This article was first published in 2009. A lot can change over time. A more recent reprise of the article can be found HERE
Well to begin with let's clear up the name. "Steampunk" started as a joke. There was a movement in science fiction to write in a genre known as "Cyberpunk". When various writers began exploring similar concepts and ideas but setting them in a pseudo Victorian world the term steampunk was jokingly coined. The name stuck but even steampunks are constantly debating "well what is steampunk?" Like all communities however steampunk has grown and developed a life of its own.
Steampunk now encompasses a wide variety of input from a highly creative and artistic community. It includes writers, musicians, dancers, sculptors, model makers, costume makers and a host of other disciplines and skills. It has been summed up as "Well can you imagine what things would be like if the Great Exhibition had never finished?" Steampunks try to take some of the very best parts of the past and make them part of a bright future. We value good manners and polite conduct and try to encourage this by setting an example for others. We think things should be made to a high quality and to last thus helping the environment. We value and encourage creativity and have been asked to collaborate in educational and arts projects across the country. Whilst things are set in a pseudo historical world which harks back to our Victorian heritage we do not promote any of the inequalities of that past. Indeed ours is deliberately an all inclusive community. You will find steampunks of all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds. We also come from all walks of life from students to academics and from comedians to solicitors.
Can you still call it steam-PUNK? Punk in the seventies was a rebellion against contemporary society. We are most definitely rebelling but we are making a stand against: throwaway society, poor manners and antisocial behaviour, homogenisation and commercialism. We are punks who are polite, friendly, care about the environment and the past and encourage creativity.
Steampunk started as a science fiction genre but it is now a community and has its own fashions, music and tastes. We are a community that enjoys socialising, often dressing in distinctive steampunk fashions. We visit historical sites as well as enjoying music gigs and performances. Steampunks often make or modify everyday objects to fit the neo victorian aesthetic. This could be making a wood and brass cabinet for your PC or a mock raygun suitable for an adventure with Jules Verne.
The DIY ethic is very strong in steampunk. With creativity being the main common denominator this is hardly surprising. It also fits in with our philosophy on sustainability, durability and craftsmanship. It is more environmentally friendly to take an object and repurpose it giving it a whole new lease of life than to recycle it.
2009 has been an amazing year for Steampunk which is rapidly becoming more popular. We have seen the first UK steampunk festival (The Asylum) a formal exhibition at Oxford University, a major education project in the North East and a mass of smaller events, gigs and features. Steampunk is influencing the media and even highstreet fashions.
2010 will be the year of Steampunk and the VSS will be at the forefront.