Steampunk for Beginners: Is That a Ray Gun in Your Hand?

 Steampunk Space HelmetSteampunk Hits the Streets

If you’ve seen anyone walking around recently with parasols, goggles or ray guns, cancel that call to Homeland Security. Metropolitan cities are being invaded, but not by anyone hostile. The trend is called steampunk, and it’s something of a treat, especially if you’re into transforming metal, wood and brass into fantastic, handcrafted creations. Here’s a few tips on how to recognize (and understand!) this interesting sub-culture. 

1.  Steampunk: What is it?

The term Steampunk refers to the Victorian age that this trend is primarily influenced by, an age where steam power was used almost exclusively. Steampunk draws from a Neo-Victorian aesthetic, in which human potential, incredible inventions and fantasy abounds. The French author, Jules-Verne is a fundamental source of inspiration, and his Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea exemplify the aesthetic and cultural landscape of the Steampunk mindset. [social_buttons]

2.  Steampunk: Should I be afraid?

One of the tenets of Steampunk is unbridled optimism, so although it’s natural to feel frightened when you happen upon a fellow wielding a souped-up ray gun, stay calm: he is a real gentleman! Like so many lifestyle trends, Steampunk is anti-establishment, but don’t look for a can of spray paint in their hands. Steampunkers are intensely creative, talented people. Just take a look at the things they come up with!

3.  Steampunk: The oddest green trend ever?

Steampunk goes to great lengths to transform basic, utilitarian objects into magnificent, fantastical art pieces that actually work. Laptops, helmets, USB keys, watches, portable phones and headsets become part of the Steampunk aesthetic when “modded” with period-appropriate materials like iron, brass and wood. Throw in some accessories (parasols, petticoats, stockings and bustles for the ladies, spats, watch fobs, and vests for the men) and you’re good to go. 

So the next time you head out to the recycling bin, take a minute to think about the potentially delightful things you’re getting rid of. Why not organize a series of Steampunk Saturdays and invite your friends and neighbors to mod up their telephones? Am I too Utopian, or is Steampunk this decade’s friendliest green trend? 

Photo Credit: FoxTongue under a Creative Commons License    


Written by Courtney Maum

Courtney is a freelance copywriter based out of the beautiful Berkshires and the equally beautiful Paris. A curious arrangement, to be sure, but one that allows Courtney to achieve an inspiring balance between her outer cosmopolite and her inner greenie.

Courtney has been working as a freelance writer for quite a while, specializing most recently in brand identity development for eco-luxury clients like Jurlique, Sephora, and SpaRitual. With her filmmaker husband, she also writes screenplays and translates films and documentaries in and out of French. Her short stories and poetry have appeared online and in literary magazines like the Susquehanna Review, In Other Words, and Defenestration. She is currently working on a series of humorous essays about gainful employment.

An active member of the online community, Courtney writes a weekly food column for the cultural networking site,, maintains a lifestyle blog with Parisian shopping and dining tips, and posts current fiction projects on Writings on a Log. You can view examples of her copywriting at

Courtney enjoys ashtanga yoga, real hot chocolate, heady films and organic cotton. Merci for your interest!

She enjoys ashtanga yoga, real hot chocolate, heady films and organic cotton. Merci for your interest!


  1. My friend Chelsie did her wedding in a steampunk theme and while I missed out due to a husband gone for the military, taking care of a kid, and being 7 months pregnant, the pictures from her wedding are absolutely awesome. It is a really neat style, thanks for an enlightening article on the subject.

  2. Hi! Iam a bit long in the tooth, but have always had a soft spot for Victorian (steam age) oddities, and steampunk has brought these to the notice of many, the idea of people making thier own Steampunk objects is great.I for instance have made a Nerf conversion, an idea from the young, and am in the middle of making a from scratch Steampunk gun. I like the idea of young people making and getting into a good healthy trend.good luck to all of them. cheers Andrew from the UK.

  3. I, too, am long in the tooth. In fact, my tooth nearly hits the floor. I just discovered steampunk in the last quarter of 2009. The creations are spectacular and intriguing. I have always been an artist, but in my retirement years I seem to have lost the desire to create. Now it has returned. I am making rayguns and have sold one on e-bay.

    I call them sculptures. Unfortunately, mine are not 100% wood and metal. I live in a rather small senior apartment and have no place for the drills, presses and tools it takes to manipulate those materials. However, I am able to master plactic and make it look like metal. You can find photos of my work on flickr. My name is Genuine Plastic.

    Thanks to all of you steampunk folk for the inspiration. I truly appreciate the beautiful art. You have made me young again.

    Genuine Plastic

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