Shannon Stacey


Maili’s got a fabulous new job! Go congratulate her! And in the course of discussing it, steampunk romances came up. She’s mentioned them before, but I have no clue what they are.

Off to Wikipedia and their Steampunk page.

Although many works now considered seminal to the genre were published in the 1960’s and 70’s, the term “steampunk” originated in the late 80’s as a tongue in cheek variant of “cyberpunk”. The prototypical “steampunk” stories were essentially cyberpunk tales that were set in the past, using steam-era technology rather than the ubiquitous cybernetics of cyberpunk but maintaining those stories’ “punkish” attitudes towards authority figures and human nature. Originally, like cyberpunk, steampunk was typically dystopian, often with noir and pulp fiction themes, as it was a variant of cyberpunk. As the genre developed, it came to adopt more of the broadly appealing utopian sensibilities of Victorian scientific romances.

Steampunk fiction focuses more intently on real, theoretical or cinematic Victorian-era technology, including steam engines, clockwork devices, and difference engines. While much of steampunk is set in Victorian-era settings, the genre has expanded into medieval settings and often delves into the realms of horror and fantasy. Various secret societies and conspiracy theories are often featured, and some steampunk includes significant fantasy elements. There are frequently Lovecraftian, occult and Gothic horror influences as well.

Umm…okay then. I still had no freakin idea what a steampunk romance is. The page is…extensive.

The origins of steampunk date back to the pioneering science fiction works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain and Mary Shelley. Each of these authors wrote works featuring advanced technology and set in the nineteenth or early twentieth century.

Ooooh! I get it now!

Although their books may fit the definition of today’s steampunk it is improper to label them so, since they were, at the time of their publication, set in the present day (with the exception of Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court).

Or not. No, I get it.

The present and growing popularity of steampunk is likely due in large part to comic books and movies, such as the works of animator Hayao Miyazaki or Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s two League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series. Moore’s concept and writing made the series popular, but reviews attaching the term “steampunk” to it became many people’s first exposure to the term.

Okay, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen flips on the light bulb for me.

Historical steampunk
In general, the category includes any pre-electricity science fiction work with an emphasis on steam- or spring-propelled gadgets. This also includes many alternate history stories in the genre. The most common historical steampunk settings are the Victorian and Edwardian eras, though some in this “Victorian steampunk” category can go as early as the Industrial Revolution. Some examples of this type include the comic book series League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Girl Genius, the novel The Difference Engine, the roleplaying game Space: 1889, and the book series “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. The next most common setting is “Western steampunk”, being a science fictionalized American Western, as seen in the television shows The Wild Wild West and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and films Wild Wild West and Back to the Future Part III. See Science fiction Western for a list of fiction combining these two genres. There are also “Medieval steampunk” stories set in the Middle Ages, in which steam and industrial technology is developed in the Medieval era. The suspiciously sophisticated ancient traps of the Indiana Jones films and earlier works that inspired them are examples of historical steampunk elements within mainstream fiction, as is the Marchand the Toymaker subplot of the Hellraiser horror movie franchise.

AHA! I get it now. There’s actually different types and such, so you should read the wikipedia page if you’re interested, but I think I’ve got a basic idea of what it is now.

Now, just for grins, I’ll take the list of example movies it gives and bold the ones I’ve seen, just to see how often I’ve seen this and not known what it was. *g*:

In films

Note: most of the films listed are steampunk-related either through narrative or by thematic context.

A Trip to the Moon (1902)
The Impossible Voyage (1904)
Conquest of the Pole (1912)
The Invisible Man (1933)
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1933 – as Island of Lost Souls, 1977, 1996)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
King Solomon’s Mines (1937, 1950, 1985)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958)
From the Earth to the Moon (1958)
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
The Time Machine (1960, 2002)
Mysterious Island (1961)
Master of the World (1961)
Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962)
First Men in the Moon (1964)
The City Under the Sea (War Gods of the Deep) (1965)
Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969)
The Asphyx (1972)
The Adventures of Mark Twain (1982 claymation)
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Castle in the Sky (1986 anime)
Back to the Future Part III (1990)
Delicatessen (1991)
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)
The Quick and the Dead (1995) (OMG, this movie was STUPID)
The City of Lost Children (1995)
Mousehunt (1997)
Wild Wild West (1998)
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Vidocq (2001)
Le Pacte des Loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf) (2001)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
Steamboy (2004 anime)
Van Helsing (2004)
Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Howl’s Moving Castle (2005 anime)
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (2005 short film)

6 comments to “Steampunk”

  1. Maili
      · April 5th, 2006 at 11:09 am · Link

    Heh! Yeah, basically, it’s a mixture of a historical setting and the idea of futuristic technology. It’s a world where – say – a Regency-era heroine accepts a Victorian-styled flying ship as part of her everyday life.

    Someone once asked, “You mean, it’s a futuristic but in historical setting?” Yeah, it’s like that. :D I’d also describe it as a ‘merged time travel romance’ in which the future and the past comes together as a co-existence.

    In romance, there is only one that is nearest to that definition: Emma Holly’s THE DEMON’S DAUGHTER. It’s not quite right [as it has alien technology], but it’s about the same.

  2. Maili
      · April 5th, 2006 at 11:09 am · Link

    P.S. Thank you for your well wishes! I’m excited and nervous! :nookie:

  3. Shannon
      · April 5th, 2006 at 11:56 am · Link

    I think it was League of Extroardinary Gentlemen and Around the World in 80 Days (the Jackie Chan version specifically) that made it click. STEAMpunk. All the “futuristic” gadgets from AtWi80D were steam-driven, so it gives them the cool “futuristic” toys, but there were steam-driven apparatuses…apparati? *g*…in the time, so there’s a certain amount of believability to an ingenious person being able to put them all together, and as you said, the people around him being accustomed to seeing them about.

    And I had no idea Wild, Wild West was part of a bigger genre. :rofl: Both the original series and the movie were a little out there for me (although I thought Brisco County was kind of funny), but my husband likes the series repeats when he can catch them, and I watched the movie because Kevin Kline is an acting god, and I’d watch Will Smith in anything.

    I’ll have to get that Emma Holly book. It sounds interesting. :thumb:

  4. Suisan
      · April 5th, 2006 at 6:23 pm · Link

    Count me in as a Wild Wild West fan. (Well, at least a Conrad fan)

    Tight, pants, bolero jacket, sardonic grin, and a personal railroad car. Ooo Baby! :thumb:

    Took me a while a few years ago to figure out what Steampunk meant too, so don’t feel dim. You know it when you see it–just hadn’t heard the name used before.


  5. Shannon
      · April 5th, 2006 at 11:19 pm · Link

    Honestly, I thought perhaps it was a term from across the big pond. :doh: There should definitely be more steampunk romances, though. They sound cool.

  6. Anna Lucia
      · April 6th, 2006 at 5:49 am · Link

    Wow, a whole new term! I love that James-Bond-with-Trevithick-as-Q gadgetry stuff, but had no idea it was a genre all of itself….

    Kevin Kline is an acting god, and I’d watch Will Smith in anything

    You see, daily I visit this blog and am reminded why I like you so much.

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