Debate: Steampunk

By Glenn and Jake

Steampunk is a genre of fiction/lifestyle combining alternative history, anachronistic technology, fashion, science fiction and Victorian aesthetics.  Who is attracted to this genre/lifestyle?  Nerds, of course.  There are millions of steampunk pictures on the internet.  These nerds fetishize the past and future simultaneously and create confusing mash-ups of things like a Dalek running on steam and cellphones Will Smith would have used in the film “Wild Wild West.”  Is this genre/lifestyle abhorrent or to be revered?  Our debaters attempt to answer this question.

Glenn:  Steampunk is technically a genre of fiction but so much more.  Have you ever looked at a mobile phone, watch or train and think “this would be cool if it had old fashioned gears and was powered by steam?”  I have, repeatedly.  The last time I did this was on the eve of the release of Wild Wild West the movie featuring Will Smith and Kevin Kline.  Steampunk as a concept originated during the trenches of World War I.  As French, British, German, Austrians, Slavs, etc. saw their brethren being senselessly murdered they dreamt of a time where things were much simpler: before the machine gun.  In these trenches the first steampunk-looking time machine was invented, as originally described in HG Wells’s “The Time Machine.”  Without steampunk, we would not have the ability to travel in time in such style as we do today.  Thank you.

Jake:  Adding a Victorian aesthetic to every device, including Darth Vader’s helmet, is just flat out lame.  Steampunk is for nerds, and, as a jock, I hate nerds.  What is so great about gears?  Gears are bullshit.  Gears can straight up get fucked. Much of steampunk's devices and clothing is brown, which is conventionally the color of feces.  Steampunk is shit.  H.G. Wells is a hack writer.  His books are boring.  They should call “The Time Machine” “The Sleeping Machine,” because that is what it did to me--put me to sleep.  Why do steampunk jerks think gears are better than LCDs and a more streamlined design?  It is just escapism.  They want to escape from a world where girls don’t even “just want to be friends,” and sure there are female steampunks--they’re all lesbians.  I hate steampunk, it’s the worst thing on the internet, which is saying something.

Glenn:  That was a much more aggressive response than I predicted.  You see, in the world of steampunk we do not swear at each other or ever use exaggeration to make our points.  All the exaggeration we need is done in the addition of gears and so-called “old timey” things to modern devices, such as a train, IUD or the real doll version of a bird featuring a cloaca.  If you’ll allow me to quote Nietschze: “steampunk is a philosophical angle as well, which is somewhat of a combination between the maker ideals of creativity and self-reliance and the Victorian optimistic view of the future.”  A lot of steampunk stories are set in the Victorian era, which is - if you’ve ever been to the Victorian Walk in small towns like Geneseo, Illinois - one of the most fascinating eras of pre-modern history.  It was a time of burning candles in paper bags, children acting out A Christmas Carol-style poverty in storefront windows and thanks to steampunk, a trolley filled with gears and futuristic looking metals.

Jake:  Steampunk is to nerds as bondage is to regular people like you and I.  While we may want to feel the kiss of a cat-o-nine tails across our bare bottoms, a steampunk nerd wants to dress like a sexy version of Mary Steenburgen’s character from “Back to the Future Part Three” or like Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses wearing Adam Bomb’s glasses.  Steampunk is a dystopian anachronism.  It makes no sense.  Growing a handlebar mustache and wearing a monocle has no place in modern society, not even in Epcot Center.  Wearing a tiny hat and a leather bodice does not make you cool, ladies.  It makes you sexy, yes, but certainly not cool.  Why is steampunk even a existing thing?  Is it because of the internet?  I would say yes.  The internet and loneliness are the fuel of the steampunks, not steam, like the name would have you believe.

Glenn:  Coal is the fuel of steampunks in the sense you burn it and the steam then powers the trains, segways and other Victorian-era transportation modes.  People already romanticize the past or fetishize the future but with steampunk you can do both.  It is a genre filled with stories about Kevin Sorbo transported to the 1800s, where he frees the slaves and then rides away on a cool looking motorbike.  Steampunk is the only way we can conceive of how the past thought about the future - our present.  The extra gears, the brown tones and the large mechanical spiders featured in Wild Wild West are all simply reflections from a mirror held up to a crystal ball someone is pulling out of a rip into the past of the space-time continuum.  Who could be against that?

Jake: You almost had me with your mention of Kevin Sorbo, but you lost me with mechanical spiders in the old west.  Kevin Sorbo is probably not afraid of spiders, but I sure am!  Imagine a world where “Arachnophobia” was a movie about a man wearing a tophat and sporting a handlebar mustache being chased by mechanical spiders instead of the masterpiece it is.  I would rather be phantom choked by a leather-clad Darth Vader than live in such an alternate reality.  My main problem with steampunk, it is the worst escapism has to offer.  Instead of taking a couple hours to watch a film like “Arachnophobia” or “Kull the Conqueror” they try to escape reality completely.  As a jock, my letterman jacket chafes me when I think about the nerds donning anachronistic Victorian bondage gear and pretending like they’re on a spaceship running on coal.  I would like to pink-belly them to death!


  1. I really wish “Arachnophobia” was a movie about a man wearing a tophat and sporting a handlebar mustache being chased by mechanical spiders! It's the ONLY way it could get any better!!

  2. Steampunk escapism is the pinnacle of garbage culture. Keep up the good work!


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