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Flavors of Steampunk

Started by RJBowman, August 23, 2023, 11:22:06 PM

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I was trying to create subclassifications for for the steampunk genre.

There would be realistic steampunk, which might be a fairly standard Victorian or Edwardian period piece that has some technology that's ahead of it's time. The examples that come to my mind are "Q.E.D." starring Sam Waterston, and a largely forgotten 1970's show called "Bearcats" about a pair of detectives/troubleshooters who travel the late old west in a Bearcat automobile, and in the one episode I've seen confront a gang who have imported a tank-like German armored vehicle for use in bank robberies. There must be other examples; it worked well for pre-2000 series television because the studios were already set up to crank out period films and westerns.

The opposite extreme would be what I think of as LUSH steampunk, in which mechanical devices are integrated into the entire world. The "Lady Mechanika" comic book and the movie "Mortal Engines" are examples of what I'd classify as lush.

There would be a lot of stuff that falls between these extremes, and so much variation that there couldn't really be a linear "tech level" scale life some role playing games have tried to define. Maybe some kind of matrix could be created, charting various works on axes of realism, technological level, whimsy, etc.

Some examples of what you would need to classify: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang almost resembles the realistic type at first until of goes off into the fantasy land of professional child catchers and operetta. Carnival Row seems to take place in an alternate world with alternate countries, but it has D&D style high fantasy races, and the tech in the episodes I've seen isn't much different from the real world. The Nevers is really a superhero concept resembling X-Men or NBC's Heroes in a period setting, which incidentally includes a superhero character with a gift for building fantastic devices. Girl Genius is described by it's creators as "gaslight fantasy" but resembles what I'd classify as Lush Steampunk. Difference Engine is "realistic" if the bit of more advanced tech altered history and took over the world. The Wild Wild West has a serious hero in a whimsical and campy world with the influence of 1960's secret agent movies. City of Lost Children is just insane.

Comments? Suggestions?


Applying standards and borders and rules and definitions to Steampunk? You are asking for trouble  8-)

You seem to be focusing on the technology in steampunk and thus the invention side of it. Is that too narrow or would you regard other aspects of steampunk to be perpendicular to that?

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von Corax

This has been tried before. It never ends well. :P

I think the definition(s) of Steampunk are just to personal to be codified.
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