steampunk

Is Decopunk separate from Steampunk?

The problem with genres based on aesthetics is knowing where to draw the lines.

Decopunk is considered a subgenre of Dieselpunk set in a more 1920's diesel powered world.  The problem comes in trying to get to the definition of what actually defines a genre.  

I know I am obsessed with literary theory, but these are important questions if we are going to define a genre.  In November, I resolved on a working definition that I am going to use to define steampunk as a literary genre.

A literary subgenre of fantasy featuring a neo-Victorian industrial world where steam and clockwork are the primary sources of power. Technology is retro-futuristic, with a special focus on Repurposing items for uses other than their original intended use. Romanticism and Mysticism form the basis for art, religion, and social values.
No, Seriously, What is Steampunk?

The question is, if steam and clockwork mechanisms power the world, but it has an Art Deco style, does that invalidate a work as steampunk?

Since there are so many pieces of Steampunk Art Deco art on the net that have not met with a cavalcade of criticism and hate, I am inclined to believe that they are aesthetically compatible at least in the way steampunk is drawn.

That is the real problem with trying to pin down this genre.  When something is primarily visual, it is like reading tea leaves to pull out the qualities that would make a story steampunk.

Beyond that, steampunk has been adapted to many visual styles such as Art Nouveau, but yet again, we are looking at the mode in which art is produced rather than the qualities that make it one genre or another. This problem keeps peaking up at me, and makes me question exacting what makes something steampunk.

While steampunk was born out of a neo-Victorian aesthetic, to limit a fantasy subgenre to a terrestrial time period feels overly artificial and pointless.  An art deco building or a flapper girl in a steam powered speakeasy feels as steampunk to me as an adventurer in a bustle, but maybe that is just me.

No, Seriously, What is Steampunk?

So the story and world have taken an interesting turn in the last couple weeks.

I want to make sure I am doing respect to the genre of Steampunk, only to discover that there really isn't a genre, only an aesthetic... so if I am going to do this right, I feel like I need to define what I mean by steampunk so I have a guide for myself.


Steampunk

A literary subgenre of fantasy featuring a neo-Victorian industrial world where steam and clockwork are the primary sources of power.  Technology is retro-futuristic, with a special focus on Repurposing items for uses other than their original intended use.  Romanticism and Mysticism form the basis for art, religion, and social values.


The above definition takes in many of the definitions of steampunk, Victorian era, and neo-Victorian I have found in my research.  When  written together like that, they make a basic genre definition to keep me on track.  While I tried to keep the definition open enough to include as much steampunk as possible, I am not actually trying to promote this as the only definition available.  I am just trying to give myself some guidelines to follow, a lens to focus my creativity through.

This definition is open enough to accommodate the music of Abney Park, The Pillars of Reality books by Jack Campbell, and even the applicable Final Fantasy games.  That is a pretty wide spectrum, while being distinct enough to do its job.

I chose to say it is a subgenre of fantasy rather than science fiction because science fiction would require the technology to be feasible or at the very least not to violate known science.  That is not a required element of the genre as I have experienced it, though there may be some who write that way.  I am not an engineer, so I cannot do that.

What do you think of that definition?

I wanted to include elements of gothic fiction, which hit its heights in the Victorian Era, but didn't because while a story may include those qualities, it isn't a requirement of the genre.

Did I miss anything?  Should I add anything?  Let me know in the comments.