Pop Culture dictionary


[steem fuhngk ]

What is steamfunk?

Steamfunk is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy that combines steampunk with a focus on Black characters and Afrocentric culture, aesthetics, and storylines.

The term steamfunk is a play on steampunk, the name for the sci-fi and fantasy subgenre featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 1800s. Such works may be set in that era or may depict anachronistic use of such technology in other historical eras or in fantasy settings.

Steamfunk fiction often involves serious themes and topics, such as racism, classism, and slavery—particularly as a way of spotlighting such issues as they pertain to 19th-century history and its legacy.

Like steampunk, the word steamfunk is also sometimes used to describe the kind of aesthetic or fashion found in such works. Many steamfunk fans also participate in steamfunk cosplay.

Related words

steampunk, Black excellence, Comic-Con, Black Futures Month, Maafa

Where does steamfunk come from?

filtered image of a Black man dressed in steampunk outfit

The name and subgenre of steamfunk was inspired by the older subgenre of steampunk. Steamfunk is a play on the word steampunk, in which funk is a reference to the musical genre developed by and strongly associated with African Americans.

The term steamfunk is thought to have emerged around the end of the first decade of the 2000s. However, early works now considered part of steamfunk come from before the name was used for the subgenre. The 2009 short story “Pimp my Airship” by Maurice Broaddus is often cited as one of the first works of steamfunk, but the name wasn’t commonly used for the genre until later.

The name gained use after it was used in the title of the 2013 anthology Steamfunk!, which was co-edited by authors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade, who had defined the term on his blog in 2012.

Writers closely associated with the genre and often credited with popularizing it include Broaddus, Davis, Ojetade, and Valjeanne Jeffers, among others.

Examples of steamfunk

I decided to look up black fantasy authors and was not dissapointed. Apparently SteamFunk is a thing.
@Auronblade60, May 6, 2014
The comic is described as “a weird western, steamfunk, historical fantasy set in the post Civil War frontier town of Freemanville, USA, was founded by free and newly freed African Americans who moved west to escape the harsh conditions of the Antebellum South.
Leslie L.J. Reilly, SDSU NewsCenter, February 10, 2022

Who uses steamfunk?

Steamfunk is not as well-known as steampunk, but awareness of the subgenre has increased as more works have been created. The term is primarily used among fans and in pop culture discussion.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of steamfunk like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of steamfunk that will help our users expand their word mastery.