The Crossroads of the Aether
oh dear that is complex
this is what I think Steampunk is so many people where asking me that I had to come up with this.
Steampunk is an anachronistic (Definition in Webster dictionary One that is out of its proper or chronological order, especially a person or practice that belongs to an earlier time) subculture. Based on esthetics from anywhere from the Industrial Revolution to the 20’s. Some Steampunks look to reinstate that time periods moral and etiquette views while leaving behind the ideas of racism, sexism and classes that is prevalent of that time.
My world is a ulternet reality with a complex back ground.
it is a class heavy socity where there are neo-vic and steampunks. the Neo- Vic live on one side of a river the mills and the steampunks live on the other. The rest is hard to write but I think I have seen you are the New England Meet up in Mass. at the next one ask me about it and I will try and put it into words.
Mine view of steampunk falls in the bracket of being a glorious enthusiams for what might have been. It is unlimited, even by imagination because each persons imagination is its own universe. If it even had the remote possiblility of existence up to 1910 ( my choice of year ) then it is fair game! If it is part of the philosophy, mindset, politics, medicine, spiritual, or technology of this time period then I vote to exploit and utilize!
My character live in a world of challlenge , terrors, hopes, fatastic mysteries, liberty, adventure, industry, limited only by the breadth of ones courage and the depth of ones heart.
If I may, Sir. My view of Steampunk is fairly well embodied in the general definition of the literary form. A Victorian, or Neo-Victorian aesthetic combined with advanced machinery that rely on the base technologies of the time... imaginatively used naturally.
I have two short stories that I have authored, one is of "steampunk" technology but set on a distant world... therefore does not really perfectly qualify, another is of a Utopian society with Dystopian elements but in a futuristic setting... again, not properly qualified as steampunk but combining common genre elements.
I think, if one were to sum up steampunk in one sentence, that sentence would be:
"The Time Machine by H. G. Wells"
After all, wasn't it Mr. Albert Einstein who said, "The only limit to science is imagination." or some sch thing? I believe the only limit to Steampunk is imagination.
To quote Yeats, Roughly:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
This has always well placed the ways of human society to me...
The other thing is that an society that is oppressive to some people might be liberating to others, which will create a lot more tension and realism.
For instance, a society that tells everyone what to do and what to think might be very comforting to a lot of people. They could devote their time and energy into going about their lives, doing their jobs, raising families, etc. in relative security.
The "liberators" would throw those peoples lives into chaos. Not just the immediate chaos of rebellion, either. They would probably curse their saviors every day of their lives.
Finally time to wade into this. Understanding that a Dystopian society is one that is viewed as repressive, controlling (in many ways from out right dictatorial to more subtle ways. Does everyone on the outside appear one way but behind closed doors do they act completely different away from prying eyes? Perhaps. I had mentioned in an earlier post a singularity in culture in regards to technological advancement and by adding a dystopic bend to that, a dark singularity, in where one can not see what the future holds and as such perpetuates the mores and attitudes of the Dystopian culture.
We can draw in many other counter cultural and deviant counter cultures from all times in an attempt to define Steampunk as one or the other. The modern term "Punk" used in regards to a sub culture that seeks to defy authority up to the point of anarchy, or one that seeks rail against the norm. A part of that is very much in Steampunk; (Yeah, I spent my time slamming to MDC and the Dead Kennedys) Mostly in regards to that which goes against the norm of modern society. In "Victorian Times" (I know not all Steamers are Victorian) there where also a number of various avant-garde and deviant sub cultures that arose due to similiar reasons of the modern movements.
I would then put forth that there are elements of both in Steampunk, as a Dystopia can mask it self as a Utopia. However, I think that it depends on the individual perception of one as each of us has our own views, though some very similar, on what Steampunk is. I do not think one can definitively nail down Steam as one or the other and in doing so would force an opinion that could very well lead to a perception one way or another.
In societies such as the ones that are represented by our genre you are going to have a world where cultures clash, where many people try to rise out of a position that society has put them in. A time of both benevolent and malevolent rulers and to those that would be in the "lower classes" working in the factories, the child labor, those striving to survive; yes the world would be dystopic. I will say that however those we represent live for adventure and the story; arising from conflicts or other situations many and varied. So yes, part of the world would be a Dystopia but all in all I will echo what AetherPower said that things would have to be much much worse than normal for it to be fully that.
Like most diehard Romantics I cling to the notion that the only way to truly live is in a permanent state of Rebellion.
This Rebellion is directed against the forces that would motivate us through fear. Order can become oppressive if its motivation is the mere fear of disorder, messiness. Control for its own sake produces oppression and corruption.
Utopias are ideal states. They are like rare desert blooms that appear once an age, only to wither in the hot sun. One strives for mightily for them, but once attained utopias dissolve inexorably into Dystopic states. The motivating factors are always greed, selfishness and the compulsive acquisition of personal power.
My characters gravitate toward these ideal Utopic states but uncannily always manage to arrive shortly before their demise. It's a tragic world! Pure utopias have tragic destinies and short life spans, ordained a such by Fate. Yet the destiny of my characters is to fight the good fight no matter how hopeless it seems.