I recently discovered that I’m a fan of steampunk. I had heard of the term but I’d never used the word to reference the type of movies and stories that I like.

That’s because I didn’t know it applied to those stories and movies. But I’ve since discovered that many of my favorite movies could be considered steampunk.

What is steampunk? Wikipedia defines it as “a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date.”

So, if you use that definition, a television show like The Wild Wild West would be considered something like steam punk. It’s set during the 19th century and features two Secret Service agents, James West and Artemus Gordon. It kind of like James Bond meets the Old West meets sci-fi. I loved that show!

And there’s quite a number of movies that could be considered steampunk: Time After Time, which features H.G. Wells using his time machine to track Jack the Ripper who has escaped into the 20th century, pretty much any movie based on H.G. Wells or Jules Verne’s novels, and anime such as Steamboy or Castle in the Sky.

And, of course, since steampunk is a literary genre there are a host of books that are considered steampunk, which includes works written by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson

UPDATE: I’d forgotten to mention this book. Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson. This is one of those novels that I had not thought of as steampunk but seems to fit the bill. And it’s one which, once I’d started reading it, I could not put it down.

In 1912, Europe and parts of Africa and Asia disappear and are replaced with an alien Earth in which animals and plants have followed a different pattern of evolution. Called “The Miracle” this event transforms the lives everyone and the history of the world.

If you have any favorite books, movies or television that would be considered steampunk I’d love to hear what they are.

So, if you find yourself suddenly wanting to write a story featuring corsets and airships (as I have!), you have just been bitten by the steampunk bug.


6 Responses to Steampunk

  1. Darcy says:

    Last Exile is an awesome Steampunk anime that I really enjoyed and would recommend to others.

    I also keep getting the Court of Air by Stephen Hunt recommended to me.

  2. jennareynolds says:

    Thanks, Darcy! I love anime so any recommendations are greatly appreciated. And I’ll check out “Court of Air” too.

  3. Heh. My new WIP is steampunk.

    I just did a search to read articles on the subject, and found *you*. 🙂

    Darwinia sounds cool.

  4. jennareynolds says:

    Really? That’s pretty cool! 🙂

    Yeah, Darwinia is a great book.

    I started a Steampunk and hope to finish it at some point. I love the Victorian Era.

  5. bramconcher says:

    One of my few disappointments with steampunk is that it tends to be pretty light on the punk. There is a very optimistic non-dystopian aspect to it.

  6. jennareynolds says:

    I’m not as familiar with the genre as I’d like to be so wasn’t aware that a dsytopian aspect was a part of it. Perhaps there needs to be another term for what is being labeled steampunk but is, in fact, something else entirely.

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