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Lesson 3: 20Th Century Steampunk

Lesson 3: 20Th Century Steampunk


We talked a bit about Steampunk’s roots with Verne and Wells and their contemporaries. Now let’s look at 20th Steampunk, when this style of speculative came into its own as a sub- and then we’ll move on to modern-day Steampunk

Before the 20th century, what we know as Steampunk stories today didn’t have a name. And a name, how will bookstores stock it? Steampunk-with-no-name stories were shelved alongside other stories and often lost in the wide variation of sub- that Spec Fic allows.


This is an excellent quote and I couldn’t say it any better, so I quoted it here for you, a solid definition of Steampunk.

I won’t go into a deluge of information “Steampunk is a sub-categorization of about the development of Speculative fiction in which the predominant Fiction in this class but there are a few is -based power. things that we must know to become Steampunk stories are usually (but not Steampunk writers with style  and one, ) set in the 19th century, and often is the name, K. W. Jeter. in Victoria-era London. The predominant driving force behind steampunk is fun, so the stories usually offer less rigorous .) science than straightforward .” STEAMPUNK UPDATE, i PART 1— UP

The actual term for Steampunk was created by Speculative Fiction K. W. Jeter in April 1987 in Locus . Please read: Birth of Steampunk.

I’m not sure how well Jeter is known outside the Spec Fic . Certainly I had never heard of him before I created this class and I consider myself a Speculative Fiction writer and aficionado, however, Jeter has permeated the SF community with his wit and immaculate in both and (Shows you what I know, right? LOL). Perhaps that says something for an author who’s naming conventions are better known than his own writing. However, I must say, he does quite well with his writing. (Which goes to show SF heavyweights Gibson and Sterling you, learning never stops learning.) Jeter wasn’t the only writer dabbling in this not- an exquisitely clever filigree of so-new yet nameless genre. Tim and were Jeter’s Victorian alternate , sparkling contemporaries and excellent writers in themselves. densely with , moored by a challenging subtext of chaos theory and the lessons of recent . Lesson 3:20th Century Steampunk / 2

CYBERPUNK Before there was (officially) Steampunk there was this wild and crazy subgenre of Spec Fic called “.”

What is Cyberpunk?

Cyberpunk is a postmodern science fiction genre features advanced science, such as and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.ii

Cyberpunk plots often center on a among , artificial , and , and tend to be set in a near- , rather than the far- future settings or galactic vistas found in such as 's or 's . The settings are usually post-industrial but tend to be marked by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its creators ("the street finds its own uses for things"). Much of the genre's atmosphere echoes noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from .iii

Cyberpunk Forums

Cyberpunk Forumsiv has a nice breakdown of Cyberpunk. I’m only presenting the basics, you can read more using the link given.

“Cyberpunk is a place where science and technology meets ,” says Seph on Cyberpunk Forums.

LOW LIFE, HIGH TECH The very word cyberpunk is itself a portmanteau of cybernetics, the science and technology of the system, and , the philosophy of rebellion against the system.

ATTITUDE Cyberpunk employs a certain attitude or philosophy in the romantic struggle between them selves and the system.

AWARENESS While the rest of the seems apathetic to what is going on around them—new , artificial , , and the technological singularity—Cyberpunk is utra-aware, often taking situations and technology to the extreme (just like science fiction).

SUBCULTURE Perhaps the most clandestine aspect of cyberpunk is the ethereal of hackers, phreaks, netrunners, ravers, and razor girls. It is androgynous, sophisticated, and futuristic.

GOTHS, GADGETS & GRUNGE: STEAMPUNK WITH STYLE© By Pat Hauldren Lesson 3:20th Century Steampunk / 3

SUBGENRE The most accessible aspect of cyberpunk is the literary subgenre of science fiction that features a dark and gritty, yet painfully realistic vision of the near future. It essentially takes active social trends and pushes them to .


Many cyberpunk are manipulated, placed in situations where they have little or no choice, and although they might see things through, they do not necessarily come out any further ahead than they previously were.


