Sharing Steampunk: some thoughts about popularity

Colour group photo.

Steampunk is a subgenre of Science Fiction. In the past three decades, Steampunk has managed to generate several subgenres of its own, like Gaslamp Fantasy and Dieselpunk. These are growing large enough to count as genres in their own right, with their own aesthetics and genre markers, and with their own authors, illustrators, artists, and cosplayers. Some people think Steampunk is getting too popular, and this popularity is ruining the playing field for the ‘real’ enthusiasts, because the genre can be interpreted in too many ways.

Let me be the first to disagree with that attitude.

Some people see Steampunk devolving into an uchronic mythology based on the Industrial age in Victorian England. These are purists who want to see all the historical details remain accurate, forgetting that Steampunk shares many of characteristics of the Alternative History genre. The important word in the previous sentence is ‘alternative’, which means creative changes can be made to the details. Lots of changes, such as changes to the time period, social mores, technology levels, the existence of magic and magical beasts, and anything else that takes your fancy.

It is these fluctuations in the details that creates the subgenres.

While a Literary genre is growing and changing, it can’t get stale. It is this acceptance – nay, embracing! – of change that keeps Steampunk vibrant and interesting. This is the same reason why the English language is alive and well in the modern world, because it isn’t afraid to try out new words and new concepts. Steampunk loves to experimentation and innovation; in fact, it is one of the biggest genre markers of the category. New subgenres are just a sign of a healthy literary genre.

I don’t understand how Steampunk can be ‘too’ popular. Popularity means more Steampunk genre books & art, and Steampunk-themed movies and television shows, and much else. It means that people understand what Steampunk is without a lengthy explanation. It means more creative people joining the Steampunk community, making it richer and more complex.

Steampunk isn’t a secret to be clutched to your chest and hidden away, like some old curmudgeon in a dusty apartment. Open that door and let other people join the party. The more, the merrier!



Filed under Alternative Subculture, Community, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Hands Around the World 2015, Subgenres of Steampunk

11 responses to “Sharing Steampunk: some thoughts about popularity

  1. I also don’t understand the people who complain that steampunk is getting too popular. While in popular culture, the term “steampunk” is often used as a substitute for “steampunk aesthetic”, glossing over the deeper roots of the genre, I feel that anyone with a genuine interest should be welcomed and their creative endeavours added to the pot. How on Earth can self-anointed purists want accurate historical details when steampunk is based on a past that never was?

    • It’s a ‘dog in the manger’ attitude, isn’t it? Or should that be a ‘cog in the manger’?

      Joking aside, I find the self-appointed gatekeepers of Steampunk often don’t really understand what the genre is truly about.

  2. Also, “uchronic”! A new word for me, but one with great significance to steampunk! As long as you don’t dwell on the cholera, poverty, and consumption too much…

  3. Pingback: Steampunk Hands 2015 – Official Link List | Airship Ambassador

  4. Pingback: Robert Sawyer Talks About Science Fiction | Linda Aksomitis

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