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Why is Steampunk so fascinating?

Why is Steampunk so fascinating?

First, let's talk about the background of the steampunk era.

Steampunk is an overhead world view, but it has a corresponding historical background prototype. It is mainly based on the reign of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. At that time, various natural science and technology flourished, the bourgeoisie gained a higher social status, and human beings entered the industrial age. The birth of machines liberated a large number of laborers, people entered an era of great material abundance, medical technology progressed, and people’s lifespans were extended. Revolutionary ideas also gradually sprout. Steam-powered trains and ships shortened journeys, and the power of the European countries represented by the United Kingdom was significantly increased.

Utopianism, technology brings a bright future to people.

The era of steampunk is filled with romantic optimism. The development of industry has liberated the labor force to a certain extent, the development of natural science has eliminated superstition and religious authoritarianism, culture has gradually become enlightened, and people are full of curiosity about the world. People are optimistic about the development of technology.

*A comparison needs to be made here. Cyberpunk, which is also an overhead theme, has a pessimistic attitude towards the development of science and technology, because at the end of World War II, humans used atomic bombs in wars, and it was the first time that humans discovered the destruction of technology. Power, technology can easily destroy civilization. Nuclear energy, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, cyberspace and other cyberpunk core things have the ability to destroy human civilization, so in the cyberpunk theme, humans are vigilant and pessimistic about technology.

Black Technology

As an alternative world view, a series of settings in which humans point to the technology tree have appeared in steampunk novels and film and television game works, which belong to the human world of historical parallel universes. For example, using a purely mechanically driven computer - a difference engine.

Figure: Difference engine that relies on mechanical structure operations in reality. Although the concept of a computer appeared in the steampunk era, it can only perform simple calculations and cannot perform complex programming, so there is no concept of [network] after the large-scale use of electricity and the emergence of vacuum tubes.

If it is a steampunk with a background closer to reality, then coal is the main power source, because the production technology level at that time did not invent an internal combustion engine that can control the energy of oil.

Of course, there are also many overhead power sources, such as the Claudia minerals in the TV animation "Final Exile", the steam ball in the film "Steam Boy" directed by Otomo Keyang, and the magical power source in the "Final Fantasy" series of games.

It should be noted here that it is taboo to have too many electric devices in the steampunk world view, because after the large-scale use of electricity, it will replace the complex gear transmission control mechanism common in the original steampunk world view, and a simple electrical signal can Various complex instructions are transmitted over long distances to control the machine, so there is no need to use various cumbersome and complex gear links to transmit instructions, and due to the emergence of electricity, a computer with electronic tubes as the computing unit was also born, which can handle complex programming. Command, the black technology that originally appeared in steampunk - the difference engine will be eclipsed.

The picture shows the Steam City console that appeared in the movie "Steam Boy", all relying on cumbersome mechanical structures to transmit instructions. Because relying on the mechanical structure to transmit commands requires a large number of metal parts, on the one hand, it will increase the weight, on the other hand, it is easy to cause errors due to metal fatigue, and the mechanical energy transmission is lossy, so there will be a lot of manpower at the end of many machines. The controller relies on the common microphone on the old ship to give instructions to the control worker at the end of the machine to complete the operation of the large machine.

And electric motors, fuel rocket engines, jet engines and other power elements are not steampunk. Because all the power in the steampunk era relies on pure mechanical devices to transmit the power generated by steam to the power mechanism to do work, because of excessive mechanical weight, friction and heat transfer, etc., the power generated by steam is transmitted in the process of mechanical devices. There is a large amount of loss in the medium, and the energy conversion efficiency is extremely low, but it also creates a huge mechanical shape with unique violent beauty in the steampunk world view.

Most parts of the entire steam city are used to transmit the power generated by the steam ball. Large ships and huge guns, more riveting and steaming. Violent aesthetic weapon. From the Victorian era to the First World War, due to the vigorous development of capitalism, the regimes dominated by capitalists began to re-divide the world pattern. Countries have built a large number of ironclad ships powered by steam. The overall trend is more and more turrets. The battleship invincibility of the big ship and the artillery is a romantic military affair unique to this era (this romance was broken after the emergence of the RPG Rocket God and the flat top ship heresy in World War II).

Multiple turrets, because the hit rate of artillery is very low before the advent of guided weapons and ballistic calculation, so the lack of accuracy must be compensated for by the rate of fire and the number of artillery.

The armor splicing process in the steampunk era cannot be cast into huge and complex metal structures at one time, and there is no composite material in modern technology, and the welding process is not advanced enough, so it can only be spliced ​​with a piece of armor plate, and then use a lot of rivets to fix.

