Steampunk is a re-envisioning of the past with the hyper-technological perceptions of the present. Unfortunately, most so-called "steampunk" is dressed up, reactionary nostalgia: the stifling tea-rooms of Victorian imperialists and faded maps of colonial hubris. This sort of yesteryear is more appropriate for Disney and suburban grandparents than it is for a philosophy or culture.
First and foremost, steampunk is a non-lyddite critique of technology. It rejects the ultra-hip dystopia of the cyberpunks -- black rain and nihilistic posturing -- while simultaneously forfeiting the "noble savage" dream of this pre-technological era. It revels in the concrete reality of this technology rather than the over-analytical abstractness of cybernetics. Technology is the difference between the mad scientist and the nerd; steampunk. Machines are real, breathing, coughing, struggling and rumbling parts of the world. They are not the airy intellectual fairies of algorithmic math but the hulking manifestations of muscle and mind, the progeny of sweat, blood, tears, and delusions. Steampunk's technology is natural; it lives, moves, ages, and even dies.
Steampunk, that mad scientist refuses to be fenced in by the ever-growing cages of specialization. Leonardo Da Vinci is the steampunk touchstone; a blurring of lines between technology and art, rendering fashion and function. Authentic steampunk seeks to take the levers of technologies from these technocrats who drain it of its artistic and real qualities, who turn technology's living creatures into the simpering servants of the meaningless commodity.
Authentic Steampunk is not an artistic movement but an aesthetic technological motion. The machine must be liberated from efficacy and designed by fantasies and desire. The sleekness of engineering is to be replaced with the essential ornamentation of the function that is real. Chaos imperfection, chance, and obsolescence are not to be seen as faults, but as methods for allowing liberation in the predictability of perfection.
Steampunk overthrows the mill of consciousness by way of beautiful entropy, creating a seamless paradox between the practical and the fanciful. This living fantasy of technologies is neither slave nor master, but partners in the exploration of otherwise unknowable territories of both art and science.
Steampunk rejects the myopic, nostalgia-drenched politics so common among "alternative" cultures. Ours isn't the culture of Neo -Victorianism, and stupefying etiquette, not remotely an escape into courses rhetoric and a gentleman's clubs. It is the fairy of fire and delusion unleashed from her bottle, stretched across the glimmering gears of anger.
We seek inspiration from the smog-choked alleys of Victoria's useless Empire. We find solidarity and inspiration in the mad bombers with ink-stained cuffs, in whip-wielding girls that return to none, in coughing chimney sweeps who have escaped the rooftops and joined the circus, and in mutineers who have gone native and have passed the tools of their masters to those most ready to use them.
We are inflamed from the dockworkers of the Doglands as they set Prince Albert's Hall ablaze and impassioned by the dark rituals of the Ordo Templi Orientis. We stand with the traitors of the past as we hatch treason against our present.
TOO MUCH OF WHAT PASSES AS STEAMPUNK DENIES THE PUNK,
in all of its guises. Punk -- the fuse used for lighting cannons. Punk -- the downtrodden and dirty. Punk -- the aggressive, do it yourself ethic. We stand - addicts, dandies, inventors of perpetual motion machines, mutineers, hucksters, gamblers, explorers, madmen, and bluestockings. We laugh at pros and consult moth- eaten tomes of forgotten possibilities. We sneer at Utopias while awaiting the new ruins to reveal themselves. We're a community of mechanical magicians beholden to the mystery of possibility and enchanted by the world that is real. We don't have the luxury of niceties or politeness' ownership; we were rebuilding our tomorrow yesterday to make sure. Our corsets are stitched with safety pins and our top hats hide Mohawks. We are fashion's jackals running in the tailor shop.
It lives! Steampunk ignores alleys and resides in shadows' reincarnated past. It is a historical wunder kabinet, which promises, like Dr. Caligari's, to wake the somnambulist of the present to the dream-reality of their future. We're archeologists of the present, reanimating a history.