How to Build a Steampunk World

Steampunk is a speculative science fiction genre which first came into its own in the late 1980s. Often, the word "Steampunk" is used to encompass a style of dress and home decor in addition to fiction, and has grown in popularity in the last several years. While not strictly historically based, Steampunk relies on some elements from historical eras, primarily the Victorian era and the birth of the Industrial Revolution. By combining elements of Victorian romanticism with the gears, steam engines and intricate timepieces of the Industrial Revolution, you can create your own one-of-a-kind Steampunk world as a setting for your fiction, graphic novel or game design.

Watches and timepieces are a common Steampunk element.
  1. Create a timeline for the cultural progression of society in your Steampunk world. Because most Steampunk is based on alternate views of history in the 19th century, your timeline may closely follow actual events, or it may take place in an entirely different world. If you are building an entirely new world, remember to make note of important discoveries and inventions that may be referenced in later writing. Choosing the Edwardian era or Victorian era can make vast differences in the state of industry in your Steampunk world.

  2. Determine the political state of your world. The type of government will have a great influence on the state of being for the inhabitants of the world, including social strata, income levels and types of industry. If your world is based on an alternate version of American or European history, briefly sketch out any differences and how these changes will affect the world at large. Determine the leadership structure, the basic laws and the type of justice system which will be in place in your world.

  3. Determine the state of the sciences and technological advancements in your world. In some Steampunk worlds, the realm of invention is occupied by only mad scientist types, while in others, everyday people are inventors and purveyors of oddities. If the realm of modern invention has surpassed that which would have occurred in the normal time line of history, determine which important points will influence the changes in your world, such as an early development of the combustion engine, and sketch out a brief history of these developments to refer back to as you write.

  4. Create a brief sketch of the fashion, food and everyday life differences in your Steampunk world. Choose a few traditional Steampunk icons, such as watches, gears and goggles, and add in items to make your own world unique. Note any family traditions or cultural oddities that make your world unique.