It’s a literary subgenre that developed from the Victorian imagination of writers like Jules Verne hypothesizing what the future would look like if it was powered by steam and clockwork instead of oil. Recently it has become a subculture of its own, marrying Neo-Victorian fashions, home decor and gadgetry that celebrate the aesthetics, style, grace and materials of the Victorian era with a subversive reaction against the slick, homogeneous technology of today.

“Imagine an industrial underbelly, a forest of pipes, gears, and nameless gadgets. Reach back across time to a quaint but clattering world of factories and locomotive whirlygigs, zeppelins, and wooden submarines with red velvet interiors. If Jules Verne or H.G. Wells come to mind, you’re not far off, as what may seem to describe a 19th century flight of fancy has actually exploded into a present day movement all its own: Steampunk.

Beginning in the 1980s as both a literary and aesthetic movement, Steampunk has been conjured imaginatively by fantasy writers like James Blaylock , author of  the novelsHomunculus and The Affair of the Chalk Cliffs, and materially by  engineering wizards like Jake Von Slatt who has built mind-boggling steampunk cars piece by reusable piece, and modified (or  “modded” as it’s come to be known) everything from school busses to Ipods,  PCs to guitar amps, and table lamps to more practical items like shop respirators. The “steam” in steampunk describes a tendency toward modernity as it was envisioned back in a gear-driven, steam-powered industrial revolution, while the “punk” tag denotes the movement’s more updated, almost post-apocalyptic Road Warrior vibe that is softened by Victorian ornamental stylings.

More than just a world of books and objects, steampunk is a lifestyle. From fancier to fanatic, steampunks extend the aesthetic to personal fashion statement. Combat boots are worn along with vintage corsets and bustiers dyed in goth-like hues, while rail worker coveralls are paired with top hats.  Goggles modified in every possible configuration are practically de riguer, and steampunk accessories and jewelry made from  a host of unpredictable lost and found components personalize and complete the look.”   — Mathew Krueger

“There are thousands of different steampunk movies and cartoonsbooks,comics and graphic novelsanime and manga, and images of fashion,gadgetscosplay groupspropscostumestoysgear, and garb available to inspire you. And many people have different ideas on what steampunk is based on their favorite parts of it. But the most important part about steampunk to SPWF is that steampunk comes in many shapes and forms! From the genre of speculative fiction and latest styles of modern-meets-vintage fashion, to the lifestyle choice of embracing deliberate anachronism and the growing community of artists, authors, tinkerers and people just like you!”  —Steampunk World’s Fair

For a more in-depth definition, visit Wikipedia’s page on Steampunk

For Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America‘s article on Steampunk

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