Multimedia eLearning essay by: David Anthony Johanson © All Rights
Steampunk is a wonderfully curious subculture — percolating with creative optimism, healthy playfulness — an inventive postmodern science fiction genre, which blends Victorian era, 19th Century alternative history with contemporary technology.
A sub-genre of science fiction — Steampunk appears as if caught in some strange time warp. The practitioners of this loosely knit community of post-industrialist feature Victorian era clothing along with accessories such as goggles, intricate antique jewelry incorporating watch gears and a wide spectrum of retro-futuristic attachments.
Steampunk has remained under the radar of mainstream media, which is surprising since it’s one of the fastest growing cultural trends in recent memory! Now reaching the tipping point, this curious lifestyle movement is beginning to influence mainstream media, major retail and fashion labels.
Hand crafted, repurposed products, which uses wood, glass and metal (especially brass) are associated with the Steampunk movement. Manufactured plastic materials are rejected and viewed with contempt at Steampunk social gatherings.
Although SP is a postmodern hybrid genre, Victorian era writers associated with its original inspiration are: H G Wells, Jules Verne and Mary Shelly. These 19th Century, vanguard novelist inspired future generations of science fiction writers, which throughout the 20th Century created new genres of their own.
Steampunk is not directly associated with the British Royal Monarchy of Queen Victoria (ruled from 1837 until 1901). The Victorian era is a convenient reference for what symbolizes the advancements made during the Industrial Revolution.
This era had the greatest technological developments of the 19th Century, including: massive agricultural output, wide distribution of railway systems, steam turbine engines (for world commerce and travel.), development and wide scale utilization of electrical power, telecommunications including ( telegraph, telephone and wireless radio) and the automobile’s internal combustion engine.
Regarding western social economics, the Victorian era sees for the first time, a middle class emerging, which establishes an expanding consumer based society. Trade unions are allowed to flourish, leading to greater protection for workers, including women and children. Human rights in general make huge advancements as slavery is eliminated in most of Europe and North America.
The actual term Steampunk derives from the science fiction genre — cyberpunk, which emerged in the early 1980s. In 1987, science fiction author K. W. Jeter, wrote a letter to science fiction magazine Locus, using the term, ‘steam-punks’, in describing an emerging science fiction genre inspired by Victorian fantasies.
Finding Steampunk Festival Events
When I first attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, I marveled at its charming neighborhood of Farhaven — a historic district with Victorian and Edwardian style brick architecture. A couple of summers ago I returned to Fairhaven in mid-July to sightsee. To my delight the first Fairhaven Steampunk Festival was in full swing and provided the photos used for this article.
The Historic Fairhaven District has many fine examples of late 19th century architecture, including this multilevel wooden stairway
Steampunk Cinema & Television
A partial list of films which have Steampunk elements or themes
Metropolis – Fritz Lang Director (1927)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Starring Kirk Douglas (1954)
Wild, Wild, West – CBS Television Series (1965-69)
City of Lost Children – Starring Ron Perlman (1995)
Wild, Wild, West – Starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline & Salma Hayek (1999)
The league of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Starring Sean Connery (2003)
Steamboy – Japan’s most expensive animated film ever made, 10 year production (2004)
Golden Compass -Starring Nicole Kidman (2007 Film)
Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game Of Shadow – Starring Robert Downey Jr. (2011)
American Wild West
Steam Punk Film
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