The Subgenres of Steampunk



I want to be right upfront and state that this list of Steampunk subgenres is of my own devising, and I’ve made a stab at developing my own categories and definitions. However, Dieselpunk looks to be a subgenre with legs, and the others look to be making a good attempt at marking their own territories, so any inaccuracies or fuzziness can be attributed to me.

The Steampunk literary genre is a subgenre of Science Fiction, and it has subgenres of its own. Science Fiction is a genre that is changing and evolving as new technologies are discovered and as we grow to understand the human animal better. It can be used to tell a simple and straightforward adventure story, or it can be a multilayered narrative that is making pointed observations about a culture, such as ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood, and so can be everything in between. There are hundreds of subgenres of Science Fiction, and more are being generated all the time. All of the Steampunk subgenres are a type of retro-futurism.


Dieselpunk is set in the early days of development of the car, the motorcycle, and the airplane. As you can see, this means there is quite the timeline overlap with the Victorian and Edwardian era, but the technology is of a more sophisticated level. Less steam engines, more petrol engines. More of an obsession with speed. Less of the florid and fussy Victorian aesthetic, and more of the streamlined beauty of the Art Deco (I mistakenly put Art Nouveau here last night).




It is all about valves, obviously, the technology of radio sets and the early television. I have also heard this referred to as Teslapunk. I would place this at a slightly later timeframe than Dieselpunk, but with lots of overlap. Valvepunk’s aesthetic is all about Bakelite, which was invented in 1907 and stopped being popular around the Second World War, after which it was replaced with more modern plastics and resins in the home and most industrial applications.


Again, the name on the box tells you exactly what’s in it. Cogpunk is about clockwork and gears, which many might argue is the heart of Steampunk. However, Cogpunk includes the handmade automations and horological wonders that were made before the Industrial era, and the French Industrial clocks of the Victorian era, Twentieth Century clockwork tin toys and much, much more. It is a meticulous aesthetic, all about uniqueness and one-offs.

The Strasberg Clock at the Powerhouse Museum

The Strasberg Clock at the Powerhouse Museum

Gaslight Fantasy

Gaslight Fantasy is where Steampunk is leavened with magic, or mythological creatures, or time travel, anti-gravity, or aliens; anything that isn’t strictly a technological innovation invented by human beings. Most of the books I’ve read in the Steampunk Literary genre have a Gaslight Fantasy aspect. The webcomic Girl Genius is classed by its creators as a Gaslamp Fantasy.

Girl Genius

Girl Genius

If you have any categories you want to add, or to comment about these definitions, please comment. I would love your input! As well, I have on Facebook, Steampunk Sunday:


Filed under Cogpunk, Dieselpunk, Gaslight Fantasy, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Subgenres of Steampunk, Valvepunk

22 responses to “The Subgenres of Steampunk

  1. Gaslamp is another version I have used for Gaslight fantasy. It does seem to be darker though.

  2. Tribal Steampunk! I was aware of hints of this subgenre and decided to make something of it. Thanks to the Airship Ambassador’s event ‘Steampunk Hands around the World’ in February 2014, I met (well, virtually met) some likeminded folk and together we have established The Aether Nomads Project. You can find our public page on Facebook and there is a private group for any who would like to take part.

    The idea grew out of a snippet of story that I created alongside a range of jewellery. Almost every time I list a new item in my Etsy shop, a little prose sneaks in to the item description.

    This blossomed into Tales of The Navigatrix, part 1, written with Heyk Al-Khemeti (also known as the model Kymaris) and now it has become an international Steampunk art project! The Aether Nomads are a tribe of dimension/time travellers; mystic-scientists. There is a core idea which people are able to elaborate on by writing, creating characters and costume, making items for pleasure or for sale, music, performances, events…the possibilities are vast. #ANProject

  3. vonexplaino

    Baron von Borg and I chatted about this on YouTube this April:

  4. Personally I don’t class those as sub-genres, just other genres – they are all subgenres of Retrofuturism. But I agree there is overlap.

    Have you confused your Art Deco with your Art Nouveau? Deco is streamlined, Nouveau is frilly 🙂

    For example, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is very definitely Dieselpunk (1930s with the Art Deco look). And no steam.

    There’s Atompunk which is 1940s/50s, and Faeriepunk, Mythpunk and Stonepunk. Not forgetting Cyberpunk.

  5. I was fascinated with the model of the Strasbourg Clock that is now in the powerhouse museum. I made a special trip, when I was driving around Europe, to visit the original The Strasbourg Clock in the Strasbourg Cathedral. I was rather sad to find the original clock in a rather dark corner of the Cathedral. The model does more than the original!

  6. The problem with subgenres in Steampunk (and, I think, one of the wonders of Steampunk) is that it’s so easy to mix and match attributes inside of one story. Who’s to say that technologies developed on the same timeline as they did in the real world. Clockwork-powered aeroplanes–go for it! Radio sets that work by some magical force–why not?

  7. Anne O'Dempsey

    There’s also the post-apocalyptic side too. Going back to steam power as there is no more access to oil-based fuels, or the very far-future re-invention of steam technology as society re-develops from nothing again.

  8. Stonepunk, Sandalpunk, Dungeonpunk, Clockpunk, Steampunk, Teslapunk, Decopunk, Dieselpunk, Atompunk / Raygun Gothic, Slackerpunk, Gothicpunk, Cyberpunk, Biopunk, Nanopunk, Cowpunk (Wild West Steam variant), Tribalpunk, Arcanepunk, Cyberfantasy (Shadowrun), Librarypunk (Anathem has elements of this).

    Those are the ones I know and work with. All variations on the Punkpunk or N-punk trope. See

  9. Pingback: The Subgenres of Steampunk | chrispavesic

  10. Reblogged this on chrispavesic and commented:
    I enjoyed reading about the various sub-genres of steampunk. These are all types of speculative fiction. I particularly like the definitions of cogpunk and gaslight.

  11. So, if I get this straight, I’m a Cogpunk/Gaslight Fantasy Writer…? Brilliant! I love your posts. They’re always well worth reading! 🙂

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