Good evening, dear readers.
Tonight I thought I would discuss a difference that I was asked about recently, and in doing a little updating research have found that the difference is slowly growing smaller and smaller. What I am considering and pondering is the difference between NeoVictorian and Steampunk.
When “The Difference Engine” was originally published in 1990 it was branded SF NeoVictorianism rather than with a Steampunk label, even though this book is now upheld as one of the seminal Steampunk novels.
It is my own opinion that while Steampunk is an aesthetic, a movement, a subculture, a genre and many more things in a great melange of creativity NeoVictorianism is simply an aesthetic. It is Steampunk without the toys or accessories.
The NeoVictorian style has been with us much longer than has Steampunk. Goths sported tophats and morning coats, wielded walking sticks and small-lens spectacles, and often comported themselves as did their literary heroes and heroines both fictional and authorial. Though the goth subculture has, in the last few decades, changed into a cyberpunk, dystopian and post-apocalyptic appearance primarily through the increased influence of electronic and industrial music as well as changes in the favoured literature and cinematic offerings there has been a resurgence of the NeoVictorian due to the recent growth of Steampunk.
My own response to this question, as to the difference, being asked was that “NeoVictorian is Steampunk without the toys” and this is somewhat, but only somewhat true. While there are accessories utilized in common among the two groups the NeoVictorian does not carry a brassed up pistol, wear goggles [unless appropriate] nor use the cog design to such an extent. NeoVictorian is more focused on the appearance, the outfit, the behaviour and the manners. The NeoVictorian, in romanticizing the Victorian period [as the SCA romanticizes an ever growing slice of the middle ages] is almost solely representing the gentry, the noble and wealthier class of gentleman and lady and does not present the greasemonkey, the adventurer [save as a worldly and world-traveling gentleman or lady], the soldier or scientist. The modern NeoVictorian truly only populates the ballrooms and drawing rooms of the Steampunk world.
The greatest difference that I perceive is that the NeoVictorian looks to the past and draws its best forward to the present while the Steampunker incorporates strong elements of retro-futurism.
It was mentioned to me that NeoVictorianism also must embrace the politics and beliefs of the Victorian era but I would disagree. While popular among the social and cultural conservatives, particularly with respect to morality and behaviour [politeness/respect-displays in particular], it should be noted that the actual cultural social attitudes and conventions of the Victorian era can be disputed and many, if not most, NeoVictorians blend the aesthetic with modern principles and technologies. This is most noticeable in the largest subculture to have embraced the NeoVictorian aesthetic before the Steampunkers: the goths. The goth subculture, having spawned out of the punk, new romantic and glam subcultures, tends to have always attracted more liberal and progressive minded persons, particularly during its early period [1979 – 1990].
Currently the term ‘NeoVictorian’ is being appropriated by the Steampunkers as possibly a more gentile, familiar or comfortable label and so the lines blur even more strongly.
As much as I love the Steampunk folk, the aesthetic and the music, the gatherings and the discussions, I shall forever at heart merely be a NeoVictorian.