This Is Steampunk
For the last year or so I have been addicted to a type of escapism known as steampunk.
I know half of you are wondering ‘what is steampunk?’ and the other are probably aware of what I am on about.
The basic answer is that steampunk is a literature genre of sci-fi and alternative history. Its entire focus is on when steam engines were first introduced around the Victorian London era.
It is a fantasy world where inventors have made futuristic creations such as steamships, robots and other quirky inventions. Where normal sci-fi looks into what could be the future, steampunk looks into what could have been the past.
I cannot tell you why I was drawn to this world exactly but there was just something amazing about it. It was like when I first watched Avatar and thought ‘I wish I could see that’.
I remember as a child I would always imagine myself born to an old world era. My family would even say I was born in the wrong century. Perhaps this is why I am pulled towards this historical sci-fi world so much. There is an imaginative beauty that you can just escape to and think up all sorts of things. And despite this type of genre generally considered being somewhat ‘nerdy and uncool’ it has started to appear in many places.
I first became aware of it over a year ago when I picked up a book called The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel By Cassandra Clare. The book was set in this Victorian London Jack The Ripper sort of atmosphere where the fantasy, steampunk and supernatural worlds came together.
Along with vampires, demons and Nephilim (a sort of half human, half angel creature) the characters also share London town with cyborg-like inventions that are prototypes for an upcoming war. The book became one of my favourites and sparked my interest in the steampunk world.
It was not long before I discovered there was an entire community dedicated to this fantasy world. From fashion to games, there was even an Oxford College course dedicated to the scientific art of steampunk. I also discovered my mum had even joined the band wagon after discovering the world through her love of crafts.
Yet when I mentioned it to my friends they had no clue what I was on about. Despite the fact there was a huge fan base it was still tucked away in the small corners of the world.
I recently found steampunk slowly making appearances into other media such as the Microsoft Fable II and III games, also in blockbuster films such as The Illusionist, The Prestige and Stardust. Even in the newest series of Primeval there was a Victorian character, who was dressed fashionably in a steampunk costume.
Yes, even fashion has discovered the world of steampunk, with retailers beginning to sell jewellery, and even fashion designer Elena Sanders has a whole range based on the alternative world.
However, the most recent thing I have seen steampunk make its appearance in - which will sure to push itself into the mainstream world - is the new video for Panic At The Disco’s Ballad Of Mona Lisa. The entire video’s theme is based around a Victorian murder scene where all the characters are dressed in steampunk style costumes - complete with goggles, clockwork-like suit and top hats. The backdrop is full of steampunk inspired inventions as props.
It will be impossible to predict how long it will take for steampunk to become an official fad, but if it is anything like emo was it will be a very short time. The one thing I worry about though is that it will no longer be just about the imagination and escapism it gave to me. It will become another way to label and judge people by.
As much as I love steampunk, I hope it will not become so media-driven that it becomes a teenage craze, but will remain a tucked-away community with only the nerdy and uncool fans like me to enjoy it.