Tag Archives: Subgenres of Steampunk

Humour and the Steampunk Genre

Grim men with rocking horse.

Horsing Around

For some unknown reason, we tend to look back at the Victorians and consider them rather grim. I put this attitude down to the black & white photographs from the era. Even the brightest colours are reduced to dreary shades of dust and charcoal in B&W photography, and the unsmiling expressions were an artefact of the length of exposure time to obtain a clear photo. As an example, study the image above. The uniforms of the men could be scarlet for all we know, and the presence of the ‘smoking’ hobbyhorse, balancing baby doll, and toy cannon suggests this image was taken in jest. I would love to know the full story behind this image; I suspect this might be a bachelor party.

Logical progression from 'headless' photographsPhotoshop in the Victorian era

Most humour is ephemeral. But there are several strong suggestions that the Victorians enjoyed a good laugh: the success of Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and Gilbert & Sullivan; the enormous number of humorous photos and postcards; the popularity of Punch magazine; the lyrics of music hall songs; and the fact that even the most serious novels usually had some humorous scenes. So much for the stiff upper lip …

Girls dressed as gnomes 1902

So, what does this mean for your Steampunk narrative? Some authors add humour to their work as a matter of course, like Michael Pryor, while Ged Maybury writes with the intent of creating a humorous novel. The definition of what is humour changes from person to person. If you want to throw a tragedy into sharp focus, you contrast it to humour – the premise of nearly every modern horror movie.

The best humour isn’t forced. When in doubt, take it out. There is no such thing as half funny.


Filed under Genre Markers, History, Humour, Mash-ups, Steampunk

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: https://www.facebook.com/SteampunkSunday


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