With steam as the power, human beings used coal as the main energy at that time. At that time, there was no internal combustion engine with more powerful thermal energy conversion efficiency and power, and it was technically impossible to control the explosive fuel such as oil. In the early steam-powered ironclad fleet battles, it often took several hours to start the steam boiler to get the warship moving.

Rigid suspension, before the emergence of various spring damping suspension shock absorbers, due to the very large resistance, the movement speed of tanks using rigid suspension devices is very slow, not even infantry and moving fast. Military machines of this era tend to be clumsy. In the steampunk overhead world view, there are many weapons of violent aesthetics.

In the steampunk world view, there are many violent aesthetic weapons.

The Iron Armored Fleet in Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle.

Real ironclad

The sail masts are still retained on the early ironclad ships, and the advanced and backward coexist.

The armored train in Cabanelli of the Iron Fortress.

The steam-powered mecha in "Sakura Wars" - Guangwu, fighting with a boiler.

The giant airship in the game Final Fantasy XII.

Tanks in the First World War, all kinds of weapons mainly characterized by the process of splicing armor plates with a large number of rivets. [Multi-turret] in steampunk battleships, tanks, and fortresses is a very important visual element. Because the early artillery lacked precision guidance, it could only rely on increasing the number of gun barrels to make up for the lack of long-range shooting accuracy. After the emergence of rockets that rely on computer precision guidance and aircraft carrier aircraft that can strike warships beyond the distance of naval guns, multi-turrets were only Gradually withdraw from the stage of history.

In the fortified city in Otomo Keyang's "Street of Cannons", the whole people regard firing cannons as a daily duty.

The huge cannon in "Street of Cannons". It takes hundreds of people to work together to fire the gun. The reference prototype is the Gustav super-heavy railway gun of Nazi Germany during World War II.

Pictured: Gustav super-heavy railroad gun.

Mechanically designed decor style.

The steampunk era did not give birth to the discipline we use to design industrial machinery today - industrial modeling design. In that era, the "work" and "art" in the craft modeling were not separated, and there were no full-time designers to design industrial products. modeling. Therefore, the appearance of industrial products in that era had a strong sense of patchwork, and the concept of [decoration] was used to construct the appearance of the product. Often gives a "fancy" feeling.

The car design in the movie "The Soldier" is decorated with exaggerated Baroque-style reliefs, which is also a more common decoration design in the steampunk theme.

Here is a simple comparison. The shape of the steam locomotive above is decorated in Baroque style, and a bunch of useless embossed patterns are added. The steam locomotive below is a simple Bauhaus-style design. According to the functionality of the locomotive head, a streamlined shape is designed to reduce wind resistance during high-speed driving.

Picture: The body decorated with baroque patterns in the Victorian style, a large number of exposed hydraulic transmission mechanisms and pipelines, the armor seams are connected by rivets, and the armor with brass texture is a standard combination of steampunk elements.

A vintage Victorian aesthetic with a sense of the times.

Victorian style is a style of artistic restoration formed during the reign of Queen Victoria of England (1837-1901) in the 19th century. It reinterpreted the classical meaning, abandoned the aesthetics of mechanical rationality, and started a new kind of art in human life. Definition of value. For the 19th century, an era of rapid political, economic, and social change, the most significant result was the explosion of a wealthy middle class. The possession of wealth and rising status has aroused the awareness of the changing living environment and interior decoration style of the middle class, and they are eager to clarify and tout their achievements in residential buildings. As a result, the "Victorian style" based on decoration came into being. The Industrial Revolution made mass production possible, and "patterned" design and manufacture became a convenient, cheap, and universal standard, which brought the easiest opportunity for the Victorian style, who liked the free combination of all styles of decorative elements. , and make it ultimately beat all other styles. In fact, it's hard to categorize Victorian style precisely, it actually included a variety of decorative elements, a mixture of styles and the use of innovative decoration without an obvious style base, typical of the design of furniture and other objects at the time.

The Victorian style of the 18th century is an important stroke in the history of international design. The admiration and popularity of the medieval Goethe style made the design expression more reflect the artistic needs of the royal family. Pretentious, cumbersome decoration, and exoticism in visual design play a very important role.

The picture shows the concept design draft of the game "The Order 1886". The architecture is a mix of Gothic and Baroque styles, typical of Victorian architecture.

The streets in "Bloodborne", the buildings are baroque.

The architectural shapes of ordinary dwellings in Victorian-style towns and streets that appeared in Hayao Miyazaki's film Howl's Moving Castle, wood and brick structures, although they have entered the industrial society, at this time large-scale reinforced concrete buildings have not yet appeared in the folk.

