Steampunk 101

Quite a lot of people don’t understand what the genre of Steampunk is in the literary world. I’m here to explain the truth and by that, I don’t mean to sell you a dog. (You’ve just been introduced to your first piece of Steampunk slang!), but let’s get serious!

DON'T SELL ME A DOG This phrase means "Don't lie to me!" Apparently, people who sold dogs in the day were prone to passing mutts off as purebreds. Ha, not something we'd do today is it!

Steampunk has some pretty serious ancestry, from the Gothic fantasy of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley to the extraordinary voyages of Jules Verne, to the mechanical mastery of Leonardo da Vinci, it’s plain to see Steampunk has been around for quite some time.

STEAMPUNK /ˈstiːmpʌŋk/ noun


Usually, Steampunk literature is set in or around the Victorian age 1800 – 1900s showcasing industrialisation, location, and happenings of the era, yet thrown into the mix is science fiction or fantasy gadgets and inventions, and a different perspective, which in turn evolves into an alternate history.

Steampunk’s purpose is to take established events and bend and twist them to suit the creative author's plot. It’s like mixing the old with the new and modifying technology in sophisticated ways.

Sometimes this method is conveyed in a subtle way, for instance instead of an everyday pistol, a laser pistol is described, while other times flamboyance is quite prevalent such as airships, ray guns, mythological creatures, empires in space, heroines. Oh, and not to forget – the fashion!


Traditionally, science fiction appealed predominantly to male readers, however, Steampunk attracts both male and female readers.  Steampunk heroines are some of the most industrious and ruthless women, whose camaraderie with men equals them, and since International Women’s Day was celebrated just two days ago, we can say Steampunk is forward-thinking!

They’re independence exhibits similar attitudes to their male counterparts – even within sexual relationships. Steampunk woman have choices and they can be anything they want to be.


George Méliès, a French filmmaker practiced magic and build automatons (mechanical robots).  He brought his magical view of the world to film. In 1902, A trip to the Moon, based on Jules Verne and H.G Wells novel’s, depicted six adventurers on a trip to the moon who were attacked by ‘Moon Men’. They escaped in their rocket. This short film was so popular a sequel was produced in 1904, The Impossible Voyage. 

A super solar submarine, a train launched into space attached to balloons and an inconceivable automobile – epic Steampunk transportation.

George Méliès films are close to the heart of staunch Steampunkers. In 2007 Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret took a cinematic tour of the life of the French film creator. It’s a novel worth reading!

NEXT WEEK Steampunk in Japan. Rising to host imaginative worlds of retro-futurism. Their unique perspectives encompass a broad range of degrees of Steampunk. The Steampunk Evolution.


Melissa Coleman

Freelance Journalist/Author/PR Manager



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