What is steampunk?

Our store is specialized in everything related to steampunk. But some of you are probably wondering: What is Steampunk?

We will answer this question in this blog post.


steampunk world

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that usually features steam-powered machines, mainly inspired by the industrialized Western civilization of the 19th century. The Steampunk genre is usually set in an alternate history of the Victorian era or the American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future. Steam power has returned to everyday use.

Steampunk is perhaps most characterized by anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people of the 19th century might have imagined them. It is also rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. The technology includes imaginary machines like those found in the books of Herbert George Wells and Jules Verne, or modern authors like Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, Stephen Hunt, and China Miéville.

Other examples of steampunk contain alternative historical-style presentations of technologies such as lighter-than-air airships, analog computers, or digital mechanical computers such as Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine.

steampunk airship

Steampunk may also incorporate additional elements from fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction. This makes it a hybrid genre. The term "steampunk" first appeared in 1987. However, it retroactively refers to many works of fiction created as early as the 1950s or 1960s.

Steampunk also refers to any artistic styles, clothing fashion, or subcultures that developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and mid-20th century films. Individual artisans have transformed various modern utilitarian objects into a pseudo-Victorian "steampunk" mechanical style, and many visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.


jule vernes metropolis

Steampunk is influenced by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley's novels, and often adopts the style of these novels. Several works of art and fiction important to the development of the genre were produced before the genre had a name. Perhaps the earliest steampunk short story is "The Aerial Burglar" (1844) by Percival Leigh. The earliest precursor to the genre in film, Fritz Lang's masterpiece Metropolis (1927), is perhaps the most important early film to represent steampunk as an emerging stylistic genre. Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone (1959) anticipated many steampunk tropes. The movie Brazil (1985) was an significant early cinematic influence in the creation of the genre.

In fine art, Remedios Varo's paintings combine Victorian dress, fantasy, and techno-fantasy imagery elements. In television, one of the earliest manifestations of steampunk was the original CBS television series The Wild Wild West (1965-69), which inspired the film of the same name (1999). Michael Moorcock's A Nomad of the Time Streams trilogy, which began in 1971 with The Warlord of the Air, was also an influential precursor.

Although many works now considered precursors to the genre were published in the 1960s and 1970s, steampunk emerged in the late 1980s as a variant of cyberpunk. It appears to have been coined by science fiction writer K. W. Jeter, who was looking for an umbrella term for the works of Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates, 1983), James Blaylock (Homunculus, 1986), and himself (Morlock Night, 1979, and Infernal Devices, 1987), all of which were set in a nineteenth-century (usually Victorian) setting. They mimicked the conventions of current Victorian speculative fiction, such as H. G. Wels's The Time Machine.


a translatlantic tunnel hurra

Although Jeter's Morlock Night and Infernal Devices, Powers' The Anubis Gates, and Blaylock's Lord Kelvin's Machine were the first novels to which Jeter's neologism would be applied, they gave little thought at the time.They were far from the first modern science fiction writers to speculate about the development of steam-based technology or alternative histories.

Keith Laumer's Worlds of Imperium (1962) and Ronald W. Clark's Queen Victoria's Bomb (1967) apply modern speculation to the technology and society of the past.

Harry Harrison's novel, A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (1973) by Harry Harrison depicts a British Empire of an alternate year 1973, filled with atomic locomotives, coal-fired flying boats, ornate submarines, and Victorian dialogue.

In February 1980, Richard A. Lupoff and Steve Stiles published the first "chapter" of their ten-part comic book, The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle and His Incredible Aether Flyer. The first use of the word in a title was in Paul Di Filippo's Steampunk Trilogy in 1995. It is divided into three short novels: "Victoria", "Hottentots", and "Walt and Emily". They imagine the replacement of Queen Victoria by a human/new clone, an invasion of Massachusetts by Lovecraftian monsters, and a love story between Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.



victorian universe

In general, the category includes any recent science fiction set in a recognizable historical period (sometimes an alternate version of an actual historical period) in which the industrial revolution has already begun, but electricity is not yet widespread.

It emphasizes steam or spring-loaded gadgets. The most common steampunk historical settings are the Victorian and Edwardian erasThe Victorian era inspires the most steampunk for several reasons, notably its great aestheticism and its taste for revolutionary... and eccentric inventions!

