I've always wanted to build one of these. So I took as much brass and cogs as I could find (plus a heater coil from a hair dryer) and decided to have a go.
I think it has a Wild Wild West feel to it.
Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. However, steampunk and Neo-Victorian are different in that the Neo-Victorian movement does not extrapolate on technology and embraces the positive aspects of the Victorian era's culture and philosophy.
Steampunk most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or of the modern authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, Stephen Hunt, and China Miéville.[original research?] Other examples of steampunk contain alternative-history-style presentations of such technology as steam cannons, lighter-than-air airships, analogue computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine.
Steampunk may also incorporate additional elements from the genres of fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction, making it often a hybrid genre. The first known appearance of the term steampunk was in 1987, though it now retroactively refers to many works of fiction created as far back as the 1950s or 1960s.
Steampunk also refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.
Many of the visualisations of steampunk have their origins with, among others, Walt Disney's film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), including the design of the story's submarine the Nautilus, its interiors, and the crew's underwater gear; and George Pal's film The Time Machine (1960), especially the design of the time machine itself. This theme is also carried over to Disney's theme parks, in the designs of The Mysterious Island section of Tokyo DisneySea theme park and Disneyland Paris' Discoveryland area.
Aspects of steampunk design emphasise a balance between form and function. In this it is like the Arts and Crafts Movement. But John Ruskin, William Morris, and the other reformers in the late nineteenth century rejected machines and industrial production. On the other hand, steampunk enthusiasts present a "non-luddite critique of technology".
Various modern utilitarian objects have been modified by enthusiasts into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style. Examples include computer keyboards and electric guitars. The goal of such redesigns is to employ appropriate materials (such as polished brass, iron, wood, and leather) with design elements and craftsmanship consistent with the Victorian era, rejecting the aesthetic of industrial design.
In 1994, the Paris Metro station at Arts et Métiers was redesigned by Belgian artist Francois Schuiten in steampunk style, to honor the works of Jules Verne. The station is reminiscent of a submarine, sheathed in brass with giant cogs in the ceiling and portholes that look out onto fanciful scenes.
The artist group Kinetic Steam Works brought a working steam engine to the Burning Man festival in 2006 and 2007. The group's founding member, Sean Orlando, created a Steampunk Tree House (in association with a group of people who would later form the Five Ton Crane Arts Group) that has been displayed at a number of festivals. The Steampunk Tree House is now permanently installed at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware.
The Neverwas Haul is a three-story, self-propelled mobile art vehicle built to resemble a Victorian house on wheels. Designed by Shannon O’Hare, it was built by volunteers in 2006 and presented at the Burning Man festival from 2006 through 2015. When fully built, the Haul propelled itself at a top speed of 5 miles per hour and required a crew of ten people to operate safely. Currently, the Neverwas Haul makes her home at Obtainium Works, an "art car factory" in Vallejo, CA, owned by O’Hare and home to several other self-styled "contraptionists".
In May–June 2008, multimedia artist and sculptor Paul St George exhibited outdoor interactive video installations linking London and Brooklyn, New York, in a Victorian era-styled telectroscope. Utilizing this device, New York promoter Evelyn Kriete organised a transatlantic wave between steampunk enthusiasts from both cities, prior to White Mischief's Around the World in 80 Days steampunk-themed event.
From October 2009 through February 2010, the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, hosted the first major exhibition of steampunk art objects, curated and developed by New York artist and designer Art Donovan, who also exhibited his own "electro-futuristic" lighting sculptures, and presented by Dr. Jim Bennett, museum director. From redesigned practical items to fantastical contraptions, this exhibition showcased the work of eighteen steampunk artists from across the globe. The exhibition proved to be the most successful and highly attended in the museum's history and attracted more than eighty thousand visitors. The event was detailed in the official artist's journal The Art of Steampunk, by curator Donovan.
In November 2010, The Libratory Steampunk Art Gallery was opened by Damien McNamara in Oamaru, New Zealand. Created from papier-mâché to resemble a large subterranean cave and filled with industrial equipment from yesteryear, rayguns, and general steampunk quirks, its purpose is to provide a place for steampunkers in the region to display artwork for sale all year long. A year later, a more permanent gallery, Steampunk HQ, was opened in the former Meeks Grain Elevator Building across the road from The Woolstore, and has since become a notable tourist attraction for Oamaru.
In 2012, the Mobilis in Mobili: An Exhibition of Steampunk Art and Appliance made its debut. Originally located at New York City's Wooster Street Social Club (itself the subject of the television series NY Ink), the exhibit featured working steampunk tattoo systems designed by Bruce Rosenbaum, of ModVic and owner of the Steampunk House, Joey "Dr. Grymm" Marsocci, and Christopher Conte. with different approaches. "[B]icycles, cell phones, guitars, timepieces and entertainment systems" rounded out the display. The opening night exhibition featured a live performance by steampunk band Frenchy and the Punk.