Has Steampunk Steam-Peaked???
As I comb the innumerable Steampunk websites that have closed down in order to find those few genuinely active people for my resources page, it is making me pretty depressed. It feels like half the sites I go to are either sitting idle without new material for a year or two, or have their closing announcement right there on the front page. What’s even worse are the trolls who think it’s fun to post nasty comments about how “Steampunk is dead” on those announcements.
How is Steampunk’s Pulse Rate These Days?
As I look through my own website stats, I am sorry to report that Year 3 will probably fall short of Year 2’s readership. My normal summer lull is even lull-ier than in previous years even though my peaks in the winter and spring were at an all-time high. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this has more to do with my trickle of posts while I get my life together rather than anything to do with Steampunk as a whole, but it isn’t a good sign. (Though on a happier note, this site just passed 3,000 followers!)
On the other hand, when I searched Amazon for “Steampunk Books 2016” I got a listing of over 2,900 titles. I’m sure some of the things in that list aren’t actually books, but it certainly gives me hope. When I looked at the “Hot New Releases” section for Steampunk, there were 15 out of the top 20 coming out in just August alone! I also have been contacted recently by several new Steampunk authors who are looking for reviews, so I don’t think that the literature at least is going anywhere anytime soon.
Then, there are the conventions. I don’t know the exact numbers for either Steampunk World’s Fair or the International Steampunk Symposium that I attended this year, but Steampunk certainly didn’t seem “dead” at those events! (Unless of course I was surrounded by zombies…) Thousands of people went to these and other conventions all over the country, not to mention the world, in 2016 alone. And at these cons, hundreds of vendors sold their wares and dozens of bands played Steampunk-themed music. Yep, no resuscitation needed there!
I also decided to also take a quick mosey through YouTube. When you search for Steampunk there, you get a whopping 844,400 results! Of course, the stuff on YouTube doesn’t go anywhere just like the websites, so many of these could be outdated. On the other hand, does a fantastic short film have to be “new” to be great? Does a step-by-step guide to modifying your nerf gun really need to be updated? Not so much. Alright, videos devoted to Steampunk? Check.
Oh yeah, and of course there was Steampunked, a TV show for Steampunk artisans, just last year.
The Reports of my Death have been Greatly Exaggerated…
Based on these findings, I’d say that Steampunk is alive and well, and trolls just gonna troll no matter what. The biggest trend I have seen in Steampunk lately is to make it more inclusive. Collections like the upcoming Steampunk Universe will feature a number of stories about people who are considered “other” and the way steam technology effects their lives. I’ve attended a panel on the ethical treatment of women in science fiction, and it is clearly a topic near and dear to the hearts of many. And of course, the push to break out of the bounds of the English-speaking sphere and include the rest of the world’s cultures and settings in Steampunk stories.
And let’s not forget, 2017 will mark the 30th Anniversary of the word Steampunk. I expect we will see a resurgence of interest as this special anniversary is celebrated across the world and I hope you will join in on all the fun!
I’ll be putting out a formal call for submissions later this year, but to celebrate Steampunk’s birthday I want to throw a little party. I’ll be looking for folks who are interested in doing guests posts for the celebration and (fingers crossed) an anthology of short stories, so if you are a writer keep your eyes open for the submission windows.
What do you think, is Steampunk slowing down? Leave a comment!