Hi guys! It's summer time and we're halfway done with the year. Personally, I feel like 2017 is disappearing quickly. I guess the cliché phrase is right. Time flies when you're having fun. As a steampunk author and general fan of the genre, I'm always looking for more information, events, contacts, media, literature, etc. You could say steampunk has a small yet devout following, but it also seems like the fan base is getting bigger. I noticed quite a few discussions and posts through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other websites. It seems like some steampunk fans wonder if the genre is dying slowly but surely. Honestly, I disagree with that concern. But I definitely believe steampunk is undergoing some changes. This post is reviewing my viewpoints about the steampunk genre and what's happening to it during 2017.
We're seeing a huge explosion of punk genres. I'm seeing a lot of newer ones like dieselpunk, biopunk, atompunk, stonepunk, and so on. The original punk genre known as cyberpunk is also making a comeback this year. Overall, steampunk appears to be the most popular genre in this family. I'm making this statement because steampunk has a very distinct subculture with cosplayers, conventions, social media, small groups, and more. Furthermore, there are many steampunk novels and unpublished fiction. I'm also noticing that steampunk is quite popular among young adults. It's very common to see teenagers participating in steampunk cosplay at Comic Con or other sci-fi events. Can you identify any cyberpunk or dieselpunk conventions? Probably not. I'm sure they exist, but it's much easier to name steampunk festivals like the Steampunk World's Fair, Gaslight Expo, Steamposium, Motor City Steam Con, the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention, etc. There are plenty of steampunk conventions outside of the United States as well. I always see a fair amount of steampunk cosplayers and vendors at the various Comic Cons, but it's a small number of people compared to the superheroes, space operas, anime characters, and post-apocalyptic mayhem. Realistically, steampunk can't compete with those genres. I don't think steampunk will ever be more popular than superhero fiction. But we can dream, right?
There are plenty of ways to identify steampunk's longevity. Just be observant. New steampunk books were released this year. I noticed some new releases by Gail Carriger through Facebook and Twitter. If you look online at Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, the list of steampunk books keeps growing. I met several creators of steampunk comic books at WonderCon. Lady Mechanika, Moriarty, Boston Metaphysical Society, and Pariah Missouri looked really interesting. I'm also acquainted with a steampunk cosplay group called the Steampunk Star Wars Universe and it seems like they have more members at every convention. There appears to be a rise in steampunk modeling and photography. I'm always finding new photos through social media. For those of you who enjoy steampunk DIY costuming, go to Joann's and pick out patterns. You won't have any trouble finding patterns with steampunk themes. Steampunk also has a big presence around Halloween time. You can walk into any Halloween store and find costumes or props that would work perfectly. Ironically, a lot of props in the serial killer section of the Halloween stores work really well with steampunk costumes. Wrenches, pickaxes, lead pipes, hammers, chains, etc. Some of my Facebook friends are steampunk costume designers and it seems like they're always busy with clients and public appearances. Disneyland has unofficial steampunk days during the Dapper Day Expo twice a year. It's a popular event for the residents of Southern California. We might be seeing some steampunk influences in video games. I wouldn't be surprised if Vampyr and Call of Cthulhu will have some vague steampunk elements. Those games are going to be released around Christmas time. Steampunk fans can rest at ease because the genre isn't going to disappear any time soon.
I'm definitely noticing some changes and trends in steampunk. Even though the Victorian style remains popular, other themes seem to be growing. It's very common for people to combine steampunk with something else. A typical example is the Wild West version of steampunk. That one is becoming a classic. Nowadays, it's also common to see steampunk pirates, post-apocalyptic themes, aviators, explorers, etc. Some cosplayers also blending together steampunk with other franchises, like Marvel or DC superheroes, Star Wars, video games, Disney characters, and more. I guess that might be the best way for steampunk to compete with superheroes or Star Wars. There seems to be an increase in paranormal steampunk fiction with ghosts or other supernatural elements. The fantasy version of steampunk with vampires and werewolves is also quite popular. I know some people dislike the idea of combining the steampunk and post-apocalyptic genres, but it's happening anyway. In fact, steampunk is almost venturing further away from the Victorian theme and is heading deeper into the post-apocalyptic subgenre. I'm not sure how long that trend will last. Ultimately, steampunk will always turn back to the Victorian period. For better or worse, there's a lot more romance and erotica in steampunk. This might be an attempt to bring more female readers into the world of steampunk, but I'm honestly not sure. Also, romance is overwhelmingly the most popular literary genre. Therefore, it makes sense to increase romantic steampunk fiction. It's a way to gain more readers and venture into the mainstream.