Examples include The Difference Engine, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series, the Disney animated film Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the Fullmetal Alchemist anime series, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy and the role-playing game Space: 1889. The animated film Steamboy (2004) is another good example of Victorian steampunk, set in an alternate 1866 where steam technology is far more advanced than it ever was in real life. Like the Girl Genius comic series, some have their own time and place. However, they essentially share the flavor of historical times and places.

Karel Zeman's The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958) is an early example of cinematic steampunk. Based on the novels of Jules Verne, Zeman's film imagines a past based on those novels. Another early example of historical steampunk in film includes Hayao Miyazaki's animated films such as The Castle in the Sky (1986), which contains many archetypal anachronisms characteristic of the steampunk genre.

caslte in the sky

Historical steampunk generally leans more towards science fiction than fantasy, but some historical steampunk stories have also incorporated magical elements. For example, Morlock Night, written by K. W. Jeter, revolves around an attempt by the wizard Merlin to raise King Arthur to save Britain in 1892 from an invasion of Morlocks from the future. Tim Powers' The Gate of Anubis involves a cabal of magicians among the beggars and thieves of the London underworld of the early 19th century.

The Boilerplate published by Abrams in October 2009 by Paul Guinan is a "biography" of a robot in the late 19th century. The biography began on a website. It gained international media coverage when people began to believe that the Photoshop images of the robot with historical figures were real. Because the story was not set in an alternate history, and contained accurate information about the Victorian era, some booksellers called the tome "historical steampunk."


gurp wild wild west

Another framework is Western Steampunk, which cuts across both the Weird West and Science Fiction Western subgenres. Several other categories have emerged, sharing similar names, including dieselpunk, clockworkpunk, and others. Most of these terms were coined to complement the GURPS roleplaying game and are not used in other contexts. This genre's films and literature include High Moon, Far West, Briscoe County, Jr. and Robert Conrad & Ross Martin in the 65-69 television series The Wild Wild West.


Mary Shelley's The Last Man, set in the late 21st century after a plague has brought down civilization, is probably the forerunner of post-apocalyptic steampunk literature.

Post-apocalyptic steampunk takes place in a world where some cataclysm has precipitated the fall of civilization and the power of steam is once again gaining ground, as in Hayao Miyazaki's post-apocalyptic anime Future Boy Conan (1978), where a war waged by superweapons has devastated the planet.

futur boy conan

Cherie Priest's Boneshaker series is set in a world where a zombie apocalypse has taken place during the Civil War. The Lancers of Peshawar by S.M. Stirling is set in a post-apocalyptic future. A meteor shower in 1878 caused the collapse of industrialized civilization.

The movie 9 (which might be better classified as "stitchpunk" but had a big influence on steampunk) also occurs in a post-apocalyptic world after a self-aware war machine goes haywire.

Steampunk Magazine even published a book called "A Steampunk's Guide to the Apocalypse", which explains how steampunks could survive if such a thing happened.


city of lost children

Tabletop and computer role-playing games abound in the realm of steampunk fantasy. Notable examples include Skies of Arcadia, Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends, and Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura.

The gnomes and goblins of World of Warcraft also have technological societies that could be described as steampunk. They are far ahead of human technology but are not magical like the Elves.

In the role-playing game series The Elder Scrolls, a race of Elves known as "Dwemer" ("Deep Elves") uses both magical and steampunk technology, as opposed to the more medieval technologies of Men and the purely magical societies of some of the other Elf races.

rise of nation arcanum

Dungeons and Dragons introduced steampunk elements with the Eberron setting, including automata called warforged and the use of "technological" magic through items such as the lightning rail and airships.

Among the historical and fantasy genres, steampunk takes place in a hypothetical future or fantasy equivalent of our future. It involves the dominance of technology and steampunk aesthetics. Examples include Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro's City of Lost Children (1995), Turn A Gundam (1999-2000), Trigun and Disney's Treasure Planet (2002).



Kaja Foglio introduced the term "Gaslight Romance", which John Clute andZJohn Grant define as "steampunk stories. It is most often set in a romanticized, smoky 19th-century London.

But the latter category focuses nostalgically on icons of the late 20th century and early 20th century-Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde, Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, and even Tarzan-and can typically be understood as a combination of supernatural fiction and recursive fantasy. However, some Gaslight romances can be read as historical fantasy.

"Some, like author/artist James Richardson-Brown use the term steamgoth to refer to steampunk expressions of fantasy and horror with a "darker" bent.



