The Guttering Flame discussion

Steampunk versus Cyberpunk

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message 1: by Alexandra (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:39PM) (new)

Alexandra (alexandrakitty) I do like both these genres, I just seem to like more from the former.

I liked the LoEG and Five Fists of Science a lot.

message 2: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:39PM) (new)

J.G. Keely (keely) | 15 comments Mod
Well, I suppose though both genres are defined by a sort of fantastical technology, but they tend to be more about capturing a social ideal. Of course, Steampunk tends to draw on our lingering anglophilia, especially of the storied Victorian. It is a romantic, forward-looking view with the optimistic sense that science is the solution. This is all tempered by the social conflicts of colonialism, racism, sexism, and all that.

In a lot of ways, Cyberpunk operates on the opposite tack, in that it represents a world where the salvation of technology has already failed and has, in fact, subjugated us and removed our humanity. In the face of Steampunk's gentility laid over natural human savagery, Cyberpunk takes this savagery and advances it to an unapologetic, bare-laid art.

Of course, one could reverse the sociability of the two; there is certainly little inherent in the technologies (except, perhaps, Cyberpunk's subjugation) from which to derive it. However, this would likely feel alien and untrue, as technology always evolves along with a certain zeitgeist, and feels a bit alien without it.

It is worth noting that Rome invented the steam engine and had access to very complex gearwork, indeed, Roman Steampunk is not unknown. However, it utilizes a completely different social mode. Rome and Gothic Novels are not an easy mix.

One might imagine that the real conflict here is not between two fictional sciences, but between Romanticism and Nihilism. Such an argument would certainly explain my preference for Cyberpunk, as I tend to find romanticism to be a false and ill-fitting construction to place over the world.

Part of good Steampunk (taking cues from Conrad) often begins to explore that falsity, but a Return to Reason is certainly an easier pill to swallow than abject and selfish Absurdism.

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