Are we going to see more futuristic periods in steampunk fiction? Maybe not in 2017, but I strongly believe it's going to happen within the next handful of years. How many of you joined steampunk groups on Facebook? There are quite a few steampunk groups through social media with many members. Several members in these groups are budding writers and I noticed that quite a few of them were interested in futuristic storylines. It's almost like the concept of future Victorians. Personally, I think the idea is cool because it's the setting in my own book series titled The Post-Apocalyptic Society. It's a different twist on steampunk. Usually, steampunk fiction takes place during an alternate version of the Victorian era. You could say it's a reaction against Victorianism or conformity. That won't be true for every author, but it seems to be a common theme. Everything is going to be turned backwards in futuristic settings. The characters are making a statement against the modern era and are choosing to revert back to Victorian ideals. I believe this new and futuristic version of steampunk will have a lot of interesting storylines. It's hard to tell if this type of steampunk will become very popular. Only time will tell.
Truthfully, the biggest competitors for steampunk are the other punk genres. I already mentioned that cyberpunk is gaining some attention this year. For example, we're seeing more cyberpunk films this year. Ghost in the Shell got mixed reception from audiences. Some people thought the movie was entertaining with a pretty decent story. Others hated the white washing and didn't believe it was faithful to the source material. I don't remember critics being particularly thrilled with this movie. Personally, I'm looking forward to Blade Runner 2049. I hope it's going to be a great sequel to the original Blade Runner film. But you never know. Anything could happen. It's hard for cyberpunk to hit the mainstream. The genre is philosophical, dystopian, ethereal, complex, and frequently political. Aside from The Matrix and Terminator series, a lot of cyberpunk works are underappreciated. I realize some people might not believe The Matrix or Terminator should be categorized as cyberpunk, but that's an argument for another day. There's a lot of good cyberpunk literature and I don't know many people who read it. So, I doubt cyberpunk will dethrone steampunk yet.
I also noticed a lot of growth in dieselpunk. It's a much newer genre compared to cyberpunk and steampunk. Dieselpunk often takes place during the WWI or WWII periods and it has a lot of noir elements. It can actually take place during any time period when fossil fuels are predominant power sources, including the modern era. Most likely, this growth is happening because WWI and WWII are very popular settings. Noir is also becoming more popular this year. I have to admit that dieselpunk elements are a lot more evident in films than steampunk. For the most part, steampunk films are relegated to the Victorian period, Wild West, or a post-apocalyptic setting with a lot of steam power. The popularity of Victorianism and the Wild West comes and goes. We're not going to see a lot of consecutive years that have a big emphasis on the Victorian period. On the other hand, WWI and WWII are great settings for Oscar bait. It's something to think about. Unfortunately, steampunk films didn't prove to be very successful in the past. Wild Wild West, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and The Golden Compass were universally panned by critics and audiences. The Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. had moderate success. Perhaps directors, producers, and screen writers are hesitant to create more steampunk films due to this problem. It's just a theory. Will dieselpunk become more popular than steampunk in 2017? It won't happen, but the genre is definitely growing and developing. That's actually a good thing. I'm glad dieselpunk is developing a bigger fan base with more stylistic elements. Dieselpunk doesn't have the strong subcultural following yet, but it might get there some day. Right now, very few people know the word dieselpunk except for hardcore sci-fi enthusiasts. A lot of people still don't know much about steampunk, but at least more individuals in the mainstream have a vague idea about the genre. There's another issue because many people think something is steampunk when it's actually dieselpunk. The two genres can look somewhat similar. I'm pretty sure we're going to see less of that problem when mainstream audiences become more familiar with dieselpunk as a separate genre.
I wish steampunk grew more in popularity this year. It grew noticeably in 2015 and 2016. This year seems to be more stagnate. But it's not declining and I'm happy about that part. Slow and steady wins the race. What have you noticed about steampunk in 2017? Leave a comment and let us know. Are any of you guys seeing new trends for dieselpunk or cyberpunk? I would love to hear from you too. Thanks for reading my long post and stay tuned for next week's topic. Sweet dreams!
11/10/2017 09:54:16 am
I loved reading your blog entry. I'm trying to bring myself up-to-date for a steampunk panel this month. My award-winning spirits-meet-steampunk novel, "The Engine Woman's Light," came out in trade paper earlier this year. In order to write the book, I learned how to run a steam locomotive. I'm hooked on the beauty and power of steam.
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