History of Steampunk: Origin, Culture, Arts, Fashion, & Modern Literature

The history of Steampunk started in the late 19th century. It is a science fiction subgenre moved by a steam-powered machine. All the works are set in the Wild West of America or Victorian England when the steam technology touched its top.

Usually, the Steampunk stories involve different futures where the steam power has persisted in everyday use and the imaginary worlds that prefer steam power technology.

Nevertheless, Steampunk is something more than literary genres. It is an art mixed with imagination and science. There is Steampunk music, fashion, art, and more considering it a way of life.

Well! Steampunk is different from neo-Victorian literature as technology is a significant Steampunk feature, which is not present in the neo-Victorian movement.

It is a hybrid genre as it includes different elements from numerous genres, including speculative fiction and horror, fantasy, notably different futures.

Alternate Future of Steampunk

Steampunk visualizes a creation in the 1800s where technology and science had proceeded at a fast pace. The Victorian-style includes a technology advancement and mechanical machines power futuristic technology and giant airships.

History of Steampunk: Where Does ‘Punk’ Come from?

Although the Steampunk fame increased with famous movies such as Wild Wild West, the ‘punk’ in the Steampunk appeared to have lost its real meaning. The ‘punk’ was seen as coming from the dystopian future and gritty edge in some of the Steampunk words.

But when we see it, ‘punk’ shows some rebelling against the social norms. Be brave to stand against how everything works and use your inspiration to signify this.

The Beginning of “Steampunk” Term

In 1987, the author of Science fiction, K.W. Jeter used the ‘Steampunk’ term to explain the set of stories in 19th century stirred by speculative fiction of that time, particularly those described by H.F. Wells. Well! The first works explained as Steampunk involve two novels, Infernal Devices and Morlock Night, by Jeter.

Besides, Jeter labeled James Blaylock as the Steampunk novels, including ‘The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers and Homunculus.’

Although the term ‘Steampunk’ was applied to these novels initially, they are not the genre characteristic while they cannot feature the growth of alternative histories or steam-based technology.

In the 1980s, the ‘Steampunk’ term was originated, different works now regarded as genre central published during the 1970s and 1960s. Similarly, the literary scholars used this term to the created works as early as the 1950s.


The history of Steampunk fiction usually features modern inventions and technologies as 19th-century individuals had thought about them. Likewise, this genre’s works are deeply entrenched in the Victorian era’s fashion, art, and culture.

The machinery similar to that explained by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells in their stories usually plays significant plot devices, particularly in modern authors such as Scott Westerfeld, Philip Pullman, China Mieville, and Stephen Hunt.

The Steampunk technology involves steam zeppelins and cannons and the mechanical devices inspired by Different Engine of Charles Babbage.

The styles, fashions, and cultures based on the Steampunk fiction aesthetics are called ‘Steampunk.’ They include art and films nouveau designing created during the 20th century.

The artists have altered different modern things into the Steampunk style, and various musicians are considered the Steampunk.

Early Steampunk History

Steampunk is highly influenced by the speculative fiction of the 19th century by numerous authors like Jules Verne, Edward S. Ellis, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells. Still, many literary scholars do not consider these authors work to be Steampunk as they were written during the 19th century.

Usually, the scholars regard the ‘Titus Alone’ novel written by Mervyn Peake in 1959 to be the first Steampunk novel. Another novel of 1971, ‘The Warlord of the Air’ written by Michael Moorcock, is a strong applicant, while Titus Alone is prejudiced.

A concept of changing between timestreams is observed in the 1970s comic novel ‘The Adventures of Luther Arkwright,’ usually regarded as the first funny novel of Steampunk. Another early comic was the Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle and his Aether Flyer issued in 1980. The Brazil film in 1985 is among the best cinematic influences in the genre of Steampunk.

Early Steampunk fiction examples include Ronald W. Clark’s novel ‘Queen Victoria’s Bomb’ in 1967 and Keith Laumer’s novel ‘Worlds of the Imperium’ in 1962. Both the stories include the latest perspective to the societies and technologies of the early age. Harry Harrison’s book ‘A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! In 1973, the other Steampunk novel was due to the critical role of theoretical technology, including the flying boats powered by atomic and coal locomotives. The Victorian dialogue usage in this novel is a fantastic feature of literature.


