What Is Steampunk?
If you love a bit of retro-looking, futuristic fantasy, the chances are that anything steampunk will be right up your street.
An eclectic blend of historical sci-fi coupled with steam-powered technological inventions, steampunk has a distinctive look and feel.
It also has a sizeable following and has influenced many other areas of culture in the country.
Aficionados (or Steamers) know where to go to get their retro techno-fix, but for people curious to find out more, here is a short guide to find the best steampunk experience.
Looking Forwards With A Glance At History
As well as a concept, steampunk is very much a look. The style is inspired by Victorian-era industrialism, and the term was first coined in 1987 by sci-fi writer K W Jeter in 1987.
The concept had actually been around for considerably longer with books such as Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and H G Wells’ War of The Worlds.
Steampunk is fantasy fiction where the inventions are powered by steam. It crossed over into mainstream pop culture in the late 2000s.
Steampunk designs often mix up a traditional Victorian look with additional mechanical parts like brass fittings, gears and wind-up keys.
Now In Mainstream Culture
You can see steampunk inspiration across many genres of culture including fashion, contemporary fiction, film, TV and video games.
Northern Lights by Philip Pulman introduced this alternative universe to a broader audience—Lyra’s world of steam-powered zeppelins and the truth-telling aleithiometer.
In Pulman’s Dark Materials, this world co-exists with our world and many other mysterious places.
Pulman’s worlds started on the pages of books and have also been turned into a television adaptation and a film.
The top-rated TV series Sherlock Holmes starring Benedict Cumberbatch saw futuristic solutions in a Baker Street of yesteryear.
Games And iGaming
There is no genre that has not been influenced. In the world of gaming, there are titles like Machinarium and Sunless Sea.
iGamers can also play on the Wild West-inspired Money Train 3 slot, set in a futuristic lab on a metal train.
In movies, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is often cited as the ultimate steampunk film.
It features Sean Connery as Allain Quatermaine and Captain Nemo’s submarine, The Nautilus, packed with gadgets galore and imaginative weaponry and a six-wheeled automobile.
Other characters in the film include the Invisible Man, Dorian Gray, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The film leapt out of the pages of a comic book where it was first conceived.
Dress Like A Steampunk
Anyone who is thinking of attending a steampunk event might want to consider their attire.
One of the defining elements of steampunk is the dress code. Steamers dress in clothes inspired by the Victorian era but with a nod to a post-apocalyptic future.
Sartorial elegance blended with frills and laced bodices, belts and gun holsters. Aviator goggles tend to feature heavily in the steampunk look, as do ruffles, pith helmets and brass telescopes.
For a fully immersive steampunk experience, you can visit picturesque Port Meirion on May 6th and 7th.
The setting is a star in its own right, having been the location for the TV series The Prisoner and The Village.
Social steampunks from far and wide come to gather for their annual social event. The organisers bill it as a day of promenading and socialising.
They also promise spontaneous teapot racing and tea duelling. Visitors can expect to see stylised vehicles, robots and a time machine.
In the past, similar events have included every form of entertainment, including live music, pantomime, body art, storytelling, dancing, ironworks, fire-breathing, juggling and escapology.
Cirque du Soleil – Cabinet of Curiosities
The extraordinarily inventive Cirque du Soleil are a band of extraordinary performers who bring a steampunk vibe to exhilarating shows around the world.
They have constantly sought to stretch our imaginations and create excitement. Their show Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities, is currently being performed at The Royal Albert Hall in London.
The show features an alternate yet familiar past in which a Seeker introduces the audience to a range of marvels that lie below the surface.
In his larger-than-life curio cabinet, a hidden, invisible world of the craziest ideas exists. A collection of otherworldly characters come to life in his makeshift mechanical world.
The show is performed by daring acrobats and incredible contortionists. A fair amount of fire-breathing is also thrown in to delight all ages.
The Guardian described it as a ‘gasp-inducing steampunk celebration of virtuosity’.
Shrewsbury Steampunk 2023
Steampunk is coming to Shropshire in April. Shrewsbury Steampunk convention is taking place and promises fabulous family fun on Saturday, 15th April.
The organizers say there will be stalls selling a wide variety of steampunk fayre. Expect to find jewelry, hats, costumes, eyewear, books, homeware and much, much more. Family-friendly entertainment is on offer, with teapot racing and tea dueling. There will also be live music and dancing. The most marvelous doors open at 10 am.
The Steampunk Express – Royal Leamington Spa
If you love an escape room and are into steampunk, look no further than booking a ticket on The Steampunk Express.
This hour-long experience for one to eight players features you and your friends as an elite band of 24th-century techno bandits. You have been successfully evading the police for many years.
However, while robbing the Steampunk Express, you realise you have walked straight into a police trap.
The train is hurtling at full speed on new rails to an unfinished bridge across a canyon. The chief of police has left you a mocking note, so you know what is what.
Your steampunk challenge is to solve the puzzles, get to the engine room and stop the train. The question is, can you escape in time and wipe the smile off the police chief’s face?
Enter The World Of His Dark Materials
If you prefer a more passive experience, then you will probably enjoy browsing the props on display in Swansea.
The free exhibition at Swansea’s Glynn Vivian Art Gallery features props and costumes from the TV series. Much of the show was filmed in studios in Cardiff and other nearby locations.
Large set pieces from different worlds are featured in the exhibition, along with the Golden Compass at this world-first exhibition in South Wales.
Whitby Steampunk Weekend
The Yorkshire town of Whitby hosts a rather splendid affair every year. In fact, it hosts a series of steampunk events and promises a whimsical time for all who attend.
This Victorian seaside town is the perfect backdrop for talks, tarot readings and incredible outfits.
So with all that information, you can now move full steam ahead to a retro-future.