A Gentleman and a Rogue

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Genre Tuesday - A look at Steampunk


I heard the word steampunk the other day and raised an eyebrow. I was clueless. What was a steampunk romance? Steam with an attitude? I started poking around and found out it was just that – steam with a 'tude.

As the term implies, the story is generally set in the early industrial period where steam power is more widely known, such as early Victorian England, but it adds a second element such as a science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy or paranormal twist. Adding to the complexity of the "steam" is that the story usually takes place in an alternate time, or parallel universe.

Steampunk, as a whole, has it's roots in the late 1980's, early 1990's, right alongside cyberpunk. According to Wikipedia, it was coined by author K.W. Jeter, who was trying to find a term to describe his writing – 19th Century settings which were typically Victorian and imitated actual Victorian age speculative authors such as HG Wells. In fact, HG Wells, and Jules Verne embody the type of steampunk technology that the genre embraces – they just wrote during the time period, the 19th Century. They were a century too early for steampunk! Current author of the steampunk genre include: KW Jeter, "Morlock Night," Tim Powers, "The Anubis Gates," and James Blaylock "Homunculus." There are several romantic authors who write with a steampunk twist including: Calista Taylor, Natalie Gray, and Katie MacAlister.

Steampunk settings are not limited to Victorian England. You could place your setting in the American west, but it has to meet the following criteria: it has to be in the 19th Century, it has to use "steam" power, and it has to have a sci-fi, speculative, fantasy, or paranormal element. Throw a romance in there and you have Steampunk Romance, which are also very popular in the Romance market.

Historical steampunk stories lean toward using more science fiction/speculative elements and alternate histories. Fantasy/paranormal steampunk lean toward using magic in a London underground setting.

"Steam," of course, is the central element to a steampunk. Technological inventions used in a steampunk shouldn't be that far off from those inventions and gadgets used in the 19th century. You might have a steam powered motor car that works much like a train. Or maybe even a steam powered dirigible. Or you could invent your own steam powered aircraft for your story. You might even have an early dated computer. The appeal of the Victorian era when it comes to technology is that it was an ungoverned time in regards to rules and regulations and an amateur inventor had just as much a chance as hitting on a good idea as a professional. Also, technological inventions didn't just have a metallic look that they do now. In Victorian times, they were works of art, with designs that infused personality.



References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_steampunk_works
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2007/08/26/the_age_of_steampunk/
http://steampunkscholar.blogspot.com/2009/02/towards-definition-of-steampunk.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk
http://www.calistataylor.com

15 comments:

  1. It's a difficult genre to write in because too many writers water it down so much. The big excitement for that time period takes a backseat to the romance. I wrote a sci-fi book with what I'm fondly calling "space-punk" elements in it LOL Cool, but hard to do LOL

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  2. It is a fun genre to try. I took some sf steampunk elements, threw in some time travel and came up with a novella called Tangled in Time. For more "pure" steampunk, you might try The Affinity Bridge by George Mann. It's kind of Sherlock Holmes meets steampunk. Heather at The Galaxy Express did a whole week on steampunk and recently posted about upcoming steampunk releases. It's probably the more requested genre by publishers at the moment. Like steam, it is hot, hot, hot. LOL!

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  3. I had to ask my son a few months back because I wasn't sure what it was. When he brought up H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, I got it. He told me to think of the version of the Wild Wild West with Will Smith - steam punk!

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  4. I learned a new word today. I haven't heard it either before today. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Hi all! It looks like it would be fun, but I think you'd have to find a balance with it. I'd be interested in reading some stuff, Thanks for the referals, Pauline. I hear it's hot, too, so I'm looking to find out more about it.

    Smiles
    Steph

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  6. Steampink week is a great place to see some representative steampunk romance.

    http://vvb32reads.blogspot.com/

    if you scroll down through 4th, you can see a lot of steampunkness!

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  7. Hi Steph.
    Interesting blog. I didn't know exactly what steam punk was, now I do. thank you.

    Regards

    Margaret

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  8. Steph,
    Very Informative post.
    I heard about steampunk a bit ago, a good example of American Style Steampunk would be Wild Wild West. After checking out the genre, I've considered using elements of it, but don't know about a full book's worth.

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  9. Thank goodness you explained this thing. I've been wondering but was too lazy to find out.

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  10. Thanks,
    I've read the term on "steampunk" regarding books and didn't know what it meant. So if it was used in conjunction with jewelry, would it mean that the style was from an earlier century but made with modern technology. The reason I am wondering about being used in conjunction with jewelry is that Deidre Knight has a contest offering steampunk jewelry as the prize.
    So basically I was staying away from steampunk books because I didn't know what they were about, now I will read a blurb or synopsis before saying no to steampunk.

    Thanks and Have a great day.
    Robin

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  11. Thanks everyone for popping in! Pauline, thanks for the link. I am defiantely going to check it out.

    I heard a lot about it, so I thought I'd do some research into it.

    Smiles
    Steph

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  12. Steamed by Katie Macalister is a fun steampunk read, too.
    The inventions are fun to play with and I love corsets as tops.

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  13. Amber, thanks for the head's up. Interestingly, I've found that readers ususally say the "love" Katie MacAlister or they don't care for her. I'm curious if it is because of the writing, or if it because of genre she's writing.

    Steph

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  14. Interesting. I saw Wild Wild West and thought it was fun (I like Will Smith) but kind of strange. For me, a little of it would go a long way!

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  15. I would say the original tv show as more steampunkish than the movie and yes, the movie was very strange. Also, Brisco County Jr was very steampunkish, IMHO.

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