What is Steampunk?
Steampunk is a genre that collides Victorian era costuming with outlandish steam generated technology, as if the Victorian Era had produced a mass of innovation based upon the technology of the time. H.G. Wells and Jules Verne often serve as the basis for background stories, but also the works of H.P. Lovecraft, lending a supernatural aspect. In the 1980’s, more authors, K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers, James Blaylock, created a substantial, definable genre and the label “steampunk” was invented. The genre gained widespread awareness in the 1990’s via authors William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
As a genre, it is fairly open to interpretation; some people stick closely to a western European look, while others branch out with more fantastic Sci-Fi looking gear. It is populated by people playing the roles of airship pirates, supernatural researchers and fighters, and gadgeteers. Others have begun branching out from the western European look as demonstrated by the Multiculturalism for Steampunk blog of Miss Kagashi.
The main attribute that differentiates Steampunk costuming from Victorian costuming is the technological gadgets Steampunks carry and use. Clockwork gears are popular, brass items and goggles are almost iconic of the genre. Reading Steampunk literature is a great way to come up with a back story for a character, but to get a good feel for Steampunk wear, it might be easiest to research movies that offer a visual example such as Wild, Wild West or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. A popular Steampunk group, The League of S.T.E.A.M., has many well done, entertaining short films up on YouTube.
Official Steampunk conventions began popping up after 2006. Local upcoming events include; Voyages Extraordinaire at Queen Bee’s Art and Cultural Center, Northpark, February 12th and the Gaslight Gathering, San Diego, May 6-8. An event that will require some travel is the Wild, Wild West Con, Tucson, AZ, March 4-6.
Stranglehold, a local Star Trek and Pirate club, has started yet another branch, the League of Supremely Evil Revolutionaries if you’re looking for people to play with, or at least somewhere to start.
Steampunk encompasses not only role-playing, but crosses over into the arts. See the list below of sites to visit for music, clothing, information and accessories. For an in depth history of the genre, see the Wikipedia page Steampunk.
And, as always, have fun!
Steampunk on Facebook
Steam Powered Giraffe
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