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Medieval Steampunk?


I'm not terribly interested in steampunk in particular (like skip.knox I don't regard the Victorian era as my favorite time period), but I still think there's something to be said the whole concept of projecting modern technology into earlier times. Anyone remember the scene from The Scorpion King where the Rock's character uses a crystal in a tube for a telescope in 3000 BC? I wonder if something like that could actually work without invoking magic.


I don't know if this has been mentioned (just skimmed the thread), but plenty of video games have close enough worlds. For example, Final Fantasy games often have tech, yet the characters insist on wearing knight-like armor and fighting with swords. No reason you can't have a Victorian /steampunk world where people live in castles and use medieval weaponry or other types of thing.
My Jangada saga is just that - medieval/renaissance steampunk - well it has airships and the beginnings of industrialization - but heavily confined to a single guild that keeps everyone else from following.

However its also set in a pocket universe that was once created by something else - and the only magic items are those left over from that period (Clarke's law - any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. )


I thought, "I've never heard of any middle-aged steampunk!"

I'm a middle-aged steampunk... oh wait. You meant something different. ;)

But steampunk is more than just the existence of engines, the dark satanic mills and the cold steel rail cutting the leylines and migration of populations. It is the industrial revolution, the smog and acid rain, the moneyed class squeezing into the niche previously held by the landed aristocracy. The religion has changed from that of the mediaeval serfs of the feudal system, at least in centres of manufactury and mining. During this period in Britain, there was plenty of planet that was still rural, agricultural, essentially unchanged since the dark ages, the "Shires" to Isengard's "Progress", and all the countries yet to be adequately "civilised" and brought into the Empire, but they don't give rise to steampunk. Neither can an isolated monastery with a steam engine pumping and heating their water (not that monasteries had much use for bathing — nasty heathen pastime) generate a steampunk environment. For steampunk is an environment more than an invention, and needs a sooty, ill-sewered city to support it; one of the reasons there is so little good steampunk fantasy. The magic clogs and tarnishes, faery retreats underhill, the glitter is replaced by soot-caked gas mantles, grimy and far more inhuman that the monsters of yore had ever been.
That hits on the "punk" part of steampunk. It's essentially a rebellion against our reliance on and obsession with technology. It just replaces iPhones with automatons, so people don't realize they're laughing at themselves.

I never could figure out what the "punk" part of steampunk was anyway. At least, not in the same punk sense as cyberpunk. Maybe it's why steampunk doesn't attract me (plus, I find the Victorian era pretty much unbearable anyway).
I think chrispenycate did a good job of touching on some of it. But there's also a lot of subversion of social and cultural mores of the Victorian age thrown in there. The Victorians gave us a lot of good material to reject, subvert and rebel against, and a lot of it echoes forward to now.

As far as applying it to the Middle Ages, that's tough without magic or second world fantasy because medieval Europe didn't have a lot of technology or progress to reject or rebel against. In a way, the Middle Ages represent what you get when you go 180 degrees in the other direction, AWAY from technological and scientific advancement. And yeah, it comes with it's own set of problems.

Unless you want to build a little fictional enclave, your own little Shangri-La that retains or even builds upon how far the Romans and classical cultures got?


Thank you all for your incredible minds and your posts on this thread. You certainly gave me a lot to think about.

I'm now beginning to think that, instead of steampunk in a medieval world, I could do . . . medieval in a steampunk world? That kind of world, but with hints of the middle ages. The clothing is all medieval, the soldiers are still knights with their shining armor, and there are castles, perhaps made of iron. That might work better, it certainly makes more sense.


That does certainly seem like a good idea. I'm getting a kind of mental image of a fur-clad berserker leaping down from a low-hovering airship, pistol in one hand and axe in the other. All the while the sky in the distance is darkened with the silhouettes of a fleet of ships, each hanging banners from their hulls. That's just what sprang to mind.

There's no reason steampunk has to have a victorian aesthetic.


That's an interesting switch... steampunk focuses on the pseudo Victorian aesthetic so often, it'd be interesting to see what it would look like without it.

Maybe "steelpunk"? ;)