Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that has grown into a lifestyle for many. The new anthology Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer (Tachyon Publications), features an introduction and a couple of essays that point out the connections between steampunk enthusiasts and the DIY community. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:
Throughout the 1990s and early parts of the aughts, steampunk mostly took the form of comics and movies… and found expression through the nascent steampunk subculture. The subculture riffed off of those movies and comics, the works of Verne and Wells, and the Victorian era itself to create a vibrant fashion, arts, maker, and DIY community.
The editors go on to add:
The influence of the maker movement is also apparent in what we would call a burgeoning of “steampunk tinker” stories that speak to the themes of self-sufficiency and DIY aesthetics that permeate the subculture.
An essay by Jake Van Slatt makes an even more explicit connection to technical hobbyists, such as TAB Books readers. He traces the mid-twentieth century rise of technical hobbys (think of Heathkit and Radio Shack) through the decline of the hobby in the age of cheap solid-state gadgets to the current return of interest in discovering how things work for oneself.
…a kid growing up will always ask: “Daddy, how does a light bulb work?” and when Daddy can’t answer that question, the child is left with a tiny hunger. It is that hunger that’s driving the resurgence of electronics as a hobby today.
Van Slatt sees the steampunk lifestyle as the romantic offshoot of a renewed interest in understanding the technological underpinnings of our society. It’s a fascinating book that documents an interesting crossover of cultures.