Steampunk: not just a subgenre any longer

Steampunk. What is it? Is it a community of costumed players, people, dressing up in Victorian garb with mechanical accessories? Is it a subgenre of science fiction? Is it popular in movies and television? Is it a type of setting in a video game, like in the popular BioShock: Infinite? It is all of the above and more.

                SteampunkWhat began as just a subgenre of Science Fiction in 1987, has evolved into its own genre and culture. Steampunk novels pull material from other classical genres like Fantasy, Horror, Historical Fiction, and of course, Science Fiction. Many people are often confused on what the true definition and explanation is for Steampunk. Truthfully there are numerous definitions and explanations. There is a general consensus that for a book to be considered Steampunk; it must be an alternate history and/or have advanced technologies for its time period. Most books in the genre incorporate steam-powered or clockwork-powered machinery in a 19th century Victorian England or an American West (think of the movie Wild Wild West featuring Will Smith and Kevin Kline) background setting. Although there is discussion on how forthcoming books in the genre will be expanding into different countries and time periods.

                Well known authors from other genres have even noticed the growing trend. Popular romance writer Meljean Brook has her Iron Seas series that involves adventure, the supernatural, romance and steampunk. Historical romance writer Beth Ciotta started a new Steampunk series titled The Glorious Victorious Darcy’s. Kate Locke, notable author for both young adult and adult novels, has her Immortal Empire Series. Authors of the genre allude and refer to classical science fiction authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells. Or they incorporate the work of Nichola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and other inventors of their time.

                From its earlier days Steampunk has grown and evolved. You can see elements of it everywhere. Whether in adult and young adult books at your local library, action movies in theatres, costumed players at infamous conventions (think of Comic Con, Dragon Con, etc.), music videos from famous bands, art and sculpture in museums and houses. It’s all around.

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Come browse the library’s selection of Steampunk with adult and young adult literary choices such as The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook, Soulless by Gail Carringer, The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter and Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.

We have numerous movies such as Steamboy, Howl’s Moving Castle, Hellboy and Hellboy 2. And we have combination of materials such as the graphic novel and movie adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. We even have video games in the genre like BioShock: Infinite for Xbox and Dishonored for Xbox and Play Station 3.

– posted by Stacey, Readers’ Services

3 thoughts on “Steampunk: not just a subgenre any longer”

    1. Thanks! I read through your article, it’s a very good introduction of the history and explanation of what steampunk is with great examples from all media. If people wanted more information mind if I send them your article?


    2. Go for it.. also please check out for more lovely stuff. Thank you.

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