What are the key elements of Steampunk?

I have a notion of some of them: Victorian sensibilities, machinery out-of-time, adventuresome ideals…but I know that I don’t fully understand the genre. Having received a challenge to write a Steampunk novel for NaNoWriMo and having gleefully accepted (because I’ve wanted to write one for some time), I am looking for a more concrete definition. What would you add? Leave me a comment below…and thanks for the help!

About RieSheridanRose

Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. A lot. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers Vols. 1 and 2,  and Killing It Softly. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. She tweets as @RieSheridanRose.
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1 Response to What are the key elements of Steampunk?

  1. Jim Reader says:

    You’ve missed the prime, driving force (no pun intended) of Steampunk – repressed Victorian sexuality! Pulsing bellows, hammering pistons, the sweat-like sheen of copper and brass, the warm sensuality of polished wood, ejaculations of steam, chugging, shrieking, pounding, pressure building that must be released before it explodes…
    Then throw in some other themes to discover particular fetishes – imperialism and colonialism are thinly veiled metaphors for rape and bondage & domination (and given some colonial entities histories, sadism & masochism as well) – the female adventurer reflecting the Victorian woman’s desire to break free of her societal strictures and live life as a man (which leads into role reversals and a tacit acknowledgment of gay and bisexual behavior in women) – giant infernal devices that not only share the mechanical attributes listed above, but further identify themselves as sexual metaphors by repeated phallic imagery (the Nautilus ripping the soft underbelly of ships with its pointed prow, the giant cannon firing a metal sperm to violate the lovely and pure Moon, tripod Martian war machines spraying heat over everything [and three legs? come on!] – great grey penis-like zeppelins in the air – long, hard trains tearing down the track…
    yeah – repressed Victorian sexuality. in fact, there are days when I believe that any and every Steampunk trope can find valid and serious interpretation in sexual terms.


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