Steampunk. A term used in an almost off the cuff manner to try to describe a new literary sub-genre that mixed the attitudes and themes of Cyberpunk with the Victorian Era. Pulling from influences of the time and even a bit beyond, Steampunk was meant to be a fantastical retelling of both wonder and horror of the times surrounding the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of war and empires. From a letter by KW Jeter to a sci-fi magazine spawned an idea, a concept, and an aesthetic that has since inspired millions and gestated into what is now one of the most recognizable and friendliest subcultures currently rolling.
Many people come to Steampunk through different avenues. Some stumbled upon it thanks to a video or picture that was linked on the Internet. Friends often bring other friends into the fold by introducing them at events and marveling them with the outfits and props they find there. Someone might’ve been part of another group or subculture and looked for something new, only to find that they were welcome with open arms and could reuse many of the clothes and accessories they already had.
However you found out about Steampunk, welcome!
Now that you’ve discovered Steampunk you ask yourself, what next? You’ve looked over the Internet and seen pictures of outfits and amazing crafting creations that make you boggle. You find lists of books and stories that tell tales of amazing men and women who go up against incredible odds and somehow manage to squeak out on top. You go to look for Steampunk music and find a myriad of options both explicit and implicit that fit almost any genre choice you could possibly hope for.
Where do you begin?
The first step is asking yourself, ‘What do I want from this?’ The initial thought you might have is you want all the things from Steampunk. You want to be entertained, to have an excuse to dress up, to speak in an accent, to obtain an amazing pair of goggles, to learn how to sew your own outfits, and to write the best Steampunk adventure ever! That’s all possible as you go along but it’s best to start at the beginning with a few steps on your mighty Steampunk path.
Steampunk means different things to different people. For some it is a chance to just get dressed up in amazing clothing and go out with friends and likeminded individuals and enjoy events. These get-togethers can be as simple as going to a restaurant or bar in order to eat and drink with people all the way up to marching on a political rally to enact change and everything in between. Steampunk is a chance to be social, but also to be socially conscious and not everyone has the same approach to it.
You will get out of Steampunk what you put into it. If you want to stand out as a fashion plate that gets people to ooh and ahh over your amazing costumes you must be willing to learn how to sew and work long hours to put together your outfits. If you want to be a world class author you’re going to have to make sure you put in the time and research to craft a fine yarn that draws people into it and leaves them wanting more. If you simply want to show up somewhere with your goggles and top hat so you can share a cocktail and eat a burger then you have to be willing to get into the car to go out and meet people.
You might also be wondering if there are any rules you need to follow in Steampunk.
Much like pirates, they’re more guidelines really. The subculture uses the Victorian Era as a guide for a lot of things. Fashion, ideas, manners, and a sense of wonderment all come from an era where exploration and invention were celebrated ideals as we tried to figure out the world in which we live. That’s why you’ll primarily see men donning waistcoats and top hats and the ladies often in corsets. Though this also illustrates where the guidelines come in as no actual Victorian gent or lady would ever be caught dead in public with their suspenders or corsets showing. Those were underwear in the age of their use, and are now, somewhat anachronistically, something that the community flaunts and shows off in public most of the time.
Steampunk also isn’t limited to just the reign of Queen Victoria, nor is it limited to just British influence. Many people prefer the times just after the Victorian Era including the Edwardian Period through World War 2. This period is commonly known as Dieselpunk, a Steampunk derivative which is often still very much welcome at events. Influence from the turn of the nineteenth century and through the Civil War is also very much in play if these ideas fit you better. Some even approach their visual with a post-apocalyptic bent in mind complete with torn and worn clothing and accessories.
Once you’ve got what you want to do figured out and your style started the next question is, where and who do you do it with?
Finding others interested in Steampunk is easier than ever thanks to the Internet and the proliferation of pages dedicated to specific locations. Facebook, Google +, Twitter, Yahoo! Groups, Tumblr, the Steampunk Empire, the list goes on and on for places to find people in your area. Give it a search and contact them to see what events might be coming up.
Don’t be afraid to talk to people once you’ve gotten in touch with them either! Local groups often have forums or Facebook pages set up just for the purpose of discussion and bouncing ideas off of one another, as well as for introduction. They are great places for not only meeting other Steampunks and getting to know them before you go to meet up for the first time, but also to get a feel for the ideas you have. If nothing else they can tell you the best places to find materials for crafting projects or where you might find references for ideas. Steampunk may be different for everyone, but it’s a trip best experienced with others.
Talking to others doesn’t have to limited to just your local groups. There are a number of larger forums and online resources that encourage people from all over the world to talk about and discuss Steampunk. Some sites are friendlier than others and some do have agendas, so keep an eye out for that. In most cases it’s easy to figure out where you’ll find a warm welcome and help for your questions and thoughts.
So the question is, are you ready to take your first steps into Steampunk and make it what you want it to be?