The Steampunk fame results in more fans who love to adopt the culture through lifestyle, fashion, and arts. Many online shops, magazines, and blogs are intended to the culture, which used the aesthetics’ latest technologies.

Stan Lee, a Marvel comic write found the Comikaze Expo held a pane to talk about the history of Steampunk culture in 2012. Veronique Chevalier, an entertainer, chaired it and the panelists including the members of the STEAM performance group and Pop Hadyn, a magician.

The discussion theme was the Steampunk development into the super culture because of its increasing fans and the involvement of things from different subcultures like neo, goth, and cyberpunk Victorianism.

The Etsy, an online craft network started categorizing some products as the Steampunk in 2009, while numerous cannot achieve the Steampunk aesthetics establishment.

April Winchell, a comedian, explained some prominent examples of these elements in her novel, ‘Regretsy: Where DIY meets WTF.’ The Winchell’s website was quite famous among the Steampunk audience until its closure in 2013.

Steampunk Art

Often, the history of Steampunk art gets its idea from the early genre films. In 1954, the submarine Nautilus adventure the flick 20,000 League under the sea from Walt Disney included the classic aesthetics, as do the clothes and other stuff utilized by the characters.

In the 1960 film, the time machinery with the same name is an everyday inspiration source for the latest history of Steampunk art. Another common Steampunk art feature is Steampunk airship.

The artistic designing having a Steampunk concept tried to get a balance between function and form. Simultaneously, the real reformers of the 19th century, like John Ruskin and William Morris excluded the machinery completely.

All the designs are present in numerous theme parks such as the Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park in California, Santa Clarita, having a Steampunk district. Another Steampunk theme is the mysterious island part of Disney Sea theme park close to Japan, Tokyo.


This fashion is yet in its early phase; however, it depends on the Victorian inspirations’ latest styles. All these can be observed in the ladies’ fashion with undergarments and gowns, including petticoats, corsets, and bustles.

Gents’ Steampunk fashion usually includes spats, tailcoats, and waistcoats, with the bowler hats and top hats. The military-themed dresses are a common theme in the gents’ fashion.

Steampunk fashion accessories usually include flying and driving goggles, hats, parasols, and timepieces.

They also involve the latest paraphernalia like smartphones, while they require modifications to have a Victorian appearance. Sometimes, Steampunk fashion rarely has a post-apocalyptic appearance with different accessories such as gas masks.

Current Literature

Usually, the scholars credit the book ‘The Difference Engine,’ written by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson in 1990, offering Steampunk to mainstream the public responsiveness. This book is set in the alternate timeline where the difference engine by Charles Babbage was made during the Victorian time.

The steam-powered computer results in the information upheaval that occurs early than it did in the actual past. But ‘the Difference Engine’ shifts from the Steampunk novels that it includes a dystopian future view.

The recent literary work that has increased the Steampunk genre awareness is Extraordinary Engines, the Nick Gevers anthology issued in 2008.

It includes the Steampunk stories by renowned authors along with those by new writers trying with this genre. The anthology titles history of Steampunk was issued in 2008, including stories Jess Nevins, Michael Moorcock, Jay Lake, and James Blaylock.

The Narbondo trilogy of Blaylock is the classic history of Steampunk, as are the Nevins and Moorcock contributions. The Mainspring of Lake is considered a Steampunk subgenre renowned as ‘clockpunk.’

The Steampunk writers target the young audience. The central concept in the Mortal Engine quartet of Philip Reeve is all about moving areas fighting each other for different resources, which Reeve explains as ‘municipal Darwinism.’

The Leviathan trilogy of Scott Westerfeld is another First World War history where the Allied Powers prefer engineered life kinds and the Central Powers utilize the steam technology.

This piece of writing is all about the history of Steampunk. Visit our website for more content.

Comments are closed.