The rise of steampunk heroines

Lady_Mechanika_0_Cover_colors_by_joebenitez
Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez

By Amanda Walters

Described by the Huffington Post as ‘the most famous new trend that you’ve never heard of’, steampunk is a creative and inventive movement that mixes fantasy and fiction. If you love vintage and retro you might already know about its rise in popularity. Indeed, the word ‘steampunk’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2010.

In steampunk the aim is to mix the new with the old and to merge the practicality of cutting edge technology with the style and values of Victorian Britain or the American Wild West. Modern technology is re-imagined and re-engineered in sophisticated ways and the movement influences art, mechanics, music and fashion. The term steampunk originally came from science fiction novels and in the 1980s it was little more than a literary and film sub-genre. But steampunk now reaches much further and has, for some, become a whole lifestyle.

Like many vintage and retro projects, steampunk is the art of making something elegant and beautiful through upcycling and using everyday objects. If you’re intrigued and want to find out more then check out the range of steampunk clothes and accessories at eBay.

Examples of classic steampunk include an iPhone dock that allows you to make calls using an old-fashioned wooden receiver. Or a brand new kettle that looks like an old fashioned whistling copper kettle. Or an iPod skin that reveals retro-mechanical workings like cogs and hammers. Or even cutting edge headphones made to look like a World War Two headset. Guy Richie’s Sherlock Holmes movies are very Steampunk as is Philip Pullman’s Dark Material trilogy of books.

A key part of the steampunk movement is strong female characters or heroines. Think of the lead character of Lyra in Pullman’s the golden compass, the subtle knife and northern lights. Masters of the steampunk movement prioritise strength, ingenuity, bravery and resourcefulness in their female characters. In the same way that the movement draws on the Victorian era stylistically but injects it with cutting edge technology, steampunk heroines also challenge stuffy Victorian stereotypes and themes.

In a number of steampunk works, history is reworked in a more positive way with women (and other historically unempowered people) awarded futuristic roles, attitudes and abilities. Many authors view it as a way to reclaim history.

In Cherie Priest’s steampunk novel Dreadnought, the main character Mercy Lynch sustains the story with her sharp observations and interesting conversations. Whilst in Gail Carriger’s steampunk romance series, Parasol Protectorate, heroine Alexia Tarabotti is the main event. A woman without a soul, Alexia navigates through an alternate version of Victorian England where werewolves and vampires are accepted as functioning members of society.

In Shelley Adina’s bestselling sequel to Lady of Devices, Her Own Devices, seventeen-year-old Claire Trevelyan leads the cleverest gang in the London underworld. In between outfoxing rivals and inventing a scientific gadget that will provide her employer with fame and fortune she can almost forget that her mother keeps trying to marry her off.

This article was written by Amanda Walters, an experienced freelance writer and regular contributor to Huffington Post. Follow her here: @Amanda_W84

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