Steamunk is what? Jackie Ladbury Gets Confused.


I went to a symposium last week to try and grasp the essence of Steampunk, and interesting as it was, I’m not sure I’m any further down the road  in my understanding.

It’s all a bit of a minefield, is Steampunk and although I get the bit about Victorians being ‘splendid’ in their top-hats and goggles firing up their flying machines, the ladies on their arms wearing corsets outside their dresses and….  err, top-hats and goggles, the rest leaves me slightly flummoxed.

It’s started off as a science fiction genre rooted in the steam based past, with a nod towards the future, (think functioning computer made from brass and wood made to look like a typewriter.)

It was embraced by the fashion industry in the 1980’s adopting a modern day take on yester-year, hence the punk part.


Okay, so far, so good. Yup I get it, I’m sure I do.

I stick my hand up: “So, you’re saying Vivien Westwood and her see through gowns endorsed it as a fashion subgenre…?”

 Oh, not Vivien Westwood and her see through gowns, that’s not Steampunk although she did make it a legitimate genre in the fashion world. Take a look at Prada’s fashion line; they’ve got it right.

Sticks hand up again: “Hang on, you did you just say Prada have a Steampunk line?”

Apparently so.

So far, so confusing.


Okay, let’s try again.

So, this whole subculture is about fashion and invention and is more of a theory rather than a practical return to a past, which let’s face it no- one really wants to do? Can’t see anyone ditching iTunes for a wind up phonograph, can you?

Didn’t think so!

Did you just say a tea duel is Steampunk? Are you sure? You do what? You dunk your malted milk biscuit in your tea (china cup and saucer of course) for three seconds and the winner is the one who gets to hold out longest before shoving the unbroken biscuit in your mouth.

You’re ‘aving a laugh, aren’t you?

Then there are Vampire Steampunks (of course there are!) Lolita Steampunks, Jesus Steampunks and Goth Steampunks to name but a few.

Lastly sprinkle a bit of alchemy, Neo Nazism, magic realism and fetishism into the mix and then you might be close to a genre that appears to be a moveable feast.


So there you go, nailed it!

 And Steampunk is so mainstream, a backlash of the genre, F**ck Steampunk has a Fanzine with a blog dedicated to trashing the historical period that never existed. Being a bit thick here, but if it never existed, how can you try to debunk it, or is it supposed a bit tongue in cheek?

What’s that, you want to know about Dieselpunk and Cyberpunk? Then obviously, I’m your man! Just pass me a malted milk biscuit and a cup of tea and I’ll tell you everything I know.


6 thoughts on “Steamunk is what? Jackie Ladbury Gets Confused.

  1. Thanks for that Jackie, it is a bit clearer now and most of it sounds quite fun! I like the tea and biccie bit, that much I could do. It reminds me of the competitions we used to have in my student days, who could eat a jammie doughnut without getting jam on your lips. It can’t be done I’m sure!
    It nice to know more about it, thanks Jackie

  2. Hi Jackie,
    I think I’m a little clearer about steampunk after reading your post. When I’ve been to the Goth Weekends in Whitby (purely as observer, I hasten to add) I’ve seen some amazing steampunk costumes and initially I was hugely puzzled by them. It was only after I read ‘A Conspiracy of Alchemists’ that I figured out a bit more about what steampunk is all about. I have to admit that there’s things about the genre that I find very attractive (not least the fabulous clothes) but I’m not sure my brain is sufficiently scientific to figure out the steam powered part of it. But then maybe other people don’t worry about that because I mean, steam computers? Really?
    Alex xx

  3. Oh Jackie, I do love your blog posts! Don’t think Steam Punk is for me as a reader or a writer – it hurt my brain just thinking about it. Can’t wait to read your books though, as I know I’ll be laughing out loud xx

  4. Hilarious post, Jaxx. I must confess that I’m still not that clear about what it is … although I think you’re still a little puzzled yourself. Like Alex, I’ve been to Whitby and love the Victorian Gothic style costumes. I’d assumed Goth Weekend would be all about big hair, dressing in black with pale faces and red lippy but it’s far from it. It’s strange but it’s a phrase I’d never heard of until the back end of last year when my writing friend’s boyfriend suggested they write a steampunk novel together and neither of us had a clue what it was. Then I’ve heard it stacks since. I guess it goes a little into fantasy which is not the genre for me; don’t think I have the imagination to take myself into a different world. Julie xx

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