Steampunk and Science Fiction


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Steampunk and Science Fiction

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Apr. 11, 2013, 9:17am

Well, I was wondering and I really can't decide...

Is steampunk a subgenre of science fiction?

Apr. 11, 2013, 10:12am

That probably depends on what you are reading. When the term was first being coined, the early examples were indeed in science fiction. However, lately there are other genres that have decided that steampunk is one of the "next things" so they'll jump on the bandwagon. However, how well this is done by writers with a limited connection to the field who were simply told by an editor to do a steampunk version of the kind of thing they have been writing (e.g. romance) could be highly variable.

I have not read much in the way of recent steampunk offerings. However, I have discussed this with some who do to understand that there is a problem along this line.

In the time travel reading world, there have been stories in the SF and Fantasy genres. The SF versions usually try to have a self-consistent model of time travel and probably an explanation to rationalize it. Fantasy is more likely to have something magical or unexplained to cause a "time slip." The tropes in this field are so established that romance and children's writers feel that no explanation is required and they can bring two people together from disperate times without explanation and move on to the story with whatever level of culture shock they wish to introduce.

A presentation I saw last year at a steampunk convention tried to define what fits in the context of the literature (costuming is a whole different part and a very popular one here). For example, the presenter tried to make a distinction between "gaslight romances" (stories set in a Victorian era, real or alternate history) and the "punk" element of steampunk including some kind of social commentary (e.g. gender and Colonialism representations of the past or alternate past are critiqued in the story). I don't know that his definition is a widely held one but I pass it out in case it resonates with others.


Apr. 12, 2013, 12:26pm

Thank you for your reply Keeline.

I haven't read much of steampunk literature that moves away from science fiction (like steampunk romance) and this may be one of the reasons for my question.

Your thoughts and experience helped a lot my thought progression in this matter.

Apr. 12, 2013, 12:30pm

Steampunk is one of those things that, "I knows it when I sees it."

Not sure I could define it much better than above. And most of it is thought Sci Fi because usually there is some tech added to older times. Although I admit I'm not all that sanguine about making that necessarily define something as 'sci fi' as opposed to alt history or even fantasy given more obvious elements of the world described.

Apr. 12, 2013, 1:44pm

Two books I acquired recently that I like have old stories with steampunk illustrations.

Steampunk Poe
Steampunk H. G. Wells

The Poe one includes stories like "The Balloon Hoax", his answer to "The Moon Hoax" from the NY Sun in the 1830s.

I like it when obscure Victorian and Edwardian stories are found with steampunk qualities and so collected and presented (with or without illustrations).


Apr. 15, 2013, 7:39am

Wells' SF is superb, and helped to define the genre - this looks like an great primer. The major novels are well known, but he also wrote many fine short stories, which are well worth seeking out.

Apr. 21, 2013, 2:04pm

I've heard Steampunk classed as both science fiction and fantasy. Ironically I would class some of them as adventure.

Nov. 1, 2013, 8:01pm

YES? :) The best part about it, it can be both SF and F, as is the case with my book Genesis: Book One of The Kingdom Come Series.

Nov. 3, 2013, 4:05pm

Is Around the World in 80 Days steampunk?  I've always thought of it as such, and that's an adventure.

Nov. 3, 2013, 6:17pm

I find books like Warlord of the Air by Moorcock (and the two sequels) to be excluded yet part of the genre, but then again most of Verne's books could be considered as well - depending on the definition. During Verne's times many of his works might be considered SF, if the term had been coined then. I think the first book that brought the term "live" for me was The Difference Engine by Gibson and Sterling - the most current spat of novels and stories are really an outcome of the genre cosplayers who have perpetrated the idea of steam-tech being the final phase of Victorian science. As such it might be considered SF but maybe not? Merged with fantasy Perdido Street Station could also be considered part of the genre, but then again it may not.

Nov. 8, 2013, 2:01pm

I think it is pretty close to steampunk.

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