Many visualizations of steampunk have their origins, among others, in Walt Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with the design of the submarine the Nautilus in George Pal's 1960 film.

This theme is also used in Disney theme parks with the "Mysterious Island" section of the DisneySea theme park in Tokyo, and the Discoveryland area of Disneyland Paris.

Steampunk design emphasizes the balance between form and function, which blurs the line between tool and decoration like the Arts and Crafts movement. Enthusiasts have modified various modern utilitarian things in a pseudo-Victorian "steampunk" mechanical style. Examples of objects include computer keyboards and electric guitars. The goal of these redesigns is to use appropriate materials (such as polished brass, iron, wood and leather) with design elements and craftsmanship consistent with the Victorian era. 

steampunk keyboard

The group Kinetic Steam Works brought a working steam engine to the Burning Man festival in 2006 and 2007. Sean Orlando, (founding member of the group) created a Steampunk Tree House that has been exhibited at several festivals. The Steampunk Tree House is now permanently installed at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware.

In May-June 2008, multi-media artist and sculptor, Paul St. George exhibited interactive outdoor video installations in a Victorian-style telescope linking London and New York. Using this device, New York promoter Evelyn Kriete organized a transatlantic wave between steampunk enthusiasts from both cities, briefly before White Mischief's Around the World in 80 Days steampunk event.

From October 2009 to February 2010, the Oxford Museum of the History of Science hosted the first major exhibition of steampunk artifacts. The exhibition was curated and developed by New York artist and designer Art Donovan. He also exhibited his own "electro-futuristic" light sculptures presented by Dr. Jim Bennett, director of the museum. From redesigned practical objects to fantastical contraptions, this exhibition featured eighteen steampunk artists from around the world. The exhibition proved to be the most successful and well-attended in the museum's history, attracting over eighty thousand visitors. The event was described in detail in the official artist's journal, "The Art of Steampunk", by curator Donovan

steampunk art

In November 2010, The Libratory Steampunk Art Gallery was opened by Damien McNamara in Oamaru, New Zealand, created out of paper mache to resemble a large underground cave and filled with old-fashioned industrial equipment, air guns and general steampunk oddities. Its purpose is to provide a place for area steampunkers to display art for sale throughout the year. A year later, a more permanent gallery, Steampunk HQ, was opened in the former Meeks Grain Elevator building across from The Woolstore and has since become a notable tourist attraction for Oamaru.

In 2012, the Mobilis in Mobili: a Steampunk Art Exhibition made its debut. The exhibit featured working steampunk tattoo systems designed by Bruce Rosenbaum of ModVic and Steampunk House owner Joey "Dr. Grymm" Marsocci.

The exhibit was complemented by "bicycles, cell phones, guitars, watches and entertainment systems. The opening night exhibit featured a live performance by steampunk band Frenchy and the Punk.



This fashion has no established concepts, but it tends to synthesize modern styles with the look of the Victorian era. It can be dresses, corsets, petticoats and bustiers; suits with vests, coats, top hats and gaiters; or military-inspired clothing.

Steampunk-influenced outfits are usually embellished with several technological and "period" accessories: watches, parasols, flying and driving glasses, and ray guns. Modern accessories such as cell phones or music players can be found in steampunk outfits, after being modified to give them the appearance of Victorian-made objects.

Post-apocalyptic elements, such as gas masks, ragged clothing and tribal patterns, can also be included. Some aspects of steampunk fashion were anticipated by mainstream high fashion, Lolita fashion and aristocratic styles, neo-Victorianism and the romantic Gothic subculture.

In 2013, IBM predicted, based on an analysis of more than half a million public posts on forums, blogs, social media sites, "that 'steampunk' will be a major trend in the expansion and takeover of the retail industry." Indeed, high fashion lines such as Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, Chanel and Christian Dior had already introduced steampunk styles on the fashion runways. And in episode 7 of Lifetime's reality series "Under the Gunn," contestants were challenged to create cutting-edge "steampunk chic" looks.


steampunk music

As Caroline Sullivan says in The Guardian, Steampunk music is defined very broadly: "Debates on the internet rage over what exactly constitutes steampunk sound." Abney Park's lead singer, Robert Brown, has loosely defined it as "a mixture of Victorian and modern elements".

