The Definition of Steampunk



noun stēm-pəŋk

:  science fiction dealing with 19th-century societies dominated by historical or imagined steam-powered technology

“Steampunk.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. 

I think that’s a boring, generic definition written by someone who has no interest in the genre. I define Steampunk as:


noun stēm-pəŋk

: A science fiction sub-genre featuring post-apocalyptic or open faced anachronistic technology, spiritualism, and/or evolution. An art and design rebellion against the modern era of disposable products, hermetically sealed technology, and safety labels.

The historical fiction re-enactment style stuff isn’t nearly as interesting to me as the post-apocalyptic punk art of steampunk.

My introduction to the ideas that make up steampunk as a fantasy sub-genre came from watching Voyagers! reruns as a kid back in the 80’s, watching City of Lost Children in 1996, and later playing Thief: The Dark Project in 1998. These sources have nothing to do with the Victorian era too often pre-supposed as the definition of steampunk. The sequel to Thief pushed the “medieval fantasy universe with electricity and steam power” aesthetic further. The key defining idea in Thief 2 was a hidden war between a religious faction of machinists and a nature worshipping pagan faction.

I thought that was a great contrast and I still like that balance in my art. My other influences were mostly Japanese with more well-known titles, like Final Fantasy VII (more dieselpunk, but it still counts) and another Square Enix title, Full Metal Alchemist. There were plenty of other influencing sources too, but I really didn’t assign a genre title to anything until 2007 when the term “Steampunk” was a joke about “Goths that found brown.” I never got into the wardrobe part of the genre because my clothing is starkly functional and rarely defined by a myriad of accessories. That said, I did sketch a coat and pants back in the day that now look totally steampunk-esque to me.

Well, that’s my definition of Steampunk post. How were you introduced to the genre and how do you define it? Let me know in the comments. Cheers.

About Jon Decker

Jon is on a Grand Adventure... life.
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