Steampunk

I find steampunk fascinating, but I don’t really know much about it. I vaguely follow all sorts of discussions that float around the interwebs, but this particular essay caught my attention:

It is my understanding, poor, un-hip child that I am, that steampunk correlates precisely with cyberpunk, substance of choice of the last generation: literature which addresses and delineates anxiety (hence the punk, also ubiquitous, also nearly meaningless now) concerning new technology, computers in the first case, steam power in the second. Yet in almost everything I’ve ever seen called steampunk (besides the powerfully adequate Steamboy film) that eternal gateway drug, there is no actual steam power to speak of, and precious little anxiety. Because we, in our current, painfully neo-Victorian culture, think all that old-fashioned stuff is so damn cool, well, the actual Victorians must have loved it, too, right?

Dare to tell your wee wastrels that it’s not all quaint manners and cufflinks–steam technology caused horrific scalding and often death, thrilling explosions and the utter terror and unfathomable joy–and which one often depended entirely on whether you owned the factory or worked in it–of a world which was changing so very fast, devouring itself in an attempt to lay just one more mile of railroad track. Again, I return to seriousness as a necessary addition to fantasy: if you want Victoria in your coat pocket, if you want the world that comes with her, all that possibility, all that terrible, arrogant, gorgeous technology, take it all, make it true, be honest and ruthless with it, or you’re just gluing gears to your fingers and running around telling everyone you’re a choo-choo train. Get punk or go home–and think, for just a precious second, about what punk means, the rage and iconoclasm and desperation, the nihilism and unsentimental ecstasy of punk rock. I’ve heard the punk suffix mocked soundly by everyone I know–but we should be so lucky as to live up to it.


Good stuff.

There was also this comment, which I was damned impressed by. An excerpt:

Steampunk as a lifestyle is necessarily an aesthetic… A psuedo-revolutionary fetishizing of the Victorian era, and more particularly, the Victorian working classes. But in that sense, Steampunk is highly Punk, since Punk is nothing more than an aesthetic in which the enfranchised classes of today fetishize poverty.


Not that I necessarily agree with it, mind you, but I’ve never heard that particular critique of Punk before and I was struck by it.

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