Thursday, February 4, 2016

Why has Steampunk Been Getting Popular Recently?

Guest post Mauro Gonzalez.

In recent years Steampunk has become bigger and bigger. But why has this sub-genre of science fiction jumped into the mainstream all of the sudden? To answer that, we must go back to the roots of Steampunk. There are two authors who seem to be credited with the very first renditions of Steampunk (along with science fiction), those being Mary Shelley and Jules Verne. The two authors lived in the age of the industrial revolution, where a new age of technology began, and anything seemed possible. To me, this directly influenced their works. With Mary Shelley you could reanimate life and with Jules Verne it was exploring parts of Earth that had never been explored before. But, as time marched on the future of technology didn’t stay as it did, of course, it advanced, and chose a new route to follow.

Many steampunk novels had been written in between the days of Jules Verne and the birth of modern Steampunk. And by the time the first Steampunk comic was published in 1980, it had been a year since the Apple II Plus was released. And why might I bring up when the Apple II Plus was released? Since it relates to my theory on why Steampunk has become so popular in the last few years. It’s due to how complex modern devices are.

The average person doesn’t know how when they turn on their phone and open up Chrome and a keyboard shows up magically.  Or how they press their fingers down on the glass on the phone the phone responds by putting the letter they selected in a search bar. The average person doesn’t know how a little box in their house lets them connect to the internet. But, what an average person can get the basic idea of a steam engine. Or how one gear might power another gear which powers another gear which powers [insert object here] and so on. These things can be understood much more quickly, than let’s say, how the Mars Rover works. Humans want to understand as much as possible; curiosity is part of human nature. But when you have these very complex things such as how does a spaceship work or how the iPhone works are much more difficult to understand.

But, while with, let’s say, early human technology it’s easy to understand, you get it immediately. Then, you have the Victorian Age, which you could say is in the Goldilocks Zone of technological understanding for the average contemporary person. There is complexity to it, but not too much, and plus, you could argue that is the beginning of modern technology. This also explains one of the many Steampunk cliches: airships. As Mr. Mitrovich has talked in a video before, the idea of airships overtaking the usage of planes in any world is highly irrational. Planes were much faster and much safer. But, while one might not understand how the Red Baron’s Fokker Dr. I’s engine works and why at a certain level of height you should stop going up, a person can understand how a bag lighter than air can go up and fly around.

Thus, this could easily be picked up by other sub-genres of science-fiction, most notably, alternate history. And why wouldn’t it? Both encompass two words that are very important to both sub-genres: “what if?” Plus, this also easily spread to the average sci-fi crowd, in explanation on how all the machines and weapons in their universe work. Ergo, it could spread into normal pop culture as well. And even though if you walked up to some random person on the streets and asked “Do you know what steampunk is?” A good portion of people would say no, it’s still in the public conscious. In 2010 for example, Prada (a clothing company) released a men’s steampunk collection.

Steampunk is definitely getting popular. For example, each year in a neighboring town of mine they have a celebration for the town, for existing and it’s culture and what not. Local businesses often show up, along with political groups, and local artists, etc. In 2015, there was a special showcase for Steampunk art. My brother and I know an art teacher in the town (we take classes with her every other week) and we were asked to build stuff for it, as she was invited to present. We all worked together and built a few things. An article was published in a local paper, which showcased our work.

While we all might discuss how Steampunk managed to come into the public eye, there is one thing that is clear: Steampunk will continue to grow, therefore staying in the public eye.

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Mauro “Tardis218” Gonzalez is an alternate cartographer. Who, besides uploading them to his Deviantart uploads them to Althistoria and Alternatehistory.com. You can follow him on Deviantart here.

1 comment:

  1. Steampunk can be defined as Vicwardian Retro-SF, the key word there is "retro". Shelley, Verne and Wells were not writing Steampunk because they were writing at the time. They were just writing SF (or rather: Scientific Romance as it was called then). In exactly the same way that "Doc" Smith was not writing atompunk, just SF.

    Also I believe you are confusing Steampunk (the literary genre) with Steampunk (the culture). It's an easy mistake to make but they are two completely different things. In the culture pretty much anything goes, in the literary genre you have to be a little more controlled.

    People who read steampunk are not necessarily steampunks, and steampunks (I know from painful experience) do not necessarily read steampunk.

    The steampunk culture is indeed shooting up in popularity, the literary genre? Not so much.

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