Friday, June 5, 2009

RPG Blog Carnival: Thoughts on Steampunk

Seems Mad Brew Labs is hosting this month's RPG Blog Carnival. I must say these are fun in their own way, and its highly interesting to see all the various takes on a subject.

I've never been all that interested in Steampunk myself, this despite some great fondness for works like Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I know some may not view that a steampunk, but come on- it's a freakn' nuke sub 80 years before the first one was made. In the same way his lesser know work Master of the World counts in my mind as does some other classics of early sci-fi.

But I suppose that steampunk proper is more focused on the 'punk' than the era of steam. So it's something different after all. And this is something of a pity I think, as it wrecks the charm of the era and makes something strange and new like the Nautilus common and somewhat unremarkable.

Steampunk is also often ugly, which strikes me as very odd- for crafters of the classic steam era still often considered their work to be as much art as function.

All in all, these are likely the reasons I've never been drawn to steampunk as a rpg genre. The closest I've come is our Deadlands games where the Mad Scientist owns this style. It wasn't a natural fit for me however, and I found myself wishing it was less in your fact steam powered power fists and more Wild Wild West.

So I suppose in the end my view is that steampunk is overdone, overloud, and way too in your face for me, or perhaps it's just the joy I found in the classics that turn me away. A case of Verne and not Hensley.

I'm hoping to see some recommendation of what people consider the finest fiction that is steampunk. Maybe something will change my mind.


faustusnotes said...

Steampunk is one of those genres which, like cyberpunk, had a lot of promise but floundered on the detail. I think the punk thing was a good plan - Victorian cities seem a good model for cyberpunk cities - but it's counter-cultural implications maybe don't fit with Victorian sensibilities.

But it can still work I think, if you ditch much of the modern "punk" elements of punk but stick with the idea of outsiders in a harsh world as the "punk" bit. Try Mieville's novels in Bas Lag for starters! And let's see what the blog carnival turns up...

Gleichman said...

That's a very interesting viewpoint on counter-cultural being part of 'punk', I hadn't really considered it.

But now that you mention it, yes- I think it's very out of sync with the Victorian era which in attitude was all about the success of culture.

However I'd like to ask in what way do you see it in cyberpunk? To me that genre is counter-cultural in that effectively Western Culture has completely failed- but that's the setting, and often not the characters who find themselves at odds with and often alone in that new world.

Thus in many ways, cyberpunk reaffirms that current culture is better than what replaced it- which is seen as inhuman, greedy and pointless.