Before there was Steampunk, there was Victorian-era Science Fiction. Jules Verne, Mary Shelley, and H.G. Wells imagined a world populated with submarines, life-extension technologies, time machines, and all sorts of not-yet-invented technologies. Their stories were fantastical, and captured the imagination of the public.
A century later, influenced by such classic works, authors began writing science fiction stories set in an alternate Victorian world. (There are many worth noting, but here we'll point out William Gibson since he also pioneered the "cyberpunk" genre.)
They were looking back, but they imagined a time filled with technologies that even still have not been invented. There were airships, robots, jetpacks…all powered by steam technology. The aesthetic of steampunk continues the visual tropes set forth in its origins: Victorian fashions smashed into anachronistic technology. The staples of laboratories and safaris make appearances throughout – goggles, a blunderbuss – but the field of engineering hangs over everything. Gears, gears, gears!
From the pages of literature, steampunk moved into the field of the moving image. A popular 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea film from Disney. Wild, Wild, West (the TV show first, then the film). The League of Extraordinary Gentleman jumped from a graphic novel to the big screen. The film was mediocre, but a reboot is on the way.
Steampunk popularity grew and eventually spawned sub-genres. Dieselpunk imagines a world with giant, impossible machines powered by petrol. Atompunk features a twist on the 1950s where radiation is a commonly used power source.
In many ways, we’re still at the beginning of the steampunk movement. While many tropes are standing firm, certain aspects are still being explored. Get involved now, and you won't just be joining the steampunk movement…you'll be helping to create it!