The stylistic genre from which Lady Cordelia’s inventions and story are born is inspired by early works of science fiction. The most famous authors of which are Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. The “steam” comes from the reliance on steam energy in the Victorian era, and “punk” comes from “cyberpunk.” These terms were combined by author K. W. Jeter in 1987 when describing Victorian fantasies that were just coming into popularity.
Pundits and purists will bandy about words like neo-Victorian, neo-Edwardian, dieselpunk, and cyberpunk when trying to pigeonhole fashion, art, and literature that contain the elements of Steampunk. Like biologists, Steampunk aficionados can be lumpers or splitters. And much like the species that biologists try to name, the true nature of Steampunk has evolved over time, becoming a continuum of aesthetics whose commonality lies in some fundamental features and a host of supporing themes.
In truth, Steampunk literature and fashion intersect with all of the genres above, along with others, such as Goth, Lolita, Pirate, and Old West. But as the saying goes, once you know a bit about it, when you see it, you’ll know it. A few elements seem to be common to anything that has been tagged as Steampunk:
- Vintage aesthetic in clothing, decor, and furnishings that hearken back to Victorian or Edwardian days, but sometimes reaching farther forward in time to the early twentieth century and World War II. Great Britain is often the locus for stories, but all points of the globe and even fictional planets can provide a Steampunk setting
- Components that embrace the ornate and the look of intricate master craftsmanship
- Materials that were popular during the Victorian era, including mahogany, brass, copper, leather, brocade
- Conceptual and visual elements that pay homage to the sciences, whether zoology, aeronautics, botany, chemistry, astronomy, or physics
- A sense of adventure, the spirit of exploration, eclecticism, bon vivant, and eccentric behavior wrapped in a veneer of Victorian propriety; safaris, airships, and rogue science figure heavily in themes
- Elements of the fantastical and mysterious with significant influence from science fiction and pulp fiction; fictional technologies, such as time travel and Victorian spiritualism treated as realities
- Specific physical elements that have become iconic of the genre, especially goggles, top hats, corsets, bustles, and ray guns, although they are not necessary for a costume, novel, or objet d’ art to fit into this genre
- Modification of modern, imaginary, and historical mechanisms to match the Steampunk aesthetic; gadgetry, invention, and anachronistic machines
- Alternative histories that incorporate the features above. Think Queen Victoria with a ray gun or Abraham Lincoln with a Gatling gun arm. Crossovers into other genres are common, such as werewolf/vampire, romance, post-apocalyptic fiction, and mystery
What attracts so many people to the genre are the fashion aesthetic and the gadgetry. What maintains interest is the sense of individuality, creativity, and eclectic fusion of styles. Whether you join in full cosplay (dressing up in costume and attending events as your chosen alter ego) or add a bit of art to your wall, you’ll invite adventure when you put a little Steampunk in your life.
Delve Further into the Steamy World of Steampunk
Steampunk in San Diego and Environs
- Dual exhibit of Victorian Art and Steampunk Art at MUZEO in Anaheim. http://www.muzeo.org/exhibit_current.html#steampunk
- San Diego Steampunk org
- Chrononaut Club: monthly dance and Steampunk Gathering at Queen Bees Art and Cultural Center