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What is Steampunk?

What is Steampunk?

Posted on 06th September, 2013

Lincoln's annual Steampunk festival has been hailed as the 'most splendid festival in the world' and is Europe's largest gathering. However, the term 'Steampunk' is somewhat of a mystery so Major Thadeus Tinker (aka John Naylor), Chair of the Victorian Steampunk Society, has shed some light on the phenomenon for us.

Steampunks are generally polite, friendly, care about the environment, the past and the future, and creativity & individuality.  Steampunk started as a label for a science fiction genre but it is now a label or signpost to a community.

This is a community which  has its own fashions, music & tastes and enjoys socialising, often dressing in distinctive Steampunk fashions. You may see Steampunks visiting 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 and with creativity being the main common denominator this is hardly surprising. It also fits in with the philosophies on sustainability, durability and craftsmanship. It is after all more environmentally friendly to take an object and repurpose it giving it a whole new lease of life than it is to recycle it.

Steampunk has now developed into an extended network which 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. Steampunks try to take some of the very best parts of the past and make them part of a bright future.

Steampunks value good manners and polite conduct and try to encourage this by setting an example for others. They think things should be made to a high quality and to last thus helping the environment. They value and encourage creativity and indeed have been asked to collaborate in educational and arts projects across the globe.

Whilst things are set in a pseudo historical world which harks back to our Victorian heritage, Steampunks do not promote any of the inequalities of that past. Indeed theirs is deliberately an all inclusive community. You will find Steampunks of all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds and abilities. They also come from all walks of life from students to academics and from comedians to solicitors.

In a recent exercise to “explain Steampunk in a sentence” a group from across the world came up with: “Steampunk is a creative social movement that draws inspiration from Victorian and pre-war history in an anachronistic mix of science fiction, modern values and a sense of fun.”

It should be very swiftly pointed out that this statement, nor indeed this article, acts to define Steampunk. This has proven to be an impossible task. Steampunk is a very personal thing and everyone’s idea of what it should be is individual to them.

The sign of a Steampunk who is confident in the community is that they are prepared to acknowledge that there is no definition and no boundaries to Steampunk other than the imagination of the individual.

There is however one rule: BE NICE TO ONE ANOTHER.

Find out more and experience Steampunk for yourself at Lincoln's annual Steampunk Festival.

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  • What is Steampunk?
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