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November 6th, 2012, 11:33 PM #31
Dieselpunk is basically considered a variant of steampunk rather than something fundamentally separate. Cyberpunk was a term bandied about in the early 1980's which was then applied to the works of a whole group of authors, predominantly William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, as a literary movement of its time with the works having similar thematic and stylistic material -- young people, alienation through technology, rebellion, noir suspense, etc. Such works had been done before and were also part of the New Wave literary movement in SF, but the term referred to a specific group of authors deliberately exploring the same territory in the same stylistic and thematic approach -- punk (as in the music/lifestyle/art) with technology and noir. The term was later more broadly applied, also becoming a market sub-category, but the main literary movement has continued and developed into post cyberpunk movements.
Steampunk was originally a joking reference created by K.W. Jeter to refer to works that he, Tim Powers, James Blaylock and some others were doing in both SF and fantasy. These authors, though, again, formed a literary movement of their time -- the mid-late 1980's -- of similar stylistic and thematic approach that was parallel to but rather less punkish than cyberpunk, and as other authors entered into this area, especially for alternate history, it became a more definite movement based on using historical periods and interjecting anachronistic and futuristic technology into them to look at human interaction with technology and social upheaval (again parallel with cyberpunk.) It's the contrast of modern and old tech together stylistically -- which is different from cyberpunk -- that then caught on in fashion, jewelry and design. Punk became the go-to word for dividing stories up not into literary movements but into sub-categories based on the content of the tech. So we got not only dieselpunk for the World War era settings directly from steampunk, but other groupings of content like biopunk, splatterpunk, etc. Some of these sub-categories have stylistic and thematic aspects of their own, like splatterpunk, but others, like biopunk and dieselpunk, don't.
Dieselpunk is essentially steampunk pushed to a slightly later industrial age. So if you want to be very specific about the content of a book, you can say a novel set in WWII or I is dieselpunk as opposed to one set in the Victorian age. But as movements, dieselpunk is just a sub-set of steampunk. Likewise, a secondary world story can be steampunk if it sets up a medievalish world that nonetheless has industrial, technological or futuristic tech in that world, or if the imaginary world is similar in industrial tech to the Restoration, Victorian, early WWII, etc. but with odd, futuristic tech mixed in. You can also manage a dystopian post-apoc world, like Revolution, that has a mix of technologies, ranging from futuristic (the stuff that turned lights out,) to steam power in the loss of electricity. The sensibility of the story thematically is dealing with that mish mash of tech as a major focus of the story, etc., and including steam-era tech such as steam engines, airships, winding clockworks. Thematically, steampunk goes for swashbuckle and adventure more than punk rebellion of youth and noir style, although steampunk can be noir or horror and is concerned with major social shifts related to technology. So Leviathan, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow are generally considered part of the steampunk movement, even though they are not set in a steam-heavy era.
Steampunk and derivatives are also in some ways shielded in story world from any extinction by our love of time travel. Steampunk is mixing up tech of different time periods or alternate time periods or invented time periods (secondary worlds, post-apoc, etc.) and this is related to time travel in which tech can switch periods and many steampunk stories involve time travel in some way, and of course alternate dimensions. So steampunk continues to be popular as a stylistic and visual aesthetic in general culture and as a literary movement in story-telling with derivatives such as decopunk, cattle punk and diselpunk, well connected with time travel, multiverses and alternate history as plot/setting concepts. And in the last five years it has had an expansion because of the general expansion in fantasy including historical fantasy, renewed growth in SF where alternate history has remained strong, expansion for more areas in YA fiction, and an interest in industrial historical settings for movies and television. Right now they're trying to launch a steampunk t.v. series with an interactive Web component called Lantern City. So again, I'd put steampunk in the growing healthy, not dying on the vine level. It's also become a totally not unusual but very attractive design style, separate from the thematic ideas of the literary movement.
November 7th, 2012, 03:15 AM #32
I accept wholly that Dieselpunk is an off-shoot of Steampunk, but I think aesthetically and stylistically they're different things. Dieselpunk, in my opinion, is much less "clean" than Steampunk, so instead of dirigibles with steam trails, you'll have these big, heavy diesel engines belching out thick black smoke. Leviathan, to go back to that book, had diesel-powered walkers (including a MASSIVE one) and Tesla energy.
It's a subtle change (only, what 40-50 years of history?), but I think the end result is so much different.
One thing is certain, though. A lot of the alt-history punks have a rather worrying love for Britishness.
November 9th, 2012, 12:42 AM #33
November 9th, 2012, 01:47 AM #34
November 22nd, 2012, 06:21 AM #35
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I don't like steampunk... it kinda sucks as a setting, and beyond that, there is nothing else.
Victoriana! ... but without the guilt trips.
Technology! ... but incredibly one note & distorted for the setting. Cogs. Cogs everywhere.
Alternate History! ... but only ever using england in the 1800-900.
It's just plain victory of style over substance, especially because the setting is one of the most variable things about a authors work.
There are authors that try to introduce other worldbuilding strands with a bit of steampunk (the Clan Corporate by Stross comes to mind - pity that series sucks for being a very extended hubris parable), but then you see that steampunk is just ... a kind of parody of a real setting - it needs to be toned down to be mixed with anything else.