Joshua Pfeiffer (of Vernian Process) says "As for Paul Roland, if anyone deserves credit for spearheading Steampunk music, it is him. He was one of the inspirations for me to start my project. He was writing songs about the first manned flight attempt, and about an Edwardian airship raid in the mid-80s, way before anyone else..." Thomas Dolby is also considered one of the early pioneers of retro-futuristic (i.e. steampunk and dieselpunk) music Amanda Palmer once said:

"Thomas Dolby is to Steampunk what Iggy Pop was to Punk".Thomas Dolby -Vernian Process

As there is little consensus on what steampunk music should sound like. There is a wide range of musical styles and interpretations. Among the steampunk musical acts:

Industrial dance and world music to folk-rock, punk cabaret to straight-up punk, carnatic to industrial, hip-hop to opera (and even industrial hip-hop opera), darkwave to progressive rock, barbershop to big band.

Steampunk has also appeared in the work of musicians who do not specifically identify as steampunk. For example, David Guetta's Turn Me On video featuring Nicki Minaj takes place in a steampunk universe where Guetta creates human droids. In addition, the 2012 album Clockwork Angels and the supporting tour by progressive rock band Rush contain steampunk-based lyrics, themes, and imagery.

In 2012, Thomas Dolby headlined the first outdoor steampunk music festival "Steamstock" in Richmond, California, alongside steampunk favorites Abney Park, Frenchy and the Punk, Vernian Process, Lee Presson and the Nails and others.


steampunk decor

Due to the popularity of steampunk, a growing movement of adults wants to establish steampunk as a culture and lifestyle. Some fans of the genre adopt a steampunk aesthetic through fashion, interior design, music and film. This can be described as neo-Victorianism, which is the amalgamation of Victorian aesthetic principles with modern sensibilities and technologies.

In September 2012, a panel was held at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo, chaired by steampunk artist Veronique Chevalier and featuring panelists including magician Pop Hadyn and members of steampunk performance group The League of STEAM. Pop Hadyn suggested that because steampunk included and incorporated ideas from various subcultures, such as gothic, neo-Victorian, and cyberpunk, it was rapidly becoming a super culture rather than just a subculture.

Some proposed a steampunk philosophy, sometimes with anti-establishment sentiments inspired by punk, and generally backed by optimism about human potential.

2006 saw the first "SalonCon", a neo-Victorian/steampunk convention. It ran for three consecutive years and featured artists, musicians (Voltaire and Abney Park), authors (Catherynne M. Valente, Ekaterina Sedia, and G. D. Falksen), lounges hosted by leading figures in their respective fields, steampunk workshops and panels, as well as a seance, ballroom dancing classes, and the Chrononauts parade. The event was covered by MTV and the New York Times.

Since then, many popular steampunk conventions have sprung up around the world, with names like Steamcon (Seattle, WA), the World Steampunk Expo (Piscataway, NJ), and Up in the Aether: The Steampunk Convention (Dearborn, MI).

steampunk convention

In recent years, steampunk has also become a regular feature of San Diego Comic-Con International. The Saturday of this four-day event is generally known to steampunks as "Steampunk Day". In 2010, this event was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest steampunk photoshoot in the world.

In 2013, Comic-Con announced four official T-shirts for 2013: one of them featured the official Comic-Con mascot Rick Geary in steampunk attire. The Saturday steampunk "after-party" also became a major event on the steampunk social calendar. In 2010, headliners included The Slow Poisoner, Unextraordinary Gentlemen, and Voltaire, with Veronique Chevalier as Mistress of Ceremonies and a special appearance by the League of STEAM, and in 2011 UXG returned with Abney Park.

Steampunk has also recently made an appearance at Renaissance festivals and holidays nationwide. Some have held events or a "Steampunk Day," while other festivals support an open environment for donning Steampunk clothing. The Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on the Wisconsin-Illinois border, held a Steampunk costume contest during the 2012 season. The previous two seasons saw increasing participation in the phenomenon.

steampunk day

Steampunk also has a growing following in the UK and Europe. The largest European event is the "Weekend at the Asylum," held at The Lawn, Lincoln, every September since 2009. Organized on a non-profit basis by the Victorian Steampunk Society, the Asylum is a steampunk event that occupies much of the historic district of Lincoln, England, and Lincoln Castle. In 2011, over 1000 steampunks attended the event. The event includes the Empire Ball, Majors Review, Bazaar Eclectica and the International Tea Duelling Finals.


Now that you know about Steampunk, it's time for you to join our community! 

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