The interior is decorated in Rococo style. The women in the picture are dressed in Victorian style.

The shape of the Royal Palace in the background is in the classic Baroque style.

The interior is a gorgeous mix of Rococo and Baroque.
When it comes to Victorian clothing styles, women's clothing is characterized by the extensive use of lace, spun yarn, ruffles, ribbons, bows, multi-layered cake cutting, folds, stand-up collars, smocks and other elements.

Costumes from the game "Bloodborne".

The military uniform in the game "The Order 1886" is a 19th century retro military uniform style common in the steampunk world view.

Gas masks are also an important visual element of the worldview in steampunk.


In addition to the characteristics of the Victorian era in the West, what needs to be mentioned here is the same important era background as Victoria in the steampunk world view, that is Japan's [Taisho era].

[Taisho era] refers to the period of Emperor Taisho's reign, from 1912 to 1926, which was a short and relatively stable period.

The fundamental feature of this era is that the wave of Taisho Democracy swept across all spheres of culture. The early Taisho period was an unprecedented prosperous age in Japan since the Meiji Restoration. There are many similarities with Victorian England. In addition, during the Meiji Restoration, Japan took the United Kingdom as an example and introduced many advanced science and technology and political systems. The military was also built according to the organizational system of developed countries in Europe and America.

Many steampunk worldviews set in Japan have a distinct Taisho era style in their visual elements. The Taisho era was also an era in which both advanced and backward coexisted. There were many mashup elements with obvious cross-era differences in architecture and clothing.

The more famous ones are "Sakura Wars" and "Kabanelli of the Iron Fortress"

Taisho period women's clothing.

Taisho era student clothes.

The costumes of the characters in "Sakura Wars", at that time, Japan introduced the advanced European and American military uniform styles.

Sakura Shinguuji, the heroine of "Sakura Wars", is dressed in traditional Japanese women's clothing from the Taisho era.

The Japanese street scene of the Taisho era, modern electric railways and European and American-style street lamps, and buildings also have a mix of traditional Japanese and European styles.

Magic and technology coexist, advanced and backward coexist.

Clark, a famous British writer, once put forward that any very advanced technology is no different from magic at first glance. The settings of many early sci-fi works did not have much rational logic in line with reality, especially in the romantic world of steampunk. There are often literary works that add a series of magical elements to the steampunk worldview.

Hayao Miyazaki once constructed a coexistence of magic and steam technology in the film Howl's Moving Castle.

Howl's Moving Castle.

Its core power source is the fire demon who signed a contract with the magician Howl.

There are also many times in the film of this kind of liquid-like summoning demon.

Airship, the belly spit out is a magical creature that can fly.

It looks like this up close, it's a very evil shape.

Howl uses magic to transform himself into a bird-like stance to fight enemies.

Many of the airships featured in the film use insect-like wings to fly.

The interior of the airship is also filled with this black familiar.

Looking at the details, the small wings protruding under the wings are more like insect wings, and the entire airship should be driven by magical creatures as a power source.

There are also many soldiers wearing uniforms in pursuit of Hal Familiar.

It can be seen that in the world view of Howl's Moving Castle, magical creatures are not only used as the power source of various machines, but also driven by labor and force.

Many pure steampunk worldviews, such as "Final Fantasy" series games and "Warcraft" series games, mix and match steampunk and magic themes, these only borrow a series of steampunk vehicles and weapon settings, and do not use steam. Punk's unique era style (Victorian period in England, Taisho period in Japan) is substituted into the work, and its design tone is still dominated by magic.

Airships in Final Fantasy XII.

The goblin and gnome technology in the "Warcraft" series of games also uses a lot of steampunk elements.

Why is Steampunk so fascinating?

This charm is people's yearning for utopia. Humans have just had the power to approach God, taking the first step towards unraveling the mysteries of nature. The divine power brought by this technology frees people from the heavy manual labor and poor material constraints that have been held for thousands of years, and liberates people from the feudal imprisonment that binds the mind. The backward forces and the human flaws since the birth of human beings coexist, the advanced and the backward coexist, the advanced and the backward struggle, people drive huge and clumsy machines to fly on the road of civilization development, ruthlessly crushing old things, Continuous exploration, continuous innovation, and use their own wisdom to write a brilliant chapter of industrial civilization. Before the real technological crisis (cyberpunk theme) comes, human beings recklessly squander the countless benefits created during the first industrial revolution, and people wander in the romantic thoughts of exploring the new world. The theme of steampunk is like a world in a mirror, reflecting our beautiful imagination of that romantic era.

In fact, there is still a lot of content about steampunk worthy of in-depth study. When I think of what I need to add, I will gradually sort it out and post it in my column.

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