Steampunk is not punk

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Gunhead
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Steampunk is not punk

Post by Gunhead » 2019-02-05 03:17pm

I've always liked steampunk for it's aesthetics and how you can mix and match basically anything you like and just have it work because mad science / magic or both. That said most of what falls under the admittedly broad scope of steampunk lacks the punk. Most settings I've come across are basically period x with basic fantasy cliches. I am curious has anyone come across steampunk settings that have really given thought to how introduction of magic / science / new races to a time period would change it. Oddly enough this seems to affect even settings that are totally made up, where the world still operates on say 18th century sensibilities even if there's no real reason why such sensibilities would have come to be.
I find this odd in a sense that if you take what is quite popular time period for steampunk, the victorian era for example, there's ample opportunity to buck against the ruling establishment, nobility, religion, colonialism.. but somehow this doesn't seem to happen. Now my interest comes mostly from roleplaying but I've tried to find some novels and other media and to be honest it's pretty samey. Steampunk is somewhat niche genre and thus material for it is pretty sparse so maybe people here have some ideas or suggestions.

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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by Elheru Aran » 2019-02-05 03:55pm

It's easier to write within an known paradigm than it is to push boundaries.

Part of the problem is that 'steampunk' is fairly ill defined and a pretty broad genre. It ranges pretty much all the way from Victorian-with-a-little-something-different (Difference Engine would be a great example, at least most of the book anyway, not the crazy dystopian ending) all the way on to pretty much sheer fantasy with leather, brass, goggles, and gears and dials scattered everywhere. Some of it tries to be basically faux-hard-science, pretty much just Victorian period with vaguely realistic/plausible advancements in technology such as primitive versions of jet engines or whatever. Others go the full nine yards with magic.

And, unfortunately, people tend to focus on the tech and the background more than they do the implications of these changes to OTL and the broader social, cultural, and political context.
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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-02-06 04:41am

China Mieville‘s books are very much true to the roots.

Also, Full Metal Alchemist.
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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by Zaune » 2019-02-06 07:32am

K. A. Pital wrote:
2019-02-06 04:41am
China Mieville‘s books are very much true to the roots.
If you don't mind the tentacles.
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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by Gunhead » 2019-02-06 09:15am

K. A. Pital wrote:
2019-02-06 04:41am
China Mieville‘s books are very much true to the roots.

Also, Full Metal Alchemist.
I took a look and Iron Council looks kinda interesting. Do you have any other recommendations / have you read Iron Council?
I've watched Full Metal Alchemist, the first series and it wasn't terrible or all that good. The animation and overall style was solid but the characters and plot was pretty so so. Haven't read the manga though, but I rarely do these days.

Tentacles are fine, unless it goes into porn.

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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-02-06 09:40am

I would advise to read Perdido Street Station, then Scar and finally Iron Council. There are also things like the City and the City, Railsea, which are worth reading, too.

I would say the manga is actually superior to the first Full Metal Alchemist series (the second series, Brotherhood, follows the manga better).
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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by Elheru Aran » 2019-02-06 12:22pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2019-02-06 09:40am
I would say the manga is actually superior to the first Full Metal Alchemist series (the second series, Brotherhood, follows the manga better).
Yeah, they started developing the show when the manga had only just started, so when they started putting out the show they didn't have a whole lot of material to go on. So the first season of the show sticks relatively close to the manga but ends up going in a completely different direction afterwards. It's still pretty good mind you, they worked closely with Hiromu Arawaka IIRC, and even though she ended up going a different direction with the manga, she approved of how they ended the first anime.

FMA is... not *quite* what I would personally consider 'steampunk'... but certainly it's a pretty decent take on the basic idea of real-world technology alongside magic, if you consider that steampunk. For anime steampunk, there's always the classic Steamboy ;)
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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2019-02-06 12:27pm

Or Nausicaa Of the Valley Of Wind.
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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by Gunhead » 2019-02-06 12:43pm

U.P. Cinnabar wrote:
2019-02-06 12:27pm
Or Nausicaa Of the Valley Of Wind.
Nausicaa is kind of an odd duck, it has this mismash of steampunk, aesthetically if nothing else, in a post apocalyptic setting. The movie isn't half bad, if you see the original not that butchered cut that was released back in the day. The manga is way superior though, I really like the art style and the story is good too.
You can toss in Laputa castle in the sky. That's a great movie but it really doesn't go into how stuff in it works so it's more a case of technology just is the way it is and thus I wouldn't even say it's steampunk other than for the aesthetics since part of the punk aspect is some form of technoshock if you will. Good memories of the movie though, seen it .. at least 4 times.

