In a Facebook Post/tweet the other day I casually referred to Steampunk as a “movement”. What I got in response was not only a conversation, but a friend of mine replaced the text of the Wikipedia entry so that the word “sub-genre” became “movement”. It lasted about an hour, with the editor adding the note that “Edit made no sense. Steampunk is not a “movement”.
I have to admit that I take a bit of umbrage with that. I think that ignores the fact that one of the things makes Steampunk unique is its quirky history: after some relatively humble beginning in a handful of stories and novels over the course of the 80s, it simmered for almost two decades, never quite disappearing… And when the breakout moment finally came, it wasn’t a book or a movie that made it happen. Instead the recent renaissance in fantastic Victoriana has primarily been powered by artistic growth. In many ways Steampunk has become the genre edge of a “maker aesthetic”, where nerdy people with a mechanical bent suddenly realized that modern tools allowed them to craft beautiful and fantastic things that go far beyond more “accurate” Star Wars costumes.
So, if Steampunk isn’t a social “movement” (although I believe it has the potential to become one) I think it’s certainly subculture—because if Wikipedia gives an entry to Goths as a subculture, shouldn’t Steampunk get one too?