One of this Fall’s most talked-about new releases is Dishonored, and the word that crops up in almost every preview of the game is “steampunk.” The assumption is made that the audience at large knows what steampunk is, but it’s not a genre everyone may know by name.
With Bioshock Infinite, which could also be considered steampunk on the horizon we’re probably going to be talking about this genre very often in the near future, so what is steampunk and where did it come from?
Steampunk as a genre of fiction is generally predicated on alternate histories in which advanced technology exists in much earlier eras than the technology existed in the real world. Much of the fiction that’s considered steampunk is set in the 19th century when steam power was one of the primary sources of power for machines, hence the” steam” part of the name.
The origin of “punk” is less clear but usually understood as a reference to cyberpunk, another genre in which technology plays a central or defining role in the creation of fictional worlds, but where cyberpunk takes place in the future steampunk takes place in the past.