If I ask one hundred people for a detailed definition of what steampunk means to them, I am sure to get ninety nine different definitions. Of course, I don’t have one hundred regular readers, but I would still like to spark some debate on this subject, so please feel free to trackback to this posting! So, what does Steampunk mean to you? I’ll start off with my interpretation.
We could always look at the Steampunk Wikipedia entry on the subject and get a good, generic understanding of the genre. But, with the time I’ve spent in Caledon, Babbage and Steeltopia, I have seen many different interpretations of this theme. Caledon seems to be more Victorian than Steampunk whereas Babbage seems to be Steampunk within the laws of physics with a dash of Victorian attitude.
I see Steampunk as what we would have if steam was the primary motive force instead of gas or electricity. I see Steampunk as bending the laws of physics, and I think that many authors must agree with that view as many vehicles are simply not possible with what we know. Heck, take Wells and his cavorite! I see Steampunk as a “can do” genre where if you can have an idea that seems plausible, then it should be possible.
But my own vision of what I enjoy about Steampunk goes deeper. Look at the movie “Brazil“. To me, this has the look and feel of Steampunk, although it is not truly Steampunk. It is mechanical, dirty, dystopian and yet inspires hope of human spirit. I enjoy the clunky improbability of Steampunk. I love the mad scientist feel of Steampunk. Heck, I’ve always been a bit of a mad scientist in real life! I also like the draws from Victorian-era architecture and styles.
Above all this, Steampunk is creating solutions with creative expression. And that is what 2ndL is ALL about! Many are drawn to 2ndL because of what has been created that cannot exist in real life. Yes, there are friendships, but they are friendship that have come about as people are drawn together by similar interests. Interests, in many cases, in worlds that do not exist anywhere, but in our minds. Caledon is such a world and it is what drew me there a long time ago and keeps me calling it home. We do not have a Victorian Steampunk country in real life. The Victorian era had long passed before most of us were conceived. Steampunk has only existed in literary form. In 2ndL, we can have both, if not physically, but in the next best way: virtually.
I enjoy the ability to create in 2ndL where my only limits are those of my imagination and the technical capabilities of the system in which I build. I try to make things that don’t completely defy the laws of physics, but that is my decision. Your view of Steampunk may very well be impossible, yet I would welcome that view, none the less! After all, there are two things that keep me coming back to 2ndL: FRIENDS! and creative builds.
Let me just add that although I have developed a character with a Victorian Steampunk look, I am not Victorian Steampunk. I enjoy Victorian Steampunk and have chosen to build and live Victorian Steampunk, but I also enjoy most other forms of in-world creative expression that expresses one’s heart and soul. There is a lot of that out there. Far more, in fact, than I have time to see by myself! There might be builds that I don’t find aesthetically appealing, but I appreciate the effort that went into the build, assuming that effort did go into the build. Technicolor Popsicle buildings aside.
Back to my main frame of thought . . . . I recently opened a new shop in a sim outside of and unrelated to Caledon. I am very proud of the build, even though it isn’t a huge departure in style from my other builds. I have built a look for my shops, so I keep working off that theme. It suits my shops and it suits me. I also built a skybox for building. It was kept above 500m, so I felt that I was fairly free to build what I liked, as long as I kept to the theme. The covenant said that builds must at least follow a mad-scientist view towards physics, so I used steam jets as its propulsion. Apparently, one busy-body (who will remain nameless as she is a persona non grata in my books) felt that this was completely inappropriate. I sent a notice to the sim owner for clarification and even offered to use balloons to float the building. The sim owner decided that balloons and steam jets were simply not possible during the Victorian era and decided that the skybox had to go.
First, the covenant said at least a mad-scientist view of physics, but NOT that it must have been done during the Victorian era. So, is cavorite banned too? Second, with enough balloons, anything can float. That would have been possible. Apparently, simply being possible is not enough. I had offended the sensibility of a long-time resident by making something that was not available during a particular period in time, irregardless of the fact that the sim is a Victorian Steampunk-themed sim. The build was architected as a building appropriate to the genre with technology that is appropriate to the genre.
What really annoyed me the most was when I said to the sim owner that it would have been nice to know the rules prior to purchasing my land rights, considering that they contradicted the covenant of the sim. He told me that I should have asked and that I should have read the rules. The covenant was very clear and I followed that to the letter. He even said that steam jets were exactly the sort of idea he had envisioned when the covenant was created. He just didn’t feel they would have had enough energy to support the structure. That is an interpretation that was NOT made clear prior. He has since changed the covenant to clarify his interpretation so that this sort of misunderstanding does not occur in future.
So, it was very clear that we had very different ideas as to what Steampunk is about. His is based on what is realistic and mine is based on what is conceivable. Both are valid, just different. The end result in this case was to make me feel like I could never be a part of his community; that I would never be accepted. Sad, that, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I’ve been accepted by the best community: my friends.
And that brings me back to the beginning: What is Steampunk to you? I really would like to hear your views, as I am certainly NOT an expert nor authority on the genre.