Steampunk Would Be Cooler If It Worked

Steampunks - models Liza James and Jared Axelr...
Steampunks - models Liza James and Jared Axelrod on board Baldwin 60000 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since my last post on Steampunk a couple of years ago, I’ve looked into it further. Last year I saw an exhibition of steampunk art, I’ve read some steampunk books & stories, and the genre keeps popping up in the mainstream (like on an episode of Castle.)

Some of it is really cool. You know I love brass and rivets and old mechanisms are pretty cool. But I was reading a collection of short stories last week and the editor kept talking about the DIY nature of it. To me, DIY means not just that you “did it yourself” but that it actually works. DIY plumbing shouldn’t leak and I feel like steampunk objects should do what they say they do. A flying apparatus should at least flap its wings and a ray gun should shoot rays, right?

OK we haven’t actually figured out the science for a ray gun yet (or have we?), but the spirit of steampunk to me is all about mechanics, inventors, and gadgets. It feels false to just glue parts together so that pieces don’t even move.

That being said, I think the aesthetic is pretty cool and it works well as a literary genre. I just wish that if it isn’t going to actually work, it should at least look well made. Clean up your welds and solder joints, don’t ever let any glue show, and for goodness sake actually use metal rather than spray painting plastic or wood (yes, I’ve actually seen that.) Maybe it isn’t a problem with whether or not it works, but just that I’ve seen poorly constructed pieces.

Well, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll go back to making my completely non-functioning teapot (more on that later… ;^)

*I want to make sure that people understand that not all steampunk I’ve seen is this way. There are some artists whose work is phenomenal, especially some of the leatherwork I’ve seen.

5 thoughts on “Steampunk Would Be Cooler If It Worked

  1. Oh I agree, the beauty of Steampunk to me has always been dual, the gorgeous high polished brass machines that look so mysterious and at the same time manage to look cutting edge when they start whirring and turning ! 🙂

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  2. I totally agree! Good steampunk is really good…bad steampunk is really bad. The genre and theme is a very interesting one and I’ve seen so many inspiring and beautiful pieces made by steampunk artists. As in any medium, it’s the sloppy artists and those who don’t take the time to study the craft that bring it down. I think as time goes on the trend will fade and those who are truly passionate about steampunk will stick with it and the rest will fall away. I’m looking forward to seeing how steampunk develops over time!

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  3. I can say nothing but “thank you”. We had a debate on this particular topic some time ago in the French community, and unfortunately people who “want to make it work” are still seen as tolerance.zero goofs.
    We now have the hymn “just glue some gears on it (and call it steampunk)” to tell our disappointment 🙂

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  4. Well, you said a mouthful, Madam. I don’t think things have to be functional to be worthy works of art; I do, however, agree that the execution of any piece must be pristine, if it is to reach the level of fine craft. There are those who dabble in the genre, just like hobbyist jewelry-makers, weekend woodworkers, and the like, but they are not all fine artists. They are as different from fine craftsmen as babysitters are from neonatologists. Cheers to our discerning collectors.

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  5. I have another post ready for later about nonfunctional craft, just to keep it interesting ;^) I know that this is the same issue with pretty much every genre, but I just feel that because of what steampunk is, that this is a bigger problem for this particular genre.

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