Wednesday, July 14, 2010

An Explanation of Steampunk

Blaze has informed me ( what is this, 5 months in advance?) that he wants an airship pirate birthday party this year. This was the same theme he chose last year, but last year it was just family here for his birthday. This year he wants a real party with friends invited. I guess I'm brave enough to try that again. The last time we tried that was his 6th birthday. We invited about a dozen children and not a single one showed up. It was so sad, that it's taken me until now to agree to go through that again.

So, anyway, I told the women at the pool that he wanted an airship pirate birthday and no-one was quite sure what an airship pirate was. Saying "steampunk", got equally baffled looks, so I decided this might require a little explanation.

Steampunk is a history that never was. It is a high tech, steam powered, Victorian age, filled with airships, submarines, robots, and ray guns. The name was only coined in the 1980's, but examples of the genre go back much farther than that. Think Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Steampunk began as a literary term for retro-futurist science fiction.

Some examples of this genre include,

For young adults:

His Dark Material Trilogy (The Golden Compass...), by Philip Pullman

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

Larklight, by Philip Reeve

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

For adults:

The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson

Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

Soulless, by Gail Carriger

The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley


In recent years, steampunk has branched out into other areas; fashion, art, movies, music, on-line communities, video games, and even home decorating ( The Steampunk Home).


The images that most represent steampunk are clocks, keys, gears, goggles, corsets and top hats.

The Live journal Community, Steampunk fashion, is the best place I've found to get costuming inspiration.

Steampunk music:

Steampunk Movies:

The Golden Compass

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The Disney version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Wild Wild West (the movie and the old t.v. show)

Will Smith Wild Wild West Music Video

Scenes from the movies Steam Boy set to the song "Building Steam", by Abney Park

And What are Airship Pirates?

Airship pirates are a rather popular part of steampunk culture. The band Abney Park sings about being airship pirates, which is how Blaze first became aware of the concept.

Blaze's airship pirate costume from last Halloween can be seen here.

For more information about steampunk, Tor books has a very good article called "Steampunk 101" on their website.

A new addition to this list (12/28/2011), because this song is just too good to leave out:


Tammy said...

I can't believe I actually know what steampunk is. Usually I am the last to find out things like that. lol!

We are enjoying reading Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, by the way. ;)

Molly said...

I love Steampunk! Thanks for the overview though, as there are times I need to explain it as well. BTW - we had a bday party one year where no one showed and in the end my hubby went next door and brough the neighbor kids over to play and eat. It hurts at first, but the next party will erase the memory...or at least soften it. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous birthday theme! I recently read Larklight and loved it. Good luck with the party. I'm sure you'll do it beautifully.

Crafty Crow