The Steampunk Landscape

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Steampunk has had my attention for a while now, and fascinated me with their attention to detail.  Steampunk mods for computers have been springing up all over the place, with varying degrees of modification.  The great thing about Steampunk, in my opinion, is that it focuses on the aesthetic, with form and function both being important.  But also, there is a huge focus on technologies that have been abandoned because of varying reasons.  As such, there are very different ideas as to what makes Steampunk "Steam".  Some say it requires the presence of some sort of Steam component, such as a steam engine.  Others say that anything Victorian is fair game.  Still others focus on the gothic and punk aspects with brass and leather thrown in.  The thing is, they are all correct in their assumptions!  Steampunk is still in it's infancy, and more people are finding that they fit in this designation.  To me, Steampunk is characterized by the following: Victorian TechnologyFirst of all, the Steampunk genre is a reflection of the Victorian era, when science and art blended together.  Beautiful creations of brass, iron, steel, and hand-carved wood accent this beautiful period, and meets the craftsmanship of the earlier eras while providing a scientific advance in technology.  The reason why it's called Steampunk is because the primary locomotive method of the time was Steam.  Some may argue that it still is, as all our internal combustion engines use expanding gasses to operate, as do Steam Engines.  And then, there were the early science fiction writers, like Verne and Wells.  While many of their imagined inventions have come to life, others are still in the realms of fantasy.  These men and women were responsible for many advancements because of their imaginations they provided.  And what's more (and arguably more important), they romanticized science by appealing to our most basic nature in discovery.  That is what makes their work just as compelling today as it did in the 19th century.  Adventure and ExplorationI've been a strong supporter of space exploration ever since I saw Star Trek.  I couldn't understand why, or even why the show was appealing to me.  But then it hit:  It's because of the adventure of finding something new.  Growing up my friends and I would try to come up with new ways to travel, if just for that experience in exploration.  Steampunk continues that same experience.  Rudyard Kipling and Egar Rice Burroughs exemplified these feelings of exploration with their books.  Ever since I saw and subsequently read the "Jungle Book" and "Tarzan", I was hooked.  The idea of living in the wild, with new and exciting things around the next tree appealed to me.  And of course, the lack of a lot of people around.  That in particular appealed to me.  ^_^  Exploration and adventure is just something that I feel reflects the spirit of Steampunk, whether it be the adventure of a new land, or the adventure in a new skill.RomanceMy wife will be the first to tell you that I'm not a very romantic person.  I'm not the type that buys flowers (I prefer to grow them myself and cut them for my wife), nor am I the type that likes to watch a romantic comedy (unless it's "While you were Sleeping", where I can watch the kid wipe out on his bike on the sidewalk ^_^).  But I do feel romance and infatuation:  I love my wife in all aspects, and not because of any one characteristic.  And this is the same with Steampunk.  Quality is more important than any one aspect.  Technology that just works is nice, but it has to have the form to go with it.  Would you prefer just plastic, or does a polished Oak finish turn your eye?  Those things that are real, tangible, grounded, physical... these things are of benefit to the Steampunk community because they can be enjoyed beyond the simple function.  The IntangibleHaving just explained the necessity for the tangible, I'm now making an argument for the intangible.  Those forces that are not explained, not understood, and not documented.  Partly supernatural, partly fantastic, the Steampunk genre focuses on the unknown.  From Vampires and wizards to unexplained power sources, Steampunk makes tangible devices that can interact with the intangible.  The Darker Side of SteampunkDisasters, governmental collapse, colonial defense from the "Horde", it's all part of the darker side of Steampunk.  Part Gothic, part Cyberpunk, part "Mad Max", you find that Steampunk can survive well in this situation.  And how?  By building their own machines, generating their own power, being resourceful in dismantling the old and worn out, then breathing new life into it.  AristocracyAnother interesting aspect of Steampunk is it's tendency for Oligarchies or Aristocracies.  Many Steampunk proponents adopt aristocratic names, "Baron", "Dutchess", "von", "Sir", and so on.   This suggests a need to be set apart, above those that are more "common".  Perhaps it's a feeling of elitism, or perhaps it's the need to feel important and unique.  My inclination is to believe the latter.  EducationThose of the Steampunk genre that are not particularly connected to the aristocracy will generally adopt an education title, "Dean", "Professor", "Doctor", and so on.  What is interesting is that most of the Steampunk participants that I know actually hold those titles: a suggestion that the Steampunk genre appeals best to the most educated.  So those are my theories behind the genre of Steampunk.  It's interesting because it appeals to so many people on so many levels, and still manages to create a community around it.  Don't believe me?  Try getting some land in Caledon in Second Life.  This is a Steampunk/Victorian land that is very, very difficult to join.  Once my land is complete, I'll post a link to a friend of mine, Sea Beaumont.  She is building a repository of all things Steampunk, and will be housed across the street from my home in Caledon Downs.So the question you can now ask yourself is whether or not you would fit into the Steampunk genre.  Do you like anything above?  And in particular, do you like to craft anything by hand?