Key differences between Steampunk vs Cyberpunk

Plague Doc Blog

If you are not so sure about the differences between steampunk vs cyberpunk, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to find out more.

Steampunk has been originally described as a sci-fi movement that takes place right after the 2º industrial revolution. It is a cultural movement, in which developments were focused on steam-powered technology. The most precise and robust devices were crafted on purely mechanical devices. There was a fascination with using materials of that time: like brass, copper, tin, and leather.

OKIMG_2846 by taymtaym. Licensed under CC.

On the other hand, cyberpunk is also a sci-fi movement that is ambient in the distant future, where robotics have taken control over humanity. As you may think, this ends up in the human race trying its best to survive. You will find lots of neon, holograms and digital devices.

Nowadays, steampunk and cyberpunk are cultural movements. This includes art, fiction, movies, design, fashion and much more.

Origins and intention

Steampunk movement as a sci-fi literary subgenre develops in the XX century. Steampunk is the stepbrother of the cyberpunk subgenre. Why is that? Well, because they were born in the same epoch but they are oriented towards different goals:

  • In cyberpunk, the environment is a dystopian futuristic world. It’s an interpretation of what the future can be for ourselves.
  • In steampunk, the environment is retrofuturistic. Stories might have happened in the past, present or future. The key to understanding this is that steampunk fiction develops in alter universes.

What does steampunk alter universe even mean? It means that in order to understand, we should go back to the Victorian era, and from there, take another tech-development road. And there you have it. Running down through steam-powered machines with victorian fashioned corsets.

Key differences between steampunk and cyberpunk

There are a couple more of differences with the cyberpunk movement:

  • The cyberpunk future is dystopian. Hope is lost. Stories tend to be about humankind thriving to survive. War against robots is on!
  • In steampunk, the future is utopic. It’s an ideal world, in which you will find from romance to horror stories.

In this way, you can see that steampunk and cyberpunk have certain differences that sets them apart. We can say that these differences make them only share certain characteristics that come from their origins. If we had to state them, we would say that they both share futuristic devices. But even in that, they are different:

  • Cyberpunk technology is robotics and digital high-end tech.
  • Steampunk technology is steam-powered and loaded with gears and coils.

And by saying this, we can state many differences between each and every device that shows in each of the movements. For example: In steampunk, you will find hot-air balloons, submarines, steam-powered aircraft, and trains. In cyberpunk, you will see hovering aircraft, teletransportation and high-speed ninja like motorbikes.

Cyberpunk vs steampunk aesthetics

If we have to make a special paragraph about steampunk vs cyberpunk aesthetics, we can state there are humongous differences. Cyberpunk adds up lots of neon and holographic features to design. You should imagine yourself driving you hovering car at night through enormous buildings filled with neon signs and holograms coming down from nowhere. Someone rings at your phone. Plop! A hologram shows up.

On the other side, steampunk has nothing to do with that. At first glance, you may be sailing through the clouds on a ship-like steam-powered aircraft device. Probably, you are heading towards a floating island out there. You peek through your window and see that earth is massively overpopulated.

Similarities between these two genres

But steampunk and cyberpunk have one main similarity, and that is that they are two ideological movements that have embodied into fiction to prove what reality can be if we keep on this track, and what could have been.

Steampunk and cyberpunk genres arise on a period in which ideological beliefs were strong, and the dispute about the ideal socio-political model for the world was on course. This is why steampunk and cyberpunk writers were born with a clear rejection of this conflict. You will find mainly in cyberpunk that there are certain things about the system that is wrong. In steampunk, you can find similar stuff, but in the end, the whole system is different. This gives us chance to think about other epics rather than just to fight against the system.

These are the main differences and similarities between steampunk and cyberpunk. I hope you enjoyed our post.

If you liked our post, you can check out more at our steampunk store homepage. There is plenty of info and some items you’ll find very creative too!