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Saturday, November 1, 2008

What Is Steampunk?

What in the world is "steampunk" you may ask? (And some of you have).

Steampunk is one of those things that can be difficult to describe but you know it when you see it. It is related to the neo-Victorian movement but has more to do with funky machinery, gears, gadgetry, etc., inspired by the Victorian interpretation of the then-emerging industrial revolution, especially by wildly imaginative futuristic literature of the era such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Steampunk is imagining the Victorian view of science and technology into the present. What if everything still ran on steam power and was built of brass and iron and wood and leather?

Steampunk: Building a fabulous steam-powered bat-winged flying machine in your study. Airships. Steam engine trains. The Nautilus submarine from Jules Verne. Those giant antique brass diving helmets. Goggles and telescopes and pocket watches. Gears and cogs and gadgets, and elaborate machines with lots of brass and copper and moving parts and engraved instructions. Having these things in your book-lined wood-paneled study (or laboratory). A gadget-enhanced wood-sided leather-upholstered flying car with retractable webbed wings. Mad scientists and eccentric inventors. Aeronauts and aviatrixes. Curious and daring young ladies who have read all the books in their fathers’ scientific libraries. Antique typewriters and calibrating devices. Contraptions and chronometers. Thaumatropes and stereoscopes and difference engines. Building a modern device out of salvaged antique parts. Neo-Victorian dress with a little mad scientist Victorian techie flair. A corset or leather vest accessorized with lace gloves, goggles and a brass laser gun.

These amazing, working computers were designed by

Steampunk seems a bit related to cyberpunk but inspired by older technology, and also related to “retro-futurism,” which has to do with how people in the 1930s-1950s imagined the future (think jetpaks, rayguns, Buck Rogers, streamlining, shiny tight metallic clothes, flying saucers) and bringing that aesthetic into contemporary design.

But steampunk is instead inspired by an earlier vision of the future imagined by the Victorians ~ a “future” of amazing technology and progress based on steam power and brass fittings and the aesthetic of their time.

Steampunk subculture has been around for quite a while and is now filtering into the mainstream as a “style,” as such things do.

Visit or for more. If you do a search on “steampunk” on you’ll find some interesting items (although we’re of the opinion that steampunk means more than just “made of watch parts”!)
Here is a search for STEAMPUNK IMAGERY on my site


  1. I should have come here before trailing around the web, trying to find out what Steampunk meant. This makes it easier to understand, thank you


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