In my teens, I never knew just what my part was in the scheme of things, but I felt like I was from a different time. I had Victorian stiletto boots, lacy anklets, high-necked lacy blouses, and I hid from the sunlight like a vampire. I was a Victorian Goth in the late 70s when it wasn’t “in” yet. I was most excited about the old west Victorian era garments and gadgets like the TV show “The Wild Wild West.” I was fascinated with the gadgetry of the steam-engine era and stopped in every antique store to check them out. My heroes were H.G. Wells and his time machine and Jules Verne and his submarine archetype. I didn’t know it then, but 30 years later a movement would happen that would define the “look” I wanted to achieve.
“Steampunk is described by Jake von Slatt, a designer in Bostom and the proprietor of Steampunk Workshop this way, `To me, it’s essentially the intersection of technology and romance,' That definition is loose enough to accommodate a stew of influences, including the streamlined retro-futurism of Flash Gordon and Japanese animation with its goggle-wearing hackers, the postapocalyptic scavenger style of “Mad Max,” and vaudeville, burlesque and the structured gentility of the Victorian age. In aggregate, steampunk is a trend that is rapidly outgrowing niche status.”
Wikipedia does a fair job of explaining this trend. “Steampunk is a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of "the path not taken" of such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or digital mechanical computers (such as Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine); these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or with a presumption of functionality.”
I’ve never been so excited about a movement before. Goth came in as I was ending high school and punk was at its peak, but neither suited me. I wasn’t morbid above life, I was bubbly (even though I love all things spooky) and I wasn’t angry or tough or an anarchist. I was very feminine and very romantic and yet adored abandoned sites and junkyards. That was a combination that made me see myself as a total spaz, but apparently I’m not the only one who likes the romance of the steam engine era and its crude and ornate technology. I’ve never liked the icy glass and chrome modern type of SciFi movies, but give me one that involves reuse of old technology by a post-apocalyptic group and I’m thrilled.
I hope the movement stays around longer, but if it doesn’t, it won’t matter. I’ll always be Steampunk in my heart.