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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2019-02-07 01:54am

K. A. Pital wrote:
2019-02-06 09:40am
I would say the manga is actually superior to the first Full Metal Alchemist series (the second series, Brotherhood, follows the manga better).
The first series was specifically told it had to be different, because they wanted to make a series that had an ending, and the manga at that point was years from completion. So they went off in a totally different direction that didn't really go anywhere useful.

The second anime specifically followed the manga story because it was begun at a point where the ending date of the manga was known from the author though not yet published, and so about 1.5 chapters of manga could become each episode.

I'd say both manga and second anime far superior to the first anime, but also that the importance of the steampunk elements was fairly low overall. They have for example no real bearing on the Amestris government which just came across as 1920s dictatorship that normally fights its wars with rifles and field guns, has a conventional railroad system ect. The magical elements were the difference that mattered. Personally I liked that, since you don't normally see much of that kind of setting. Though one might question how they had no airplanes when they had decent cars it was never very important.

Elheru Aran wrote:
2019-02-05 03:55pm
Some of it tries to be basically faux-hard-science, pretty much just Victorian period with vaguely realistic/plausible advancements in technology such as primitive versions of jet engines or whatever. Others go the full nine yards with magic.
The leap to 'this might as well be magic' happens pretty damn fast.... but it's not like most authors have a great understanding industrial technology anyway. Like all the steam powered airships people love to have. How many of them do you see with gigantic condenser intakes? If they don't have that, they can't have turbines at all, and open cycle reciprocating engines would guzzle huge amounts of fresh water. The typical steam locomotive could go about 60 miles before it needed water.

Really I tend to view steampunk as coming in two basic flavors. The first is the kind that just assumes Victorian era technology or something resembling this applied on a grander scale. Basically 'we have unlimited or implausible amounts of money and or rates of construction'. Such as building a 200,000hp locomotive the size of a building, not strictly a technology problem given enough rails under it but nobody would do it because it costs too much.

And then we have the technology itself is implausible...magic. A setting can be one or the other or both. Steampunk tends to have a bias towards being both of course, but this is where 'what about the implications?' falls apart the easiest.

The problem with divergence from the Victorian Era is also that the Victorian era was actually a period of incredibly rapid change if you actually study it, and very diverse governments existed. Also many of the basic social structures were nothing unique to the Victorian Era and very well able to operate independently of any specific technology. So while it is interesting to see stories move away from them, it's also perfectly fair to retain them.
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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by madd0ct0r » 2019-02-07 03:09am

20k leauges under the sea is politically charged.

http://fasagames.com/1879-home/
Is a modern steampunk rpg that takes society inequalities seriously.

Mortal engines (the book) shits all over extractive colonialism.

Malifaux and associated through the breach puts the central conflict between the fascist guild, the rebel arcanists and the displaced native Neverborn


If anything, modern steampunk is refocused on colonial oppression not class systems.
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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-02-07 06:33am

Mortal Engines, that is right, forgot about that one. But Mieville is all about class, so not all modern writers transit to colonial allegory.

For colonialism in an Age of Sail setting, the Baru Cormorant series is very fascinating and I would recommend.
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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2019-02-07 06:59pm

Gunhead wrote:
2019-02-06 12:43pm
U.P. Cinnabar wrote:
2019-02-06 12:27pm
Or Nausicaa Of the Valley Of Wind.
Nausicaa is kind of an odd duck, it has this mismash of steampunk, aesthetically if nothing else, in a post apocalyptic setting. The movie isn't half bad, if you see the original not that butchered cut that was released back in the day. The manga is way superior though, I really like the art style and the story is good too.
You can toss in Laputa castle in the sky. That's a great movie but it really doesn't go into how stuff in it works so it's more a case of technology just is the way it is and thus I wouldn't even say it's steampunk other than for the aesthetics since part of the punk aspect is some form of technoshock if you will. Good memories of the movie though, seen it .. at least 4 times.

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Re: Steampunk is not punk

Post by Elheru Aran » 2019-02-07 07:11pm

I'm not quite sure Verne quite counts as steampunk either; he was writing at least a century or so before it even became a genre. He was simply writing contemporary SF. To us, sure, it looks kinda steampunk, particularly Disneyfied versions such as 20KLeagues etc, but to them it was simply state of the art plus a little something extra.

I suppose if you want to go all Death of the Author, it is, but nah, I don't work that way.

A decent parallel would be Victor Appleton's Tom Swift stories from the fifties and sixties, while we would call those 'dieselpunk' or 'atompunk' nowadays they were just period SF.

(I miss Tom Swift...)
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