a look at the steampunk sub-culture

December 3, 2013
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Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. The ‘steam’ in the term originates from the industrialized culture of the 19th century. The birth of steam engines. The latter part of the compound term ‘punk’ refers to the rebellious nature which is about challenging authority, do-it-yourself attitudes, and cultivating your own culture within a monotonous lackluster culture spear-headed by the status quo.

By Jamie Broadnax, AFROPUNK Contributor *
This post was inspired by and excerpts were taken from

This subculture has also been highly influenced in the world of cyberspace and science fiction. Steampunk can take on many forms from attire worn in the Victorian era, American Western era, and Alternative Sci-Fi genres. The fantasy of the Steampunk subculture resides in a past that for most African Americans is a past we choose not to relive or even be a part of, even if its all in the name of being eccentric and fun. However, there is a culture within a subculture of African Americans who embrace Steampunk and many Black authors who have written books about it.

Milton Davis is an author of five books about science fiction and fantasy written from an African american perspective. He believes that steampunk explores an alternate historical aspect of the genre. “I see it as an opportunity to explore “what if” scenarios as they refer to the experiences of the African Diaspora.

Valjeanne Jeffers is also a sci-fi writer and poet who believes steampunk is a great way to stir up your imagination as a writer. She feels like steampunk wear is reminiscent of what hippies wore in the 70s. Her book The Switch, a story about a futuristic society that operates on two levels: an ultra rich “upper city,” and a dirt poor, steampunk, underground populated mostly by folks of color. The story has elements of erotica, espionage and even a little time travel.

Racialicious published an essay about the steampunk movement in Black culture back in 2009, and when you get some time to read it, I highly recommend that you do so, if you are interested in more detail about the movement and its influence on the Black community. The article does have a number of counter points to the idea that the movement is not always favorable to African Americans, but I disagree, as there are many Black men and women who are involved in steampunk and wear their attire proudly as well as respectfully see the subculture as completely inclusive to all races regardless of what history dictates.


* Jamie Broadnax is the writer and creator of the niche blogsite for nerdy women of color called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has written for Madame Noire and is the VP of Digital for the online publishing hub the She Thrives Network.

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