An Ever-Changing Definition

Every month, we ask ourselves, “What is Steampunk?”, and we think about it again.

Here’s a practical answer you can use:

Steampunk is a creative focus, based re-imagining the 19th century, which you can use for any form of inventiveness.

It could be music, art, dress, writing, games – and those are just beginning points.

Steampunk uses a near past, a past close enough that we can find its clothing in thrift stores, but far enough that it’s clearly a different world. That’s a pretty unique place. Dieselpunk is wonderful, but different; it’s hard for the 1940s not to be overwhelmed by the Third Reach. Come closer in time, and we’re still actually dealing with the hippie movement, with the remnants of the greed and challenges of the Disco Area; and while the 80s were marvelously weird, they’re well within the living memory of hundreds of millions of people. It’s hard to feel like you have free creative reign with a time which is, in a sense, directly visible in our own world.

Go back to the 18th century or before, and you’re going too far to have Steampunk’s critical proximity. Without mass production, industrialization, organized science, and, hell, decent dentistry, you have a wholly altered world. While I don’t like putting “science” and “magic” into two categories which are automatically opposed to each other (but thoughts on the scientific study of magic, while absolutely relevant to the 19th century, are for another day) – I’d like to put forth a theory:

In 1786, J.H. Müller proposed a difference engine, but could not get it funded. Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine was proposed in 1822, and received its first funding in 1823.

A Steampunk clockwork heart concept with a heart shape made of cogs and gears

Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s the moment Steampunk started – a world which had the concept of modern computers and was ready to make them, but was more than a century away from the electrical knowledge needed to begin the Information Age. You had a world which was beginning to have very deep knowledge, but wherein it was still widely believed to be possible that knowledge was finite, and the world was ultimately something which could be understood. You just had to explore hard enough, search bravely enough, create innovatively enough – and you might figure it out.

Further Thoughts

Like we said before, we think about the question of “What is Steampunk?” very frequently and have written a fair amount on the subject.  Might we recommend some further reading?

Welcome to The Steampunk World’s Fair

Welcome to The Steampunk World’s Fair

Jeff Mach's Steampunk World's Fair is the world's largest Steampunk event!  All are welcome! We were just featured on The Syfy Channel's Syfywire: 11 Unconventional Conventions You Have To Geek Out At, by Elizabeth Rayne. Up next: Steampunk Halloween In The Catskills!...

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The Great Steampunk Talent Search

The Great Steampunk Talent Search

WELCOME TO THE GREAT STEAMPUNK TALENT SEARCH: THE AUTHOR EDITION! The Steampunk World’s Fair, the world’s largest Steampunk festival, has helped some of the best-known performers in Steampunk get discovered. Now we’d like to share the Steampunk joy and expand its...

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Caruso Kith Kin & Co LLC

Caruso Kith Kin & Co LLC

The Carusos have become well-known as purveyors of chainmail nautical creatures, jewel beetle jewelry, fine pocket watches, and watch accessories. This year, however, we’re also bringing laser-cut clockwork automations – and be sure to stop by our booth in your Steampunk finest to have a formal portrait painted while you wait! As always our staff horologist will be on-site, so bring your watches for diagnostics and appraisal.

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DaVinci Scientifica Emporium

DaVinci Scientifica Emporium

DaVinci specializes in mixing genuine antiques and modern items to create a unique yet Victorian look for every buyer, helping to assure that each piece is custom. In effect, it’s art that is wearable.

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Hibernacula

Hibernacula

Hibernacula, the esoteric boutique, celebrating the scientific, the sacred, and the sublime. Talismans and treasures to delight the heart and ignite the imagination.

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Dellamorte & Co.

Dellamorte & Co.

Conjuring an archaic aesthetic and a sense of dark allure, Dellamorte & Co. draws inspiration from catacombs and tombs, mysticism and the realm of esoteric lore. We invite you to share in our vision and appreciation for the macabre.

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Cross Rose

Cross Rose

Imported, custom and handmade Japanese lolita alternative fashion dresses & petticoats, delicate chokers, cute and gothic frills. We have everything from small accessories and adorable plush animals, to full outfits from head to toe.

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HeiRLooMS (aka HRLMS Creations)

HeiRLooMS (aka HRLMS Creations)

I am a master of repurposing found objects from precious Sterling Silver heirlooms to rusty skeleton keys. I take many inspirations from the realms of fantasy, steampunk, fairy tales, mythology, music and the Victorian Era. I have something for everyone!

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Lincoln Street Design

Lincoln Street Design

I am inspired by the strange and unusual.  I’m a scientist/artist who fabricates Memento Mori and other jewelry using recycled copper, silver and brass, found objects, natural semi-precious gemstones, and antique portraits.  Each one-of-a-kind piece has a life of its own and contains at least one element that is recycled.  My necklaces, earrings, and pins have a confident, playful and quirky feel.

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Rosswyvern Press

Rosswyvern Press

Rosswyvern press is a small regional publisher located in Louisville Kentucky specializing in Steampunk and Steam Fantasy books.

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House of Grand Design

House of Grand Design

We believe that a garment, like a story, is only as good as the details that complete it. Through elegance of design and excellence of materials we help you tell the story of who you are. Through a combination of outrageous colors or subtle curves we are able to create a piece that is not only incredible to wear but also able to withstand the test of time. All made by hand in the USA our items range from purple overcoats to black and white striped suits.

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Darcarin Studios

Darcarin Studios

Steampunk, deadly, and unusual jewelry. Jars, capsules, and vials filled with dried herbs, flowers, gemstones, crystals, and other novelties fashioned into eye-catching jewelry pieces.

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Horny things

Horny things

Purveyors and artisans of Horn, Bone, Antler and other natural materials Items include but are not limited to: Items made from horn such as: drinking horns, mugs, cups, utensils, bowls, hair sticks/decorations, checkers, whistles, lanterns, beads, tips, pendants, charms, shaving brushes, boxes, frames, trays, jewelry, shofars, Items made from antler such as: pendants, mystical art, headdress,

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Voltaire Design Studio

Voltaire Design Studio

Purveyors of fine steampunk jewelry and accessories as well as clothing items and corsets. Influences from steampunk to goth and alternative syles inspire our one of a kind creations.

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Wyrd Armouries

Wyrd Armouries

Accessorizing your imagination! Costume accessories, weapons, and props for the airship inclined.

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Delicious Boutique

Delicious Boutique

We keep in stock a large, ever-changing selection of items geared towards the tastes of the tribes and communities we love and are part of… Burners, Steampunks, Fire Performers, Pirates, Punks, Dandies, Bohemians, Leather, Faeries, and many others.

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Sweet Steam LLC

Sweet Steam LLC

Sweet Steam exists to deliver the finest eclectic chocolates to honor and bring joy to fellow steampunk enthusiasts. We craft our chocolates in shapes and flavors that evoke a sense of nostalgia for a decadent past that never was.

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KMKDesigns

KMKDesigns

KMK is a mother daughter collaboration in MN who are dedicated to create things that bring imagination to life “Imagination Incarnate”. We do custom costume of anything you like! We also create our own clothing line that mixes the beauty of gothic, victorian, lolita and fantasy.

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Lady Cassaundra

Lady Cassaundra

Bath bombs, jewelry and collectables all based on steampunk, Gothic, pop culture and video games.

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A Steampunked Life

A Steampunked Life

We are a family run buiness that creates steampunk items for you from head to toe. Whether you want a one of a kind pocket watch or pill box to a larger than life costume or prop, we do it!

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