By Cory Doctorow at 9:19 am Sat, Jan 19, 2008
Can someone explain the current love for steampunk? I really don’t get it.
Yes, can there be a moratorium or something on ‘steampunk’? It has been overused to the point of meaninglessness.
yeah i really don’t see anything steampunk about that picture…
@michaelk99 : All I can do is give you my point of view:
First, I love steampunk for the same reason I love antique wood furniture as compared to the particle-board, veneer, and plastic crap we produce nowadays. The antiques are more beautiful, more durable (chip oak, it still looks good; chip laminate and it’s like an open wound), and they have a sense of history about them.
I’m writing this at an oak desk which was made around 1900 and will probably be around in 2100. That provides an enormous sense of comfort and “place” in a world of disposable things.
Steampunk has that same aesthetic. In the early-to-mid 20th century, technology became increasingly less simple and less “organic”. Simple base materials of wood, copper, oil and glass — and big chunky mechanical parts like wheels and gears — were increasingly being replaced by aluminum, plastics, industrial lubricants, circuit boards and computer chips.
When I look at a train from the 1890s, I can see how all the parts go together, and I can even imagine myself capable of building one given the basic raw materials (and the machine shop of my dreams). Nothing requires a clean room or microscopic engineering tools. It’s technology I can relate to — “open source” in the physical world.
Now, that’s just the Victorian aesthetic. But there’s an added fantasy element of steampunk too: the idea that you could build a robot or a time machine with wheels and brass gears and maybe a handful of exotic material like Cavorite.
This type of Steampunk embodies the romantic idea that all our technological marvels (and more) might exist, but in a way that makes them more comprehensible, durable, and accessible to the common folk.
And that’s what I like about it.
Oh, and @forgeweld: BoingBoing is free, and no one is forcing you to click the links or read the articles.
Oh those are cool! Thanks Cory! #3 – best to click through before commenting . . .
The presence of old-fashioned mechanical equipment (the watch and pickaxe) combined with out-of-date finery (the hat) seems pretty classically steampunk to me. The picture’s not really helping my phobia of anthropomorphic bunnies, though.
Back@99:No one is twisting my arm, I was just making a suggestion for more nuanced description of things. The adjective in question has been applied to so many things that are at best tangentially related to it’s origins. It now ranks with ‘rad’ and ‘gnarly’ in precision of meaning. I like the present day/anachronism aesthetic myself, I just think the term has gotten tired through overuse.
steampunk or meaninglessness, in a way its fascinating – and tends to kitch
steampunk or meaninglessness – it’s just another kind of kitch
It’s pretty amazing to show up at a blog and say, “I’m not interested in the same stuff as you, stop being interested in that now so that I’ll enjoy myself more.”
steampunk’s appeal comes from our unspoken dread that technological society is going to collapse. This aesthetic reassures that we can still have our comforts, even if they are coal-fired.
Steampunk or not, that’s intricate, amazing beautiful art. Love it!
I’ve noticed more and more comments lately with the theme of “You’re Not Entertaining Me! Jump Higher!” I am completely and utterly appreciative and grateful for the contributions of you and the rest of the BBers. If it weren’t for you, I never would have learned Kitteh, and my life would be a little poorer.
It would have been so steampunk if you had said: â€˜If â€˜ee cannot think well â€˜ot, dearie, â€˜ee may fuck yourselfâ€™
“I’m not interested in the same stuff as you, stop being interested in that now so that I’ll enjoy myself more.”
I was thinking about it, and then it hit me. What an idiot I was not to get it! Victorian aesthetic, Alice in Wonderland imagery, Humpty Dumpty saying: “When I use a word it means exactly what I say it means, nothing more, nothing less..” Steampunk can be anything you want it to be! Brilliantly drawn-(Top) hats off.
@Cheqyr Thank you for the explantion. I appreciate the craftmanship of things like the steampunk laptop or ipod, but don’t much like the aesethic. The idea of making hi tech gadgets out low tech material is cool though.
steampunk is pretty much a fantasy about a gear-driven analog computer internet. i can empathize with that idea. the title story collage doesn’t seem like steampunk to me, though.
“Steampunk” is, most of the time, a wish for an analogue for explicit manifestation of the hidden. Specifically, it’s a display of the interpretation of the popularly mysterious and evolving gears of the internet.
Human communication has come to rely, at least partially, on the internet. The need for transparency in this new mode of communication has created a backlash and its representation.
Thank you, Cheqyr and TheFirstMan for your articulate and knowledgeable responses.
I truly enjoy and respect the Steampunk aesthetic
Antinous — yeah, that’s pretty much what killed comments the first time around. I call it the “hallucinated editorial guidelines” problem, as in “I hallucinated these editorial guidelines for you and they clearly state that you won’t write about _____ anymore — what’s wrong with you?”
very nice pictures indeed.
i always liked the victorian science fiction thing.
and we will have to live with the term steampunk it seems. not crazy about it but usually love all the things it describes. especially objects. the time machine and nautilus from them old movies still haven’t been beat though !
the nay comments – well, i get them cause i suffer from having instant opinions but i won’t visit your house and tell you the colour of your kitchen is all wrong.
even if it is.
You shouldn’t let those people get to you, Cory. They’re just expressing their opinion. I’m sure someone out there doesn’t like the Sistene Chapel or Mozart’s 5th Symphony, too. There’s just no accounting for taste! When you invite the public to give comments, you’re going to get the bad with the good.
For myself, I love Rothwell’s works, although I would have described them as more generally “gothic”, maybe even a bit “Cthulhuean“. It’s art with a glorius twist that would have made Lovecraft proud. It’s well worth thumbing through his online listings. If the first couple posters got turned off just because of the “steampunk” label, they should click the link and have a look at what’s there. They can always apply a different label if they want!
I’ve had lots of hallucinations (and flashbacks), but mine were always fun and never involved guidelines. The cranks need better drugs.
I was piecing together parts of public-domain nineteenth century black & white images the other day. Thanks to you guys, know I now not only has someone else already done it, they’ve perfected it. Crap. I hate the Internet.
Lots more sophisticated antique-d photomontage like this, over at… nu-real : a timeline of fantastic photomontage and its possible influences, 1857-2007.
“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important axe murder!” said Little Lizzy-Alice. A work of art that would be right at home with the Adams Family.
Bravo Cheqyr, on all counts!
The only thing I’m considering calling a moratorium on is comments that complain about Steampunk. If you’ve been reading Boing Boing long enough to complain about getting tired of Steampunk, you’ve been reading long enough to know that (a.) Cory really likes the stuff; (b.) the other Boingers are friendly to it; and (c.) Boing Boing is broad church about what qualifies as Steampunk.
Gentle readers, if these habitual practices distress you, allow me to suggest that you could more rationally address your discontent by scrolling downward with greater celerity when you perceive that a new entry touches upon the subject.
Steampunk diction. Nice.
And well said TNH.
If folk don’t want Steampunk then why bother looking at it and whingeing about it. For me, it’s one of the things that make BoingBoing what it is.
“A Directory of Wonderful Things”, to state the obvious.
I think steampunk is lovely, some people say that it’s extremely stereotypical… So what? It’s okay to be in a stereotype, if you love the trend and the fashion and art. What’s the big deal? I love to spend time browsing through sites and looking at unique, strange, quirky fashions. it makes my day and gives me inspiration towards my art and creative writing. I’m certainly in no stereotype but I enjoy to see other people taking part in something, like a club? In some ways. It’s nice to see people taking an interest in inspiring new fashion.
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