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A steampunked mobile home called the “Neverwas Haul” at the 2010 Burning Man event in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA
A man at the Greenbelt Maker Faire in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA, wearing a steampunk-style artificial arm


steam +‎ -punk, by analogy with cyberpunk, coined by science-fiction writer Kevin Wayne Jeter (born 1950) in a 1987 letter to the magazine Locus in response to a review of his book Infernal Devices published the same year (see the quotation below).



steampunk (countable and uncountable, plural steampunks)

  1. (uncountable, neologism) A subgenre of speculative science fiction set in an anachronistic 19th-century society.
    • 1987 May, James Blaylock, Locus, volume 20, number 5 (#316 overall), page 57:
      There's railroad trains, a lot of steam-driven stuff, but that's about it. More ‘steam punk’, I suppose.
    • 2008 May 8, Ruth La Ferla, “Steampunk moves between 2 worlds”, in The New York Times[1]:
      It is also the vision of steampunk, a subculture that is the aesthetic expression of a time-traveling fantasy world, one that embraces music, film, design and now fashion, all inspired by the extravagantly inventive age of dirigibles and steam locomotives, brass diving bells and jar-shaped protosubmarines.
  2. (countable) A writer of steampunk fiction.
    • 1987 April, Kevin Wayne Jeter, “[Untitled letter]”, in Locus[2], volume 20, number 4 (#315 overall), page 57:
      Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, [James] Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like steam-punks, perhaps...
  3. (countable, cosplay) A person cosplaying as a steampunk character.
    • 2009 September, Klaude Davenport, “An interview with Emmett and Klaude Davenport of the Clockwork Cabaret”, in Exhibition Hall[3], number 1, page 6:
      It wound up being an overwhelmingly positive experience that made me appreciate the steampunks around me even more.
    • 2010 September 24, John Naylor, “Re: [Steam-Scholars] Hello again and a query”, in steam-scholars, Usenet[4], message-ID <>:
      It is extremely rare that you speak to someone who says "I want to be an ...." This would suggest that for the vast majority of steampunks their choice of outfit (at least intitially) is less a conscious attempt at portrayal and more of a spontaneous and potentially subconscious growth of an idea.


steampunk (third-person singular simple present steampunks, present participle steampunking, simple past and past participle steampunked)

  1. (transitive) To depict in a steampunk manner.
    • 2011 October 26, John Lui, “Musketeers victim of identity crisis [review of The Three Musketeers (2011)]”, in The Straits Times (Life! section), Singapore:
      [Director Paul W.S.] Anderson's answer to the question of what to update in this film seems to be: steampunk everything. Hence the elaborate airship contraptions and weapons, all made in wood and iron and powered by choo-choo engines. What seems to be missing is the why. When far-fetched techno-bits and bobs are put into a story, these items must have a meaning and purpose. Here, the gadgets are throwaway items used for their visual effect, then discarded.
    • 2012, Sybil Fogg, “Mechomancy: Steampunk Sensibilities in Pagan Traditions”, in Llewellyn's 2013 Magical Almanac: Practical Magic for Everyday Living, Woodbury, Minn.: Llewellyn Worldwide, ISBN 978-0-7387-1515-5, page 90:
      There is also a strong draw on literature and film for ideas. Some steampunks will take a favorite character, such as Boba Fett, Alice, Dorothy, Professor Snape, or Sherlock Holmes, and “steampunk” him or her out by adding elements of leather (or faux leather), gears, clock parts, electricity, motors, and so on.


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