Steampunk, an imaginative subculture that juxtaposes technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery, has been an exciting movement since its inception in the late 20th century. Many regard it as simply a trend in literature, film, or fashion, but this unique fusion of the past, future, and fantasy offers remarkable opportunities to explore a distinctive career pathway. Drawing on our experience, we’ve discovered that there are indeed unique careers that are intricately associated with the steampunk movement. This article explores these ‘steampunk careers,’ unraveling their nuances and providing a holistic understanding of the opportunities they present.
The Steampunk Phenomenon
Steampunk, a term coined by author K.W. Jeter in the late 1980s, refers to a genre of speculative fiction set in an alternative version of the Victorian era where steam technology reigns supreme1. Since then, it has grown into a vast cultural movement, incorporating elements of fashion, art, design, music, and more. The concept has permeated various spheres of life, influencing aesthetics and even career choices.
Steampunk derives its inspiration from Victorian elements such as corsets, top hats, and goggles, combined with futuristic technology reminiscent of the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne2. However, it’s not just about the physical trappings but also the spirit of creativity, ingenuity, and individualism.
The Landscape of Steampunk Careers
While it might be a challenge to find a job posting explicitly labeled as a “steampunk career”, many existing professions can be steampunk-ized. In the steampunk world, the line between hobby and career can blur, allowing for exciting opportunities to monetize one’s passion. In reality, many people already make a living by applying the steampunk aesthetic to various fields.
Art and Design
Steampunk art is a thriving field, combining the beauty of Victorian designs with modern creativity and the futurism of the steampunk genre. Artists and designers can create and sell their work, from posters and illustrations to interior design elements and digital graphics3. Drawing from the steampunk palette, designers can also explore the world of fashion design, creating clothing, jewelry, and accessories that embody the steampunk aesthetic.
Writing and Publishing
In its infancy, steampunk was a literary genre, a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy that included works by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and modern authors like Philip Pullman4. Today, many authors write steampunk novels, short stories, and even poetry. In addition, publishing houses and magazines dedicated to steampunk literature offer opportunities for editors, book designers, and marketers who are fond of the genre.
Crafts and Manufacturing
Steampunk crafts and manufacturing are undeniably essential aspects of steampunk careers. Artisans can take ordinary items and transform them into unique pieces infused with a steampunk flair. From clocks and furniture to computers and home appliances, the possibilities are endless. There are successful businesses that create and sell these pieces on platforms like Etsy, at conventions, and even in brick-and-mortar stores5.
Entertainment and Events
Steampunk has made its way into the world of entertainment, too. Film and television production companies have started to incorporate steampunk themes into their works. Bands, DJs, and performers have started to craft a steampunk vibe into their performances and image, opening up opportunities for sound and light engineers, costume designers, and makeup artists. Additionally, the increasing popularity of steampunk conventions, festivals, and themed events has created opportunities in event planning and management6.
Building a Steampunk Career
Building a steampunk career requires more than just an appreciation for the genre. It takes a deep understanding of the steampunk aesthetic, creativity, skill in your chosen field, and the business acumen to turn a passion into a profession. Here are a few steps to consider:
- Explore and Understand Steampunk: To build a career in this field, you must first gain a deep understanding of the genre. Read steampunk literature, study steampunk art and design, attend steampunk events, and immerse yourself in the culture.
- Identify Your Skills and Interests: Consider what you’re good at and what you enjoy. Are you an artist, writer, designer, craftsperson, or entrepreneur? Identify the skills you can bring to your steampunk career and develop them.
- Create a Portfolio: Start creating work in your chosen field that showcases your steampunk aesthetic. This might be a collection of drawings, a novel, a series of decorated objects, a clothing line, or a list of events you’ve organized.
- Market Yourself: Use online platforms, local markets, and steampunk events to showcase and sell your work. Networking within the steampunk community can also help you find job opportunities and collaborations.
- Stay Adaptable and Keep Learning: Steampunk, like any creative field, is always evolving. Stay open to new ideas, keep learning and adapting, and be willing to explore new areas within the steampunk genre.
Due to our practical knowledge, we can attest that this may not be a conventional career path, but it is certainly one filled with possibilities for those with a passion for steampunk.
Challenges and Prospects
Embarking on a career in the steampunk genre can be both exciting and challenging. On the one hand, it’s an opportunity to work in a field that you’re passionate about, to express your creativity, and to be part of a supportive and enthusiastic community. On the other hand, turning a passion into a career always comes with challenges. The market for steampunk products and services is niche, and building a reputation and customer base can take time.
However, the market for steampunk has been growing over the years, and it’s becoming more mainstream7. The rise of online platforms has also made it easier to reach a global audience, and the increasing popularity of steampunk events provides opportunities to showcase your work.
Conclusion on a steampunk career
A steampunk career might seem unconventional, but that’s what makes it exciting. It’s a chance to blend
- Nevins, Jess. (2011). The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana. MonkeyBrain Books.
- Priest, C. (2010). The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature. Abrams Image.
- Von Slatt, Jake. (2009). The Steampunk Workshop.
- Roberts, Adam. (2006). The History of Science Fiction. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Datlow, Ellen. (2013). Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy. Tor Books.
- Perschon, Mike. (2012). Steampunk Aesthetics. Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies.
- Brown, R.D., & Patterson, S.J. (2011). Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction: Challenging Genres. Sense Publishers.