There are many different interpretations of the term Steampunk, with different people arguing what falls under this umbrella. However, it does seem clear that Steampunk was originally coined in the 1980's to define a specific type of literature that was previously undefined. This literature is usually set in, but not limited to, the Victorian era, and fused with futuristic innovations that may have been envisioned during this time.
Although the term Steampunk was not coined until the 1980s, its origins can be traced back to the nineteenth century with science fiction-romance fused novels by Jules Verne and HG Wells. Jules Verne was not only influential through his novels; Karel Zeman's film The Fabulous World of Jule Verne was highly influential, as was Disney's adaptation of Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. The original TV Series of The Wild Wild West in the 60s was visibly very much of the Steampunk genre. Steampunk seems to suggest "What might have been", had our advances in technology been different; mechanical and steam powered, possibly without the invention of electricity. For this reason, the imagery of Steampunk is always very futuristic but still retains the Victorian style – imagine brass, wood, glass and plenty of detailing.
Steampunk itself is not limited to literature. It has become a complete sub culture, with Steampunk fashion, art, games and even music. What with the fantastical imagery used in Steampunk novels, it was only a matter of time before people started to create gadgets and mechanisms in this style. People have now "steampunked" everything; from phones to cars, computers to even homes! Steampunk clothing itself may not be the most traditional Victorian dress, but adds a fun twist to it, using futuristic and mechanical accessories, to create an interesting and innovative look.
In the last few years, Steampunk has become more and more influential in mainstream culture. Tv Programs such as Doctor Who and Warehouse 13 both feature Steampunk inspired items, the latter having objects designed by Steampunk Artisan Richard Nagy. Justin Bieber even recently had a video featuring brass mechanisms and Steampunk costumes! Steampunk has not failed to influence the ever growing graphic novel culture either. Alan Moore's and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, along with the film adaptation, have helped very popularize the genre.
Thank you for taking the time to read our definition of Steampunk and hopefully we have helped you understand what Steampunk is.