a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy that includes social or technological aspects of the 19th century (the steam) usually with some deconstruction of, re-imagining of, or rebellion against parts of it (the punk) –from Steampunk.com
No way. Fantasy? 19th Century? Rebellion? Not my areas of interest.
Then I met Emma Jan Holloway’s Baskerville Affair trilogy. True to its genre (well, steampunk is a sub-genre), she includes all those tantalizing elements and more–magic, steam-powered machines, automatons that appear more real than ruse, mechanical mice and birds imbued with invisible spirits, electronic marvels that run daily lives as electricity and oil does ours, powerful egotistical men controlling the lives of London citizens–and Sherlock Holmes. What a marvelous mixture of mayhem! I stormed through all three books wishing Holloway would write more.
Then, I decided to research what I thought was a tiny, insignificant sub-genre only to find that lots of people have written steampunk–some even before it was called that. Have you heard of Jules Verne? H. G. Wells? Then there are less-known and more-current writers like William Gibson, James P. Blaylock and Paul Di Filippo. There’s even a Minecraft server and a Facebook page themed to steampunk.
If you write steampunk, here are the characteristics you’ll want to include:
- revolutionary thinking
- alternative thinking
- steam-powered machinery
- advanced technology (computers, machinery, and the like)
- science fiction
- alternative history with the emphasis on all of the above (steam replaces electricity and oil as the power du jour, futuristic machinery flits through the story line)
- setting in the Victorian past or a dystopian future (can’t think of one in the present)
- a positive (as opposed to negative) view of the future
- plot is fast-paced with a strong narrative drive
- romance is included, but not the most important part
For novels that define steampunk, visit Johnathan Sebastian Greyshade’s article at the Steampunk Workshop. If the genre intrigues you, visit Lolita’s Steamed! for lots of background information and how-tos.
If you’re just meeting steampunk in this article, these images will help you decide if this is a genre that fits your interests:
More on writing in genres:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.