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Steampunk is a subgenre of cyberpunk science fiction with dystopian, noir themes usually in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting.

These stories harken back to the early science fiction of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. This is not to say that all Victorian writing is steampunk in any way. Compared to the computer, robotic, and nanotech focus of cyberpunk fiction, steampunk fiction focuses more intently on thermo mechanics, especially steam engine technology; hence the name.

Also fitting into this category is the less common setting of a science fictionalized American Western, as seen in the television shows Wild Wild West and Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

As a continuing play on the cyber/steam-punk naming convention, there have been a handful of novels published, self described as "sandal-punk[?]" which posit a world in which ancient civilization never colapsed into the Dark Ages and instead saw rapid technological advancement after a few key discoveries are made.

See also Alternate history.

Table of contents



Quasi-Victorian Science Fiction

  • A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah![?] by Harry Harrison -- an alternate history novel written and set in the 1970s in a world where the American Revolution failed and the British Empire is still going strong. It has a nice mix of technologies advanced or behind ours, with high powered lasers used for drilling, while Babbage engines are used to do calculations for sub-orbital flights.
  • Queen Victoria's Bomb[?] by Ronald Clark[?] -- in the mid 19th century; a physicist gets the idea of isotopic separation after seeing pebbles graded by size on a pebble beach, and makes an atomic bomb. He intends to use it to end the Crimean War, but it never gets used, and no difference is made to history.
  • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson -- A cyberpunk adventure in a nanotechnological future, with much of the action in a neo-Victorian society
  • The Peshawar Lancers[?]by SM Stirling[?] -- Meteors devastate Europe and America in the 19th century, causing much of the British upper class to flee to India. The story is set in 2025 in a thoroughly Indianized Angrezi Raj (British Empire), with its capital in Delhi.

Influential Victorian Science Fiction

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