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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Who put the punk in Steampunk?

“So what is Steampunk?”
I’m asked that quite frequently nowadays. The standard answer is how the past (predominantly Victorian era) views the future. For instance, we can really only wrap our minds around adding futuristic spins to objects we currently have. Back to the Future made the Delorian a time machine and made it able to fly. In the same way, Victorians could only add garnish to concepts they already knew. Clocks, corset fashion, copper, brass, cogs, steam technology and so on.
So why is it punk?
SP is a fusion, as I’ve said in the past. It’s where science, history and art are allowed to converge in one tangle of awesomeness. But in addition to the classy side, there’s the sultry side. Steampunk is sexy. We take Victorian fashion, which is already sensual as it is, and we put our modern edge on it. There’s something hard and fast about SP, from the leather to the chains to the dark lenses worn by rouge-lipped women in lace.
So that’s it? It’s Victorian…only sluttier?
I’m not satisfied.
If you research the word “punk”, you might find a lot of information about nihilism, anti-establishment mentality and theatrical fashion. After all, punks have often “fought the man” by being theatrical and over the top in music, fashion and political view. Punks go against the grain. Likewise, SP utilizes the worldviews expressed by a time era that has already passed to address issues in the present. (Feminism, racism and so on.)
My main protagonist is rather a feminist, though she doesn’t express herself as such. She just acts based on her own personal goals, not really for any set principle. Likewise, the variety of races in my book encounter prejudice and this issue is addressed as well. SP seems to bring that out in it.
So not only does it combine science, history and art, but also philosophy. Punks are often defined as Nihilists (more specifically, existential nihilism, which is defined as the belief that life has no objective meaning.), and SP can dabble in the depth of these dark worldviews.
SP is not, in as of itself, nihilistic or postmodern, as it’s not inherent in the definition that it must be. That’s author’s choice. However, it does tackle these issues quite often because those who write SP are often interested in many different fields of study, which is what I’ve come to find by reading blogs, Tweets and Facebook posts.
In other words, the punk part doesn’t just mean it’s sexy, edgy and fashion-forward. It means that Steampunk can be deep and reflective of relevant mindsets, which is often true of entertainment that seems like fluff and actually isn’t. I mean, what's the whole point of entertainment? To stimulate the MIND, yes? Your body most assuredly plays a part, but the mind is what makes something last. Steampunk, for instance, is here to stay because it will make a lasting impression on individualism.


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