The term Steampunk has its origin in a subgenre of science fiction: cyberpunk. While the latter is immersed in a dystopian futuristic world in which the most advanced technology coexists with a sordid reality, Steampunk is based on another type of technology: Steam power.

The term was coined in 1987, as if by chance, in a letter addressed to the science fiction magazine Locus by the science fiction writer Kevin Wayne. He was trying to find a general term to refer to the genre of his two novels Morlock Night and The Infernal Devices as well as the works The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers and Homunculus by James Blaylock.

“Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like “steam-punks,” perhaps…” K.W. Jeter, April 1987

In this retrofuturistic subgenre of contemporary science fiction beats the heart of the scientific fantasies written by Julio Verne and H.Wells’, among other authors. They’re, without a doubt, children of the technological optimism in which the human being was involved during the heyday of the Industrial Age. At that time, everything seemed possible. Almost the whole world had been mapped, the reason had been built on irrationality (ahem!) and the man (more specifically, the white man) was the new master of the Earth and he could weak its will through technology. Seen from the current perspective… well, we’re not going to get into business … Let’s not criticise our ancestors. We’d have done the same.

“The setting is, like, from the 19th century but with science fiction stuff and all that.” -This is me trying to explain what the genre is about to my mom.

Steampunk World

“A trip to the theatre” Steampunk art by Pete Amachree.

Steampunk usually shows a parallel world (in the future or not) in which steam technology predominates and has allowed the development of impossible technologies. This is, without a doubt, the common point of all the works of the genre. As is always the case, of course, there are many options: from uchronias based on historical facts to fantastic stories set in parallel dimensions or magical worlds. This thematic variety comes as no surprise for us because, after all, several crucial authors of science fiction and fantasy created their work between the end of 19th and beginning of the 20th century. In addition to Wells and Verne mentioned above, we have Bram Stoker (Dracula, The Lost World…), JRR Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings), Howard Phillips Lovecraft (the creator of a mythology that… well, if you don’t know it, you are one of them), Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the barbarian) and so on and so forth. Of course, among the initial authors of the Victorian science fiction literature (let’s call it this way), we cannot ignore the Queen Mother of them all: Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

We will publish a list of some titles that are essential to enjoy Steampunk shortly.


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Aitor Garay

Aitor Garay

A culturally unfocused scriptwriter.
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