There are two types of genre fiction that keep me from going crazy: urban fantasy and steampunk. Reading these mind boggling—and supremely cool—books gives me immense joy, letting me stretch my imagination a bit beyond fictional houses. So, when the Movoto Real Estate bloggers started tossing around concepts for a Big Deal List centered on steampunk, I laced up my boots and jumped all over the idea.
First, however, I should explain a bit about the genre. Steampunk adventures, with tales of sky pirates and robotic men, take place in an alternate time when steam power became the major energy source. The majority of these tales are set near the turn of the 19th century and have a definite Victorian quality. By that I mean there are gentlemen and ladies and a sense of etiquette that is different from today’s standards. In addition, steampunk has a definite DIY feel about it and a sense of invention, as in literally building things. I used this to guide me like a mad scientist.
So what city won? It turns out that Atlanta, Georgia is the most steampunk city in the nation. After I thought about it, this makes a lot of sense, as the city also ranked No. 1 as the Nerdiest City (to be clear, I’m not nerd-bashing). More importantly, Atlanta ranked highly in a number of our criteria I looked at such as antique stores, steampunk conventions, and flea markets. More on that in a bit.
If you’d like to know how your city ranked, you can jump to the bottom of the post for a list of the 50 cities ranked in order. You can find the top 10 most steampunk cities here:
1. Atlanta, GA
2. Winston–Salem, NC
3. Orlando, FL
4. Las Vegas, NV
4. San Francisco, CA
6. Portland, OR
7. Sacramento, CA
8. Denver, CO
9. Cincinnati, OH
10. Minneapolis, MN
If you’re interested in learning how we did it, grab your goggles, fire up your airship, and let’s do this!
How Did I Do It?There’s a saying around our office: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it—unless you can make it steam powered. Unfortunately, as much as we tried, we weren’t able to make our Big Deal List steam powered, so we went with the old standby.
As with our other Big Deal Lists, we looked at the 100 most populous cities in the country and ranked each cosmo across a set of criteria. We then took the average rank across all these criteria. The city with the lowest overall rank earned a feather to stick into its top hat… you know, if people did that back in the pre-industrialized world.
Let’s move on to the tic-toc parts of this list machine—the criteria.
The Rule of Cool
I surveyed eight criteria for this piece. My goal was to distill the idea of steampunk down to some of its basic moving parts, and then find criteria that correspond to the these parts. To help me along the way, I looked up steampunk tropes and read essays about the subculture. The criteria I used were:
- Formal wear
- Paranormal Societies
- Antique Stores
- Steampunk conventions
- Flea markets
- Salvage yards
- Hardware stores
Don’t worry, like a good tinker, I’ll break down the whys and how-comes. I’ll start with the formal wear, because looking good is half the fun.
Formal Wear Stores
If you’re doing steampunk, you’re doing it to the nines. This means tuxedos and dinner jackets for the gentlemen and dresses for the ladies. While I would have liked to have just found “the most fancy Victorian clothing stores in a city,” I went with formal wear instead. If there’s a city that likes to look dapper, it’s Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was just as surprised as you are. Birmingham, Alabama placed second.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, this might seem somewhat out of place. Let me assure you that ghosts and the paranormal are part of the matrix that makes up steampunk stories. For this reason, I included paranormal societies per capita. My thought was that this would help inform me on which cities had the most paranormal activity in them. What I found was that Cincinnati, Ohio (my hometown!) had the most most ghost hunters per capita. Following behind, like a scared Slimmer, was Reno, Nevada in second.
It’s not all about your personal fashion—sometimes your home needs some love too. I included antique shops as a way to gauge the availability of decorative items such as nautical compasses, giant clocks, and fancy china sets. If you’re going to go decorate, do it right. That’s what Captain Nemo said. Or was that my mom?
What I found was that Atlanta, Georgia has the most antique shops on a per capita basis. New Orleans, Louisiana was second.
Cars are not steampunk. Excuse me, horseless carriages are not steampunk. This means fans of the genre will have to walk—or take their penny-farthings. The cities with the highest walk scores took the top prize in this criterion. New York City was the best city for hoofing it. Multiple cities tied for second: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Philadelphia. Wear comfortable shoes, ladies.
I think this criterion is self explanatory. I included this section as a means for gauging the popularity of steampunk in each city. However, I looked at the conventions on a per capita basis. The winner was Wichita, Kansas, followed by St. Petersburg, Florida.That being said, I should mention that while Dallas, Texas ranked fifth for this criterion, the city does hold three steampunk events each year. I found that little fact pretty surprising.
This sub-ranking is the first of two criterion that attempt to tackle steampunk’s DIY soul. I’ll get to the second in a minute. For this criterion I looked at the number of flea markets in each city on a per capita basis. I made the assumption that gearheads would be able to scour these locations for whatever parts they’d need for their inventions, or to just repair things that need some TLC. Winston-Salem, North Carolina just barely edged out St. Petersburg, Florida for the No. 1 spot.
As with flea markets, salvage yards are filled with parts in need of good homes. Want to make a motorized couch? Stop by your local salvage yard. Winston-Salem, North Carolina walked away with this criterion. San Francisco placed second, which was surprising.
Now that you have all those motors and gears to work on, you’ll need tools. For this criterion I surveyed the number of hardware stores on a per capita basis. Once again, the fine folks in Winston-Salem easily took this criterion. It makes sense, as they are already hitting up the flea markets and salvage yards. Second was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Now that you know how this list works, why not offer some suggestions on how to make it better? Remember, just gluing a gear on something doesn’t make it steampunk. And if you really want to know how to live like it’s the age of steam, just ask someone in Atlanta.