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Post Apocalyptic Steampunk

Some have difficult understanding how Steampunk can be Post Apocalyptic. This seems to be the result of an overabundance of costuming, rhetorical, and literary tropes that limit one's vison to the Victorian era. In my introduction to Steampunk, I put paid to the notion that we have to be thus limited to do Steampunk. Here, we'll delve into the many ways in which a Post Apocalyptic Steampunk era might come about.

The shortest path leads straight through the aforementioned Victorian Steam era. As rapid as Victorian technological advances were, the advances that followed were and are more rapid still. We may extrapolate from how those of our parents and grandparents generation did react to that sudden accelleration to speculate on how those of our great grandparents' generation would have reacted. Unfortunately, they did not always react well. The existence of technology seems to carry with it the drive to deploy it. It is not always possible to forsee the effects of technology until it is deployed. For example, I doubt many people dreamed that the internal combustion engine would lead to today's air pollution. Certainly no one fully grasped on every level what the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be.

Is it at all unlikely that, say, the Crimean War might have been fought with weapons every bit as horrific as Little Boy and Big Boy, if only they existed? Is it at all unlikely that airships might have laid waste to the world with incendary bombs the way Dresden was?

Real world history should remind us that war is by no means the only possible apocalyptic trigger. Volcanic eruptions, meteroic impact, tsunamis, and massive hurricaines are only some of the natural events that occasionally rearrange the fundamental order of our world. A Victorian era apocalypse is entirely plausible when one considers an alternate history in which the 1883 Krakatoa eruption was as large as the 535 C.E. events. Cherie Priest's Boneshaker (used) is predicated in a world wherein human mishap leads to a post-apocalypse-like regional impact.

There's plenty of room to play within a post-apocalyptic mileau. Such an Age of Steam could be part of a society's downslide, a sharp contrast with most Victorian-rooted Stemapunk. Steam technology might be jealously hoarded, the age's high tech at risk of vanishing as the few who understand it succumb to the stringent demands of such a world. Alternately, if our modern society were to face a sudden collapse, Steam might well come into vogue as our Nuclear, Petrochemical, and fledgling Solar technology fell into disrepair.

Of course, Steam technology could be part of a reascendance as well as such a descent. Einstein once quipped "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." We've recovered from past ages when knowledge fell into violent disrepute, if we survive an Apocalypse we will recover from that in time as well. In such a world, Steam technology would (again!) be the latest breakthroughs. It's anyone's guess whether the people of such an age would retain the lessons learned from such a sharp and deep fall.

Steampunk is large, far larger than simply an excuse to wax nostalgic about the Victorian era. (Whether such nostalgia is appropriate in the first place is a worthy topic for it's own set of essays!) Post-apocalyptic Steampunk embraces and embodies the technology, the Do-It-Yourself spirit, the hopes and anxieties, and the blending of disparate elements into an elegant whole that is emblematic of Steampunk in the first place. It would be a tragic mistake to discount it.

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