, and they quickly incorporated it into their novels and stories. Writers like H.G. Wells had transformed it into a different dimension.

According to these writers, Steampunk was the "Possible Future Life." In other words, life in the future would be like this, and people would completely base technology on steam without giving it up. They had created a kind of "Parallel World" in their own heads. Actually, we can say this about Steampunk: it's a variation of the world that exists in an unrealized future.

But their thinking didn't go in that direction. Technology continued to advance and the steam age was left far behind. But this didn't exclude Steampunk as predicted. Because Steampunk writers quickly caught up with the era and adapted every piece of Steampunk to advancing technology. For example, computers! Although the computers we currently use are a product of the digital world, writers have incorporated Steampunk elements into their works and turned them into steam-powered analog computers. Or spaceships! In the earlier periods of Steampunk, a Hot Air Balloon was used as a spaceship, but in later periods, spaceships that go into space have become normal ships and their operating system has been connected to steam technology.

So why did Steampunk manage to become such a popular subgenre?

First of all, as I mentioned earlier, it had the element of "an unrealized future". Furthermore, events usually took place during the Victorian/Edwardian era or, even if the whole story took place in a fictional world, it had cultural characteristics specific to those periods (e.g. the Bioshock game). Apart from these, it brought to life different technologies that were powered by steam, which could be easily and beautifully adapted to later periods.

Its most important feature (in my opinion) was that the dystopian atmosphere present in Cyberpunk was rarely used in Steampunk. Steampunk approached the "high technology" element from a different perspective. Technology was either making people's lives easier or harder, and the world was overflowing with this technology. However, no character was living as if they were imprisoned by this technology; it was included in the story as a side element. So, except for some works, Steampunk was never the main topic.

Alright, let me tell you about the content of Steampunk now. Just kidding. Steampunk is like other genres, it's a topic that needs a long explanation. I can't go into that much detail. Instead, as I said before, I can give you some recommendations. This way, you can easily understand Steampunk and all its elements.

Steampunk Movies

* The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen / 2003
* Wild Wild West / 1999
* Hugo / 2011 (The film features a real subject; the first color and science fiction film "A Trip to the Moon". The story of the film was written by Georges Méliès, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells.)
* The Time Machine / 2002 (It is an adaptation of H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" novel.)
* Steamboy / 2004 (The Industrial Revolution Years and one of the best works that tells the story of Steampunk in my opinion. It is a movie, not an anime series.)
* Fullmetal Alchemist / 2009-2010

Steampunk Novels

* The Time Machine
* Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
* Dr. Jekyll ve Mr. Hyde
* The Infernal Devices
* His Dark Materials

Steampunk Games

* Bioshock
* Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
* Dishonored
* Thief
* Fable 3

Steampunk Songs

* Abney Park - Steampunk Revolution
* The Cog is Dead
* The Clorkwork Quartet

While there are dozens and hundreds of things to write about Steampunk, I can only write this much for now. That's all from me.

(Music was playing as the article was ending; Akame ga Kill – Fallen Heroes)

Author: Ahmet T. Mengeş

Science fiction and fantasy enthusiast. Game addict. Guardian of vampire mythology. Weird and equally arrogant. Amateur game developer. Very amateur.

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