TV Tropes Monday: Steampunk

Tweet of the Day: The Teutonic Order and the Baltic States


Steampunk trends in the opposite direction to Cyberpunk in the scale of idealism versus cynicism. It recalls a time of boundless promise where steam power stretched rails across continents and steamers reached the farthest oceans. It thrives on the aesthetics of gears, steam plumes and dirigibles. Often it employs alternate history as setting but it can also be set in an alternate world. Its real world analog is the Victorian era (1837-1901) and has a London like city at its center although an American counterpart could exist between the end of the Civil War (1865) to the beginning of World War 1 (1914).

It also embodies the spirit of the age(s): human achievement through technological progress and capitalist growth but with whatever the author wishes to throw in, like magic, classic movie monsters, daring explorers and maybe the odd giant robot or two. It certainly runs on the rule of cool.

Not all steam punk works are happy go lucky romps through old timey cheerio England. After all the 19th century was only a paradise for those who could live in Indian bungalows or great pastoral mansions away from the toxic cities…

Or the subjugation of millions at home and abroad,

Or the alms houses and child labor,

Or the subjugation of millions of Natives in America, Africa and Asia,

Or the wars….

Dickens was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg after all. Still, it is a sub-genre where the thrill of adventure is very much alive and you can meet historical figures kicking ass and taking names.


10 comments on “TV Tropes Monday: Steampunk

  1. Never been a fan of Steampunk. Maybe cause it seems so trendy these days


  2. I used to be deep in the steampunk thing before I realized the only work of steampunk-themed fiction that I actually found good was a short story called “Ticker Hounds” and everything else was a massive disappointment. I have yet to read a good steampunk novel.


    • I heard go things about “Leviathan” (by Scott Westefeld). It’s YA, but with good reviews. Then again, maybe it is time for you to write something up. I mean, we see a lot Victorian-themed Steampunk, but what about central Europe? The Astra-Hungerian Empire or Germany unification, or the wars of liberation in Italy or South America?

      I think this movement has a lot of potential if people actually use the history at hand, and not just light brush of Anglo-America history (UK-US).


  3. That picture. Wow. Lol.


  4. I’ve read Leviathan, which is entertaining but the actual writing was, at times, shockingly bad. In that vein, Airborn was a very nice zeppelin adventure but I’m not sure I’d call it steampunk.

    I have written (quite) a few steampunk stories, one set in a post-apocalyptic Canada (though it’s more 1930s-ish than Victorian), another one in St. Petersburg, and yet another one on Mars, but I haven’t been able to sell any of them. So no steampunk revolution from my end just yet.

    On Victorian views of the female body:


    • The one in Canada sounds more like Dieselpunk (yes, that is a real movement, sort of). The other ones are also interesting as well. Hope the sell one day.


  5. Steampunk isn’t quite my thing,but it intrigues me as a trend. I wish I understood it better!


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