Has Steampunk lost its puff?

Steampunk is no longer a mainstream genre not like ten years ago. It isn’t referenced in mainstream shows like NCIS or Castle (and NCIS is still going!), nor are there the flood of Steampunk genre books that we all enjoyed when it was at the height of its popularity. There are still outposts of enthusiasts, but even some of the long-term fans have fallen to the wayside.

Lynne Lumsden Green in Steampunk Cosplay

How do I know Steampunk has lost some steam? On Facebook, many of the Steampunk sites I followed have ceased posting – many haven’t posted anything for years. It’s harder to source Steampunk genre movies and literature. Strangely, this trend hasn’t effected Steampunk cosplay and it is still as popular as ever. Well, you can’t argue that the Steampunk Aesthetic isn’t a great looks for everyone.

So, where does this leave the Steampunk Enthusiast in 2022?

Steampunk isn’t dead. It will never be completely forgotten, just because the subculture is no longer top of the pop culture. You just have to dig harder to find it. You can still find books and anthologies in the genre, and the recent animated series, Arcane, was certainly leaning hard into the Steampunk Aesthetic. Arcane has a second season coming post-2022. Professor Elemental is still singing and writing. The Girl Genius Comic still updates three times a week. I’m still getting Steampunk stories accepted.

The fires may have subsided, but the coals are still red hot.


Filed under Steampunk, Steampunk Aesthetic, Steampunk Cosplay, Steampunk Genre, Subgenres of Steampunk

9 responses to “Has Steampunk lost its puff?

  1. As the writer who first inspired you into this genre ( Big-Noting Myself because no-one else is ) I shall add my own perspective – a perspective that is beginning to feel like I’m gazing down the wrong end of a telescope.

    For me it has lost its puff too, but for more personal reasons.

    I wrote a series – and I definitely know that one person has read it entirely to the end – and it was a veritable airship-ton of fun. For a writer it is an almost infinite genre! My alt-world is my oyster!

    I could push on, but I haven’t. I have loads of ideas, I have new characters and old favourites I want to follow up on. But the thing is – a writer needs readers like a stand-up comic needs laughs, or like a horse need chaff. Without it we give up and go home and try knitting instead. Except the horses – they just starve. Sadly, they suck at knitting.

    But there seems to be another thing that bothers me: Steampunk has become a very leaky genre. Prone to theft and re-assignment surgery. I’ve have long-ceased looking into the dozens of online groups I’ve joined. They’re still making ray-guns and gluing cogs onto every damn thing, and even worse – declaring things to be ‘steampunk’ when really – they’re not.

    Someone makes a giant statue of a horse out of left-over farm tech – “it’s Steampunk!”. Someone makes an exquisite mouse out of left-over computer-parts – “it’s Steampunk!” Someone finds an actual photo of an actual Victorian fairground – “it’s Steampunk!”

    And I get attacked when I try to point out these faddish declarations for what I think they are – off-genre. False. adding to the leaky skin of a genre.

    The writers of high-profile TV series have frequently commandeered it – but purely for decoration. It seems to have become a ‘skin’ (to use the tech/gaming/avatar expression). Heck – even Disney has done it!

    So has it worn out already? I’m thinking – yes. As costuming – it can only expand to certain limits (excluding the Japanese -who keep doing very inventive ‘fusion’ expressions in their own glorious way), and to be honest I’m tired of seeing goggles, cogs and corsets, parasol, guns, robot arms and sails on airships(FFS! It was tested and proved worthless over 300 years ago!). It’s getting repetitive!

    OH – but the work is extraordinary. The craft, the engineering: WOW! I’m not holding back on my admiration for the art, the effort , the detail and the dedication.

    Maybe that’s the nub of it: A free-form, infinitely elastic, vague-y wague-y time-y rhyme-y playground for the bored, the restless, the inventive and the flamboyant. It has been a fabulous play-ground to me ( – and for all of us; dare I declare- ) a TRIBE to belong to in these dark and dis-connective times.
    Ten thousand tribes have been forged, and a million meet-ups and events have been held. And that goes on. That is good!

    But sadly – in my experience – anything that is “fringe” and has not settled its rules and its leaders always attracted the worst kind of people: the sociopaths that want to rule the (alt-culture) worlds. That is why I have retreated. I no longer attend. I not longer create*. I’m quite out of touch and to be honest: dis-enchanted. i no longer feel safe. I no longer belong.

    But the things I personally nit-pick about do not matter compared to the social benefits – which do run on. The very tribal nature of the scene. Friendships have been made; gatherings have happened. Art and books have been created and some really are “Wow!” And people continue to destroy valuable antiques in the name of ‘Steampunk’.

    But as a meaningful and sustainable genre – well I for one do not welcome my Giant Metal Horse Overlords, nor the careless disregard of the intentions of artists or the realities of our actual real history.

    It may not be running out of puff, but for me I’m one of the ex-movers-and-shakers who has quietly moved on. It that the ‘PUFF’ that has quietly gone missing?

    * My Steampunk Lava Lamp held top place in Google Image search for five straight years!

  2. When I’m not writing Contemporary Crime, I like to write steampunk with a crime twist. The first series did well enough, but it’s not classed as steampunk, it’s classed now as urban fantasy, which I find odd. I have started a new series, but am struggling to move forward with it. Mostly because I am not sure where it belongs, or even if I shouldn’t make it more sci-fi rather than steampunk. But I love steampunkery. That said, it’s very me to get into a thing as it dies a death. Though in this case, it seems only to be dying on the page, not in the fun social aspects.

  3. I’m a keen steampunk. I make most of my own costumes, sew waistcoats to sell at steampunk events and love attending in costume. I think it may feel like it’s lost it’s puff because events have been cancelled due to the pandemic. I attended A recent event in Goulburn NSW (Australia) and the steampunks appeared in droves. All eager to catch up with friends and stall owners they’d not seen for months, no, years. Two authors also had small stalls. selling their books. BG Hilton and Felicity Banks. Steampunk is still alive it’s just been in hibernation.

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