I was on Steampunk Tendencies the other day and I mentioned Silk Punk as a version of Steampunk and a whole bunch of people mocked me. I realised that though they were fans of steampunk there were things they didn't know about the genre. So here are 5 things you didn't know about Steampunk the genre not the aesthetic.
1. Silk punk is a thing
Silk punk is when Steampunk is a different culture that has similar elements. The steam powered gadgets but instead of being Victorian as the base Silk Punk is set in Asian countries like China or Japan. So instead of corsets you'd wear a kimono with your cogs and goggles. I was inspired by other authors so my latest Steampunk novel was set in China. Great fun to have mechanical foo-lions. You can thank Ken Liu for coining the phrase.
2. Steampunk is a derivative of Cyberpunk
Cyberpunk was originally this push back against society as the main characters were usually loners. But they would also be in a futuristic setting and focus on computers and technology. Steampunk comes from this idea of fighting back against societal norms and married with technology. There are actually heaps of other derivatives that are fun to check out.
3. The genre is very different from the aesthetic
The movement or the aesthetic is more about creating art or dressing up in something cool and just having fun with the feel of the Victorian era and tweak it with some technology. The genre on the other hand has its own tropes and styles that has nothing to do with the aesthetic. Because of its origins in cyberpunk steampunk often has an outsider element to it. That tinker or airship captain who doesn't fit into the norms of society so decides to fight against it by being a female airman or policewoman. There is a comment on society and the roles women play. Or they will look at the place technology plays in our lives now and make a comment on it like the Luddites from some series.
4. Steampunk is not stuck in one time era
Most people assume Steampunk has to be set in Victorian times. Not true. Okay, there is a huge debate on what really constitutes as Steampunk. You can easily be sucked into that debate and disappear into a black hole of arguments. I'm not going to get started but as an author I can tell you there are authors writing in Steampunk who not only stray out of the time era but also the world. I've seen some set in the future where technology has regressed to steam. I've also seen Steampunk set on another world where there are dragons and sorceresses along side steam-powered airplanes. Purest may argue but us authors have spoken, it is steampunk.
5. The Genre came first not the art
Most of what we know of Steampunk is the art, the look. But really Steampunk was inspired by the novels of Mary Shelley and Jules Verne. These are Steampunk though some would argue that since they were contemporary novels this isn't accurate. But if you look at point 4 you will know that time isn't a deal breaker for the genre. So Mary Shelley and Jules Verne are seen as the first steampunk authors who we all are inspired by.
Everything doesn't have to be Steam-powered
One of my favourite steampunk novels has nano machines and mechanical flesh with mysterious origins. My own steampunk novels have fission powered airships that use heavy water.