The Punk in Steampunk

Gothic winklepicker from  website

Punk: a style or movement characterized by the adoption of aggressively unconventional and often bizarre or shocking clothing, hairstyles, makeup, etc., and the defiance of social norms of behavior, usually associated with punk rock musicians and fans.(1970+);A petty hoodlum; meagre, minor tough or criminal. (1917+)

Cyberpunk:science fiction featuring extensive human interaction with supercomputers and a punk ambiance. (1985+)

Steampunk: a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world. (1987+)

All definitions from website

I was a teenager when the Punk rock emerged on the music scene. It had a real make-your-own sensibility that appealed to me and many others as a philosophy, while at the same time alienating me with its high levels of aggression. I loved the energy while reviling the violence. Many people still associate the word ‘punk’ with anarchy and rebellion. My own mother become concerned when I said I was into Steampunk, hearing the ‘punk’ and not the ‘steam’.

So, how does the word ‘punk’ become associated with the Science Fictions literary genre, leading to it becoming part of the label for many different types of literary genres, cosplay fashions and lifestyles?

Yesterday, I came across an interesting titbit :  My attention was caught by the words handmade and do-it-yourself. Punk music and fashions were individualistic and were often the creative production of talented young musicians and designers and artists. When Cyberpunk emerged as the hot new writing trend in the Eighties, it was named because it tapped into this energy and creativity, as well as delving into the futuristic possibilities of the burgeoning cyber world of computers and virtual reality.

Steampunk was coined quite soon after Cyberpunk. As I’ve mentioned before, I am not the biggest fan of the term, because I think it isn’t accurate and it is open to so much interpretation. But we’re stuck with it. And really, if the ‘punk’ has an association with handmade and making your own gadgets and clothing, it really isn’t as bad as all that. Steampunk is all about recycling, upcycling, and getting creative. The Steampunk literary genre is full of energy and rebellion against the restrictive Victorian patriarchy.

I would like to thank Bruno Accioly, from Facebook, for inspiring this discussion. It was our discussion about my last blog post that turned my thoughts to this topic, as well as the article. My Steampunk Facebook page is at


Filed under Genre, Love of words, Steampunk

2 responses to “The Punk in Steampunk

  1. Great post! I find myself constantly explaining this to people … and I will refer them here. Thanks so much for sharing.

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