Anarchism and Steampunk

Aerial HouseExploring the radical roots of a popular science fiction genre. Via Airships, Anarchists, & Anachronisms:

Steampunk began as a radical satirical form of fiction, but today it encompasses much more. What precisely is steampunk? As the editors of Steampunk Magazine explain, steampunk is “a vibrant culture of DIY crafters, writers, artists, and other creative types, each with their own slightly different answer to that question.” By its diverse nature, steampunk resists definition. Furthermore, in the ever evolving nature of steampunk, “as each new iteration of the idea be­comes more ambitious, the mutations are delightfully limitless and unpredictable.”

This definition seems in line with Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall’s statement that, “Steampunk is more about instability than any other single characteristic. It resists fixedness by unsettling the categories from which it cribs.” Yet, the authors do provide a definition for those looking for the quintessential steampunk. They write:

That being said, one common element arguably shared by all steampunk texts, objects, or performances is the one on which this journal is predicated: the invocation of Victorianism. In literary culture, this can mean a narrative set in Victorian London; one set in a futuristic world that retains or reverts to the aesthetic hallmarks of the Victorian period; a piece of speculative historical fiction that deploys Victorian subjects; or a text that incorporates anachronistic versions of nineteenth-century technologies…

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  • zombieslapper

    Steampunk is boring and played out. You’re really reaching with this article.

    • Writeous

       True and false!
      btw, I love your name!

    • Jin The Ninja

      personally i still prefer cyberpunk, but all -punk subgenres have anarchist politial undertones, whether the author engages those undertones depends on their worldview. but the intersection between radical politics and science fiction is well-explored and well documented in literary criticism.

      • Cambobia

         >but all -punk subgenres have anarchist politial undertones, whether the
        author engages those undertones depends on their worldview.

        You are making shit up, sir.

        • Jin The Ninja

          Maybe i stretched it by saying ‘anarchist’ instead of radical politics, but that is true. Punk subculture, from which -punk derives, has anarchist leanings. Which is why the application of it to literary subgenres implies radical political leanings as well.

          • rus Archer



            and nonsense

            just because rotten singing “anarchist” in a pistols song has no bearing on the actual degree that anarchism and or politics had or has to do with anything associated with the term “punk”+ the fact that the term and concept has become such a standard by which people measure things that it no longer means anything and has become precisely the opposite of its initial intent

            mass conformity and traditionalism in the name of punk

          • Jin The Ninja

            no, not nonsense. history of a subculture. it has nothing to do with a sex pistols song. Anarchism and Punk have a long intertwined history. There is ever a genre of music called Anarcho-Punk. The DIY ethic is very anarchist in nature. and for the labeling of literary and filmic subgenres using the -punk moniker, while it doesn’t inherently refer to anarchism, it DOES refer to a subversion of traditional genre conventions that emphasizes rebellion, anti heroism , and social critique. Any informed or interested person would know that Mr. Nonsense.






  • Cambodia

    This article is rubbish.

    The term “steampunk” was created in the 1980s by K.W. Jetter to describe the fiction written by himself, James Blaylock and Tim Powers. All of whom had written fantasy/science fiction set in Victorian London. Jetter coined the term as a tongue-in-cheek reaction to the contemporaneous “cyberpunk” of Gibson et al. The 1980s were the cyber era, but the 1880s were the steam era.

    This joke of an article does not even mention Jetter, Blaylock or Powers, nor does the author seem aware that they exist. Rather, the author takes the typical English major tactic of shoehorning quasi-Marxist ideology into places it doesn’t belong.

    Bullshit like this article might earn you an A from your lefty professors, but it does not mean anyone else will take you seriously.

    • Calypso_1

      A ‘term’ can come to embody more then the originator’s intent.  The page this article is drawn from is a well sourced exploration of the Victorian origins of anarchism and modern punk elements within the steampunk subculture. 
      As an evolving and group participant reimagining of history, steampunk is a genre that allows for an individualistic approach towards the remaking of connections between society and technology. 
      Such links are at the heart of anarchism as real political theory and not the distorted state-sponsored promulgation of mob rule.

      • Jin The Ninja

        great reply.

    • Jin The Ninja

      this isn’t an ‘article’ persay, but an essay that is connected to other essays on the link. English and literary criticism have many distinct theoretical frameworks, of which marxist analysis is only one (and not an overwhelmingly utilised one either) kind. anarchism isn’t ‘quasi-marxist.’ and science fiction, has definitive political undertones. it generally skews subversive, the politics of anti oppression, but can also skew the opposite direction.  the intersection of radical politics and science fiction is well known- especially because some of the best and most prominent works (and authors) are left wing. not to mention genre conventions (in both lit and film) in sci fi (and horror to an extent) are often used as a vehicle for social and political criticism.

    • rus Archer


    • Jin The Ninja

      Ever heard of Michael Moorcock? the ‘father of steampunk’? because he’s an anarchist. 

  • JaceD

    My younger brother was/is really into steampunk, I’ve always had an interest in the idea of an alternative reality dominated by steam engines, also the art associated with it is pretty damn cool. Being a fan of Steamboy and the Edge Chronicles as a preteen also got my interests in Steampunk up. Not that I know a lot about the subculture, only that armour made from dials and worn over Victorian dress is grim as.

  • teachpeace

     What I dig about it is that

    SP is visionary and recycles

    Well done.

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