What is steampunk anyway?

20 Sep

What is steampunk?

I get that question all the time. In fact, usually what happens is that I mention steampunk in a conversation and the other person immediately gets a confused look on their face and says, “Steampunk? I’ve never heard of that. What is it?” Then I launch into what steampunk is to me.

Funny thing is, the definition is a little different depending on who you ask, which is OK because that means that the genre continues to evolve, which to me says it’s alive and growing.

My definition of steampunk generally begins with “Victorian science fiction”, which I follow with examples like Jules Verne and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or Around the World in 80 Days or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Now the last two are debatable, since the Victorian period officially ended with the death of England’s Queen Victoria in 1901, but steampunk is nothing if not anachronistic.

Image of a rusty, riveted metal frame with two steampunk hot air balloons within it.

Basically, steampunk is the world in which the Victorian aesthetic rules, complete with all the scientific yearning and discovery and progressing into modern days as if Queen Victoria and the Victorian Era never ended.

If you have a different definition, I’d love to hear it! Please send it along in the comments section and I’ll be sure to share it with my readers.

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at or at 810-516-7381.

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  1. Howie Rumjahn

    November 16, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Here’s an explanation of Steampunk that I wrote for my blog!