Monday, 13 October 2014

Putting some 'Punk' into Steampunk

I expect anyone reading this right now already has a pretty good idea what steampunk is. For those that don't here's a quick and fairly brief explanation.

It is generally considered to be a sub-genre of science fiction which typically features steam powered machinery, usually incorporating a Victorian aesthetic. It also often utilises futuristic technology envisioned as being powered by steam engines. Some of the usual tropes of steampunk are airships, goggles, and twist on the Victorian fashion style.

A few examples of the genre at work come from some of the great science fiction authors of the past. Jules Verne for instance, with his portrayal of a submarine long before they had been conceived or invented, and of course H.G. Wells and his time machine and Martian invaders.

This is as far as most people get, and that's fine; unfortunately, it's forgetting an important part of the genre: the 'punk' element. There is a very good reason punk is used there, and it's because there is an idealogical and political focus to the genre, that in my mind is just as relevant as the other elements.

Punk culture is generally looked at as one of rebellion, personal and social freedoms, and of course, anti-establishment ideals. Unfortunately, this aspect is usually forgotten when most people think of steampunk. Or perhaps overlooked in favour of the more visual and stylised elements.

To me, the 'punk' is just as important as the 'steam', and it's that focus which has been a big influence in my current trilogy of books. A running theme throughout the series is one of revolution, where a small group of idealistic freedom fighters struggle against an oppressive regime in an effort to change their culture and society. My aim was to get across the sense of rebellion, idealism and struggle for personal freedoms. I'm not sure how successful that has been, but I hope it at least shines through in some way. I guess time will tell.

Of course, that's not to say that I don't love the steam element just as much. There is something aesthetically pleasing about mixing the modern and the old that I find fascinating and exciting. Whatever else you might think about them, the Victorians had a certain style which can be very appealing.

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