Last edited by SCO; November 22nd, 2012 at 06:28 AM.
November 22nd, 2012, 08:38 AM #36
Is the author writing what s/he likes or trying to write for a market?
I read Difference Engine. It was merely OK. I do not doubt that a great steampunk novel could be written that I would really enjoy, but I would not investigate works just because they are steampunk. But I won't read a story just because it involves aliens either.
November 22nd, 2012, 01:35 PM #37
When it comes to Steampunk or any genre or sub genre at the end of the day of the day it all depends on the story. There are terrible steampunk stories and there are really good ones. There are terrible fantasy stories and there are very good fantasy stories. The same goes for romance, scifi, or any other genre you can think of. The mistake that a few steampunk authors make (a few, not all) in my opinion is that they place style over substance. I've read books where the wacky mad scientist's invention get's more development than any of the main characters or even the plot itself. But other genres, especially in other scifi genres, fall victim to that as well. But I assure you, there are other steampunk novels worth reading with all the wonderful plot and characters that most readers love and follow.
November 22nd, 2012, 03:08 PM #38
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The thing is, steampunk is kinda of a limited genre. Unlike cyberpunk (which is basically the granddaddy of them all), it's doesn't actually play to the strengths of SF for social commentary/cool concepts, but a very very restricted alternate history setting with utterly boring technology (or unrealistic ones, like robots made of cogs and steel engines).
And this 'alternate history' element is so restricted and so ****ing british-upper-class-tendencies that it bores me to death.
The whole frigging subgenre is a variation of 'XXXXXX in BRITAIN', if the XXXXXX had a investement account on the east india company and a hobby for building steam engines.
Where 'it' diverges from this, it's normally someone being 'cute', by excizing/changing that alternate history element/adding something alien to the pure subgenre/being part of the weird movement.
Iron Dragon's Daughter which i'm sure is one of the books you're thinking, is one of those books i'd say is 'no longer steampunk' (i didn't even like it though). The forms of steampunk i find more tolerable change the alt-history setting from the industrial revolution in britain ur-example.
Besides, cosplayers are embarrasing.
On the other hand, i kinda want to like time travel stories of 'society from the future living changing a primitive society', or just less fetishized technological alt-hist (Northland).
Last edited by SCO; November 22nd, 2012 at 03:44 PM.
November 22nd, 2012, 04:32 PM #39
November 23rd, 2012, 11:54 AM #40
I can't speak to how narrow or wide in scope steampunk novels tend to be, since I haven't read much steampunk at all (I will say that what I have read hasn't captivated me enough to read past the first one or two chapters). But the potential for wide-scope and social commentary are certainly there.
Here's a question: As I'm no longer fond of reading Victorian era writing style, I wonder how much steampunk is written in more contemporary writing styles, and what steampunk fans think of that?
November 23rd, 2012, 09:29 PM #41
Much of the best steampunk is comedic, and that seems the most fruitful approach. The founders Kat mentioned, Jeter, Blaylock, Powers, mostly (or entirely) played it for delicious humor. Their work is a sort of spoof of the old Ripping Yarns school, with some anachronistic tech thrown in for the giggles.
November 28th, 2012, 02:15 PM #42
This thread belongs in the Fantasy forum, maybe the SF folks wouldn't go all to arms about their strong dislike for the sub-genre.
I love steampunk. Love it so much, that I have a steampunk setting for my primary writing project. It can and does work, maybe not for every individual, but individuals hated the Lord of the Rings as well. If the story is good, the writing is good, and the steampunk setting fits with the story and plot, then I don't see the problem.
People that complain about steampunk being 'silly' miss the point, if you ask me. It's NOT about the science. If you find that absurd, then almost anything being written in the SFF genre must be as well. Magic does not make sense. Much of the science doesn't make sense. Many times the plot doesn't make sense. Characters don't make sense.
Sorry, no intention to offend anyone, but please don't paint the 'death' of steampunk as a fact, or an absolute, because that is categorically untrue. Shocked that no one has mentioned Chris Wooding's excellent series, the first being Retribution Falls. Or is that possibly because it is discussed in the Fantasy section and not so much here?
November 28th, 2012, 11:49 PM #43
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Fair enough, Wulfen. Like I said way back:
Originally Posted by Self Quote!
November 29th, 2012, 12:24 AM #44
I probably got too defensive, Fung. No worries.
November 29th, 2012, 09:39 AM #45
Yeah, I have a hard time thinking of SP as fantasy... unless you automatically consider any alternate universe-type content to be fantasy... and, by extension, quite a bit of SF. I did a quick scan looking for Steampunk threads, but I don't recall coming across many by name in any forum. (Hmm... did I actually check in fantasy/horror? Now I don't recall.)
(Edit: Okay, doing my search again, I saw 2 threads in Fantasy and 3, including this one, in SF, mentioning SP. So, not exactly brimming over in fantasy either.)
Of course, if the thread was named after a SP book whose name I didn't recognize, I would've missed it anyway.
So, if steampunk isn't about the science, what is it about?
Last edited by Steven L Jordan; November 29th, 2012 at 09:43 AM.