Because Cyberpunk is tech meets philosophy, most settings are the more modern and futuristic often with underground, settings. They can be future and past, but Cyberpunk is “cyber” which deals with high technology.

Cyberpunk writers tend to use elements from detective fiction, , and postmodernist to describe the often nihilistic underground side of an electronic .vi

3. Society and “...a closer look [at cyberpunk ] reveals that they nearly always portray future in which governments have become wimpy and pathetic ... fiction tales by Gibson, Williams, Cadigan and others do depict Orwellian accumulations of power in the next century, but nearly always clutched in the secretive hands of a wealthy or corporate elite” ~ The Transparent Society, Basic , 1998

"Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the body." – Lawrence Person

BACK TO STEAMPUNK You probably notice many of the same genre elements prevalent in Cyberpunk are also part of Steampunk.

If you’ve seen the movie stylization of Wild, Wild West, you’ve experienced Steampunk in the Wild West. Perhaps you’ve seen the 1927 movie (if you haven’t, I strongly urge you to). Wikipedia says that ’s Metropolis “may be the single most important early film to represent steampunk as an emerging stylistic genre.”

GASLIGHT What a cool name, huh? I love it and it conveys such an atmosphere that I’m picturing the words immediately. Gaslight Fantasy has that noir, seedy, dark atmosphere that a lot of Steampunk and detective mysteries have.

GOTHS, GADGETS & GRUNGE: STEAMPUNK WITH STYLE© By Pat Hauldren Lesson 3:20th Century Steampunk / 4

Gaslamp Fantasy, also called Gaslight Fantasy, is Steampunk's magical cousin. It's a subgenre of fantasy (and more specifically of ) with a setting that is clearly recognizable as the real-world 19th or very early 20th century (or a reasonable analogue thereof). That's the Regency period and the Victorian and Edwardian eras, if the work's set in , which it usually, though not necessarily, is. Victorian London is especially popular. It may be identical to the real world with a , or it may be a full-on where exists openly and has affected the course of events.

Gaslamp Fantasy often draws on gothic horror tropes, and is sometimes seen as a sort of Reconstruction or revival of the genre.

The key difference between Gaslamp Fantasy and Steampunk is that Steampunk focuses on alternate developments in technology (and need not have any magic at all), while gaslamp fantasy focuses on elements (and need not have any technology that didn't actually exist). Yet, the two can overlap, especially with “Magitek.”

The term was coined to describe the comic , but has since come into wider use, and is sometimes retroactively applied to the more fantastical works of Gothic Horror.

Girl Genius was called that because its creators had never heard the term "Steampunk" before, but also because it was focused on more than just advanced steam power, and was not a dystopian-type "Punk" work, despite having similar , and is heavy on mad science.

DISCUSSION 1. To complete this lesson, I’d like for you to read the following articles: a. STEAMPUNK UPDATE, PART 1—FOLLOWING UP and b. STEAMPUNK UPDATE, PART 2—OLD & NEW COGS IN THE STEAMPUNK MACHINE

2. Please read the first two pages of K. W. Jeter’s Night. You can use this link to access a free reading of the first two pages or you can access the pages on using this link. 3. In ’s first two pages, a. list the elements you think make it a Steampunk novel. b. Please explain how these elements work as Steampunk genre elements in this story and if you think they are essential to Steampunk as a whole, or only this story?

GOTHS, GADGETS & GRUNGE: STEAMPUNK WITH STYLE© By Pat Hauldren Lesson 3:20th Century Steampunk / 5

{While you are working on Lesson 3, I will be posting a READING file in the READING folder, which is optional material to read, material that will broaden your experience and knowledge with Steampunk. Each READING file with be numbered to match the lesson it accompanies, so do not worry if you do not see READING 2 but do see READING 3. There’s nothing missing. }

i Kirkus Reviews The ii Wikipedia.org http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberpunk iii Wikipedia.org http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberpunk iv Cyberpunk Fourms http://cyberpunkforums.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=361 v Wikipedia.org http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberpunk#Protagonists vi Wikipedia.org http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberpunk#Protagonists