Lately, I’ve been reading The Steampunk Bible, a sort of holistic guide to the genre. It’s a serviceable look at all things steampunk, but there’s an attitude throughout the book that leaves me cold. That attitude seems common with the subculture, a hipster-like self-importance. The author pushes the idea that the steampunk genre is subversive, that it’s anti-establishment, anti-mass production (ironic for a genre that has its roots in the Industrial Revolution), and always has to present the reader with some sort of deep message about society.
I’m not against any of that, but what’s wrong with enjoying something for what it is, without having to look for a deeper meaning? If something is entertaining, can’t it (just once in a while, mind you) do without a philosophical point? It’s the classic debate of “high art” people versus “low art” people. I’m not saying that subtext, metaphor, and the darker bits of society shouldn’t be used, but a large part of the fun of steampunk (and most science fiction and fantasy sub-genres, for that matter) is in the eye and ear candy. If someone enjoys just playing around with fancy, gilded machinery and pretty gears in their stories, why do some folks feel the need to look down on them? Just because, say, the movie version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen isn’t all grimdark with the “heroes” being opium addicts and rapists, I can’t enjoy it for being pulp adventure?
So yeah, I’m not much of a steampunk.