Steampunk And Gearpunk

I’ve been fascinated by the Steampunk (and its younger cousin gearpunk/springpunk/whatever you want to call it) since my early days enjoying the anime movies my brother would dig up here and there.

There are a lot of interesting things going on in the subgenre. Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan looks very well done, and the subgenre as a whole seems to be enjoying a renaissance of books, stories, and visuals. (A lot of fantasy art lately has had a decidedly steampunk edge.) I actually wrote a very fun gearpunk novel called The Rithmatist.

I have a lot of curiosities about this genre. What is it that draws us to it? Why do we love this classical use of technology, turned in to science fiction? Perhaps it captures that sense of exploration and wonder that used to exist to a larger extent in scientific discovery. Science is still exciting, but it’s become something much more . . . technical these days. Back in the late 1800s–early 1900s, there was a feel that science could not only solve all problems, but that it was something every day people could explore and understand. A lot of branches of science were relatively new, at least in the modern form, and there was a general excitement and enthusiasm to the process.

Now, science is something we study in school and take tests on. In general, even the common person has a grasp of basic scientific principles. What is happening on the leading edge is amazing, but at the same time, there’s a density to it. Trying to figure out quantum physics or other areas where breakthroughs are happening can twist the brain in knots. Some of the wonder is gone. And so, we find ourselves looking back at times when science WAS magic to us, and we create stories that explore these eras. Or maybe that’s all just me waxing overly philosophical.

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