Fantastical Musings

Steampunk 101


An Ongoing Discussion About All Things Steampunk

March 3, 2018

So what is Steampunk?  That’s a good question, and one I often hear at conventions. defines the term this way: “A subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world.”

This is a good way to describe the genre.  I like to say that Steampunk is the Industrial Revolution on steroids, and steam power is the key – it powers everything from lights to airships to automatons to weapons.  The world and time-period in which a story takes place dictates much about what you will read in terms of technology and machinery.

The traditional setting for Steampunk is England during the Victorian Era, which is named after Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901.  That’s an almost seventy-year period which saw significant changes in the world.  The telegraph revolutionized communication, trains grew into a major mode of transport, automobiles and electric light bulbs were invented, as well as the phonograph.  In the medical field, x-rays began to be used.  And that’s just a small sample of significant technological advances, many of which impact us even today.

But the genre has expanded beyond its traditional roots.  For example, the American West and the Civil war are popular settings.  There are also completely fictional worlds that are centered on steam-powered technologies and Victorian sensibilities.  In other words, there is a wealth of story-telling opportunities within the genre.

However, the genre has been expanded into other areas of the world.  The American West and the Civil War are popular settings that provide a wealth of story-telling opportunity.  There are also completely fictional worlds loosely based on the real world.

In the next post, we’ll take a look at Steampunk books, from the earliest novels to the latest trends.