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What is Steampunk?

Steampunk is speculative fiction that speculates on the basis of the Steam-based technology predominant in a given historical period, usually Europe during the Victorian era, rather than the modern day. Steampunk is not rooted in any given culture or time period: for example, given the technology that existed at the time a Muslim Steampunk era might have occurred in the twelth century. The Roman Empire had access to steam technology but decided not to employ it because of concerns about riots amongst those people whose jobs would have been eliminated by steam-based machinery. (How odd that the Roman empire showed more concern for the plight of the worker than the Victorians. even if they did so out of sheer self preservation.)

Steampunk can well be set in our future as well as an alternate playing out of our past. Technological development is not necessarily monodirectional, as the European Dark Age shows. War, natural catastrophe, and cultural shift are only three mechanisms by which upward growth can become a plummet followed by a struggle to regain lost ground. It's entirley possible to enter a Steam Age through either, and where there is steam, there can be Steampunk. As a result, there is an entire Post-Apocalyptic Steampunk space in which we can play.

The steam-era examined might not even be set on Earth: Felix Gilman's Thunderer is as Steampunk as it gets, and it takes place in an altogether alternate world, as does 's Bas-Lag novels.

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