What Is Steampunk? — A Definitive Answer from the Ministry

Agents of the Ministry, as you may have discerned from the chatter within the æther, there has been spirited discussion bandying about on what exactly constitutes steampunk. We have our own definition, of course, but even that has been brought into question. Perhaps it is a sign of maturity wherein discourse is inevitable, or perhaps it is the discourse of a few individuals who labour under delusions of grandeur, but since the beginning of this year, heated debates have evolved (and consequentially, de-evolved) over what is “proper” steampunk. Our own agents even heard tell that the man who originally coined the term can no longer claim he “truly understands steampunk” as he has “lost touch” with said community.

Perhaps Miss Braun’s influence is showing, but I say to those particular critics “Utter poppycock!”

(Oh dear, I do hope Doctor Sound does not mind my application of such lewd, base expressions. But I digress…)

Still the debate of what is steampunk continues to drone on as politicians do from their comfortable in of power and influence. We at the Ministry come to you on this particular #SteamTuesday to lay to rest this argument. We remain steadfast that in the last two weekends of April, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences discovered the real definition of this peculiar genre.

Our journalists, Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine, undertook a rather daunting challenge: Create a book trailer for The Janus Affair: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel. Granted, this was hardly undiscovered country for our award-winning authors, having done quite the yeoman’s service in creating a delightful trailer for our first adventure, Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel. The inaugural trailer received many accolades from viewers, earned a respectable YouTube history within a year (just over 6,500 views), and provided a wonderful introduction to the rather vivacious Eliza D. Braun and yours truly. We look upon that vignette as the Ministry’s first impression upon audiences, and we believe it was a positive one in so many ways.

For The Janus Affair trailer, however, our intrepid journalists (presently filmmakers) and their kinetorama’s operator, Linc Williams, decided to “up the stakes” as it were. Reach further. Try what had not been attempted before. And so they did. Their humble cast of two became a cast of eight. Instead of a day’s shooting, it was four days of shooting. Nine original shots were now twenty. And the industrious Mr. Morris not only had to storyboard the trailer, he was called upon to adapt three scenes of the book for screen. (Oh, how clever that Scrivener device is!)

This was a very different experience, and after the first day of shooting our intrepid — oh, let us just call them artists and be done with it! — artists realised as much and wondered if they had, in truth, bitten off far more than they could safely chew.

Then came the night shoot. Then came the parlour scene. Something magical took hold; colourful characters were brought to life, and a book trailer began to take form.

Steampunks have been bickering (and dare I say, posturing) within the community about exactly what constitutes steampunk. How can a gent dressed ship shape and Bristol fashion, a vixen showing far too much curvature above and below the waist while brandishing armaments, and a chap wearing nothing more out of sorts from everyday wear than a top hat and goggles, all call themselves “steampunks”? The answer — the true, definitive answer to “What is Steampunk?” — resides within four days at Brute Force Studios where talents of all backgrounds came together, delved deep into their imaginations, and created together an era of change that never was, dreamt only by the creative minds of modern writers like Jeter, Carriger, and Axelrod and legends like Poe, Wells, and Verne. While society may assert (and continue to do so) that these individuals lacked the skills, the training, and the tools to accomplish what they desired, these artists dared to defy convention, come together with the tools at their disposal, and give everything of their time, talents, and drive to achieve. This is the essence of steampunk, whether the punk in question is a seamstress, a welder, a writer, or simply a patron of the arts.

What is steampunk? Community.

Perhaps steampunk had grown and matured to something far bigger than K.W. Jeter could have anticipated when he penned his tongue-in-cheek letter to Locus Magazine. (I say, again — poppycock! With apologies extended to Doctor Sound and those in the clergy.) However to define steampunk by one individual’s scholarly perspective or one group’s personal bias undermines what makes this genre so unique in an age of technology that relies on minimalist design and simplicity. In steampunk, every device has a story, an origin of how it came to be; and it is the community on a whole that embraces this passion for creativity, imagination, and expression and brings it to life. We at the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences regard this as a definition of steampunk that stands resolute and absolute in the wake of debate and discussion — Steampunk is defined by the individuals, by the passions they pursue, and their desire to express.

Steampunk is community. We are steampunk.

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