Steampunk is an artistic aesthetic based on the steam age of the 19th century.
The first industrial revolution of the 19th century was a big explosion of the productive forces of human society. The advancement of science and technology has freed human beings from the shackles of religious theocracy and gained the power to change nature. Coal has replaced the firewood that depends on the weather and has become the new energy cornerstone of human society. The emergence of the steam engine has provided inexhaustible surging power for human beings. The roaring trains and ships connect the previously divided worlds into a whole. In the Victorian era, the high prosperity of the capitalist world market injected unprecedented vitality into the world. Human science and technology have entered a period of rapid explosion, and black technologies such as difference engines and robotic arms have emerged one after another. That era was full of the romance of big industry, and people at that time were full of optimism that technology could change the future.
In the 20th century, a group of artists made extensive use of core elements such as steel, machinery, and steam engines in an overhead world view, combined with the aesthetic characteristics of the Victorian era in England and the Taisho era in Japan, coupled with unrestrained magic and imagination, and formed what we see today. --steampunk.
The aesthetic characteristics of steampunk are very distinct: machinery, steam, Verolia. Relying on these specific aesthetic symbols, steampunk deduces a very unique artistic beauty.
The first is the ubiquitous machinery.
The representative of the steampunk design language is the "difference engine". In 1834, the British invented the world's first difference engine. This is a purely mechanical computer that can calculate polynomial functions through precise transmission structures.
In 1991, American science fiction writer William Gibson wrote the science fiction novel The Difference Engine, which led to a craze in the science fiction world. Since William Gibson's "Neuromancer" is known as the ancestor of cyberpunk, literary critics at that time followed the concept of "cyberpunk" and named "The Difference Engine" as "steampunk". Steampunk has been closely related to machinery since its inception.
Since the electrical age had not yet arrived, the industrial design of this period was filled with pure mechanical beauty. There are few integrated circuits or electronic tubes in the world of steampunk, and pure machinery is the mainstream of design. Relying on sophisticated gears, connecting rods, and transmission devices to convey instructions to huge machines, using classical mechanics to the extreme, and using mechanical energy to accomplish all kinds of incredible things, this is one of the unique charms of steampunk.
Subject to the industrial level of the 19th century, steampunk will emphasize the roughness of metal. Humans don't yet use streamlined designs, and all machines rely on giant rivets to rudely fit together. The world of steampunk basically does not use electricity, so all kinds of mechanical equipment must be piled up with a lot of metal parts. The subtle and ingenious internal design, and the big black and thick external outline, a small difference, reflects the rough and violent aesthetics of steampunk.
The mechanical elements of steampunk are so prominent that even encountering a large number of machines in real life will give people a sense of steampunk.
The second is steam and steam engines.
The internal combustion engine rarely appears in the world of steampunk, and the steam engine is the main driving force of the whole society. From ironclads to trains, from laboratories to factories, coal-burning steam boilers are an integral element. Just as there must be rainy neon lights in the world of cyberpunk, there must be a smoking steam engine in the world of steampunk.
The steam element is often closely related to another characteristic of the steampunk world - bulky and slow. Due to the extremely low gear ratio of the steam engine, the large machines in the steampunk world are mostly sluggish. Warships have to be bulky, trains have to be noisy, and even flying objects (airships or castles in the sky) have to fly slowly.
The extensive use of coal makes the steampunk world basically unable to escape heavy pollution. Diffuse smoke and flowing sewage are also a visual feature of the steampunk world.
The third is Victorian aesthetics, magic and black technology.
Steampunk is mainly set in the British Victorian era. In the context of the transition from an agricultural society to an industrial society, where local culture and world colonial rule are mixed, steampunk shows a very rich aesthetic spectrum.
Steampunk mainly continues the mainstream design language of Victorian Europe. In terms of architectural design, Baroque and Rococo decoration styles are mostly used, which contrasts the splendor of the palace buildings in the classical era with the simple and rough factories and homestays in the industrial era, creating a "punk" feeling. In terms of clothing design, the British clothing style of the Verolia era is mostly used: women wear whalebone corsets, and lace fabrics are used extensively; men wear gentlemen's top hats, leather riding boots and trench coats, coupled with motorcycle goggles or a single piece. Glasses. At the same time, people will also wear some advanced equipment that is incompatible with the era, such as complex robotic arms, sophisticated flying watches, wearing medieval beak-style gas masks, etc., which form a sharp difference with traditional clothing, once again creating a " punk" feeling.
In the world of steampunk, the boundaries between science and magic are very blurred. Many science and technology were regarded as the same as magic in the eyes of the people at that time, and the love of human beings for strange powers and gods was still quite popular. So in the steampunk setting, you will see dark scientists holding mechanical computers to study magical substances, and see the mysterious scene of steel giant ships and ancient monsters side by side. Compared with the complete disenchantment of science on magic in cyberpunk, steampunk emphasizes the intertextual exchange between science and mysticism. The coexistence of robotic arms and flying brooms, the coexistence of chemical industry and mysterious alchemy, the coexistence of scientists and magicians, endows steampunk with unparalleled romance and imagination.
To sum up, steampunk is a very interesting cultural proposition. The pure mechanics of violent aesthetics, the huge and cumbersome steam power, and the coexistence of sci-fi and retro aesthetics make steampunk present a beauty that is completely different from punk cultures such as cyberpunk and wasteland punk. Cyberpunk is full of criticism of capitalism and dissatisfaction with the oppression of human beings by technology. Wasteland punk is trying to exaggerate the tragic world after the nuclear war, expressing pessimism about nuclear war and the end of human beings - these two punks have a negative impact on technology and human beings. The outlook for the future is pessimistic. In contrast, steampunk is full of worship of technology and a beautiful vision of a future utopia. Humans use the power of science and technology to transform nature and conquer the world.
With the blessing of Japanese animation and games, steampunk has also derived a new branch: Japanese steampunk. Steampunk in Japan is mainly set in the Taisho period (1912-1926). Japan in this era just caught up with the last train of the first industrial revolution. The collision of European and American advanced culture and local traditional culture brought about by leaving Asia and entering Europe formed the soil of Japanese steampunk. Japanese people wearing kimonos and underskirts, driving a giant steel ship learned from the West, walking on clogs, wearing motorcycle goggles on their heads... All these wonderful mixes constitute the unique beauty of Japanese steampunk. .