ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Thursday, 13 June 2013

What is Steampunk? And what has Arthur Conan Doyle got to do with it?

Hi there!

It might sound dumb of me, but I haven't understood "steampunk" -- what it is, who are famous "steampunk" writers, and how is it currently developing?

To answer many of my questions, a wonderful book, full of gorgeous illustrations and "steampunk" history, landed on the desk at my local library.


What I've learned so far...

  • Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy literature, primarily concerned with alternative history, especially an imaginary 'Victorian era' when steam power and mechanical clockwork dominated technology. 
  • Earliest literary works of Steampunk chronicled a future that never happened, one in which the Industrial Revolution took a different direction.
  • Steampunk stories feature the technology and at times the attitudes of today filtered through the past, hence the 'punk' appellation.
  • Steampunk has grown to encompass film and television, graphic novels and computer games, music and fashion.
  • The word "steampunk" was coined by writer K.W. Jeter who suggested the label when submitting a story to Locus magazine.
  • Victorian fantasies a la Jeter, Blaylock and Powers lay the groundwork for a huge explosion of the genre across all media. These authors drew on the classic science fiction of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • There is no one definition that encompasses everything given the label -- the adventures of mad scientists travelling the world in airships, steam-driven robots and pseudo-Victorian or at times Edwardian settings. 
So, Steampunk is in the eye of the beholder. It can take readers to worlds of land leviathans and cannon-shots, to the moon, to lost civilizations. It provides alternate histories in which the British Empire never fell or the atom was never split.

No wonder there are so many "steampunk" fans out there. 

  • How about you? Do you read Steampunk? Do you have any questions? 
Thanks for coming by. No, my blog is still not updating...



30 comments:

  1. If I did have any questions, they are now answered! I hope you do decide to run a session on Steampunk at our writers group because it will be very interesting to see the stories that emerge. Great post!

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    1. Hmm, yes, I want to know more and to write another steampunk story, so I think I will run a session.

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  2. I hadn't a clue what steampunk was about until I read your post, Denise. Thanks for bringing me up to date. I'm not sure I could get lost in a book based upon alternative history. I've got a college minor in history; dates and events are pretty much established in the ole brain.

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    1. I'm a history lover too Kittie, but am fascinated with how these writers play with the 'what if?' factor.

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  3. We inadvertently went to a Steampunk play, which was more improvisation than a play. Had no idea what Steampunk was until then, and now it is popping up all over the place.

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  4. ...wow, like crawling out from under a rock, I wasn't aware of steampunk until this post. Shame on me!

    Thanks for the introduction, Denise ;)

    A second thank you for promoting my novella, The Fall. So very kind of you, Denise. I hope you found it worthy of your time ;)

    El

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  5. May I offer a recommendation? Annie Seaton write great steampunk. Among other things. Hmm, Victorian sci-fi just about sums it up...

    Maria

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    1. Thanks Maria. I have some of Annie's books. Must read them!

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  6. What an informative post. I believe I have read a few steampunk novels, without knowing that's what they were. Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. I've never read any although I'm fascinated by the idea.

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  8. Terry Brooks' Shannara series eventually encompassed steampunk as the main theme, and some people think JRR Tolkin's LOTR is also steampunk due to the medical manipulation of a new race (Orks and Barukhi). I love the use of gadgetry, but I don't think I've been able to read a completely "steampunk" novel. I need to pick up an Arthur Conan Doyle novel sometime.

    I like steampunk movies best: Wild Wild West with Will Smith, Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr, Jonah Hex, Van Helsing, The Brother's Grimm . . Magic and machinery do go together well.

    ........dhole

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  9. I'm with you with the Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes, Donna...and according to the book Pirates of the Caribbean comes right out of old steampunk ideas.

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  10. I've never read steampunk . . . I don't know, for some reason, it just doesn't hold much appeal!

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    1. The visuals appeal to me. I will have to read a steampunk novel...lol.

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  11. It's a fun genre, but I've only read the original classics by Wells and Verne. Haven't tried my hand at writing it -- yet.

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  12. I do enjoy steampunk. I prefer the ones that aren't the alternate history ones though, probably because the alternate history ones get caught up in explaining how history is different and forget the characters and story. Maybe I just haven't read the right ones yet ;)

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  13. I loved Verne, Wells not so much...kind of depressing for me. I am divided about steampunk. I prefer an all out sci-fi or pure fantasy/paranormal.
    Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Series is quite popular. I tried a sample and liked it but her collection is a bit expensive for me.

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  14. Oh my goodness. I got so excited to see a Steampunk post!! Yes, I'm a huge fan of space westerns, steampunk, biopunk, cyberpunk, and all the others.
    I loved it so much I had to write a steampunk series. :)
    I love everything from the classics to the genre blends.
    Awesome post!

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    1. I have some of your steampunk series Ciara, but haven't started reading them yet. Must. I have eclectic tastes...enjoy reading many genres.

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  15. Gosh, just the idea of a history in which the atom was not split ...

    I actually tried to write a novel that had steampunk elements once. I excerpted it on the blog, too: http://subliminalcoffee.blogspot.com/2012/11/fsf-week-two-gideon-may.html

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  16. I love the idea of steampunk, and think I'd love the stories, but I don't know that I've read any yet. I am reading an H.G. Wells novel (WotW) but that isn't steampunk is it?? :P See, I know less than you about this!

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  17. A while ago, I ran into the term "steampunk" and was casually curious, and then last week I (accidentally) read a short story in this genre. The MC had a mechanical arm, which was rather cool, and suddenly these mechanical horses showed up, which was rather weird. I quite liked it, actually, but the story was short and when I finished, I still couldn't have described the genre, had someone asked. Thanks for an interesting post that sums it up nicely.

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  18. Hi Denise .. thanks for highlighting this .. I had no idea either .. and know Ciara writes it .. then the Closing Ceremony at the Olympics was Steampunk themed ... and Mervyn Peake crossed my path as a steampunk author .. but I still am only vaguely aware ..

    So I'll try and get this book from the library .. or on Kindle if it's available .. and be back to read all the comments - brilliantly useful post!!

    Cheers Hilary

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  19. Hey, Denise,
    Ever since I've been introduced to it, I've thought of it as an interesting genre, but still haven't read anything in that genre yet. :(

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  20. Steampunk is fun. I'd love to write some down the line. It's also popular to set it in the US West at that same time period. You could probably do it for Australia, too.

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  21. I had never heard of Steampunk until I came here and read this and now I know all about it

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  22. I've read a couple of Steampunk novels. I won't mention the titles, because it's a genre I don't really like, and the authors are well known, very popular, and excellent writers. I didn't like their "world", so to speak. I love the Victorian Era in books, and when I read about it, I want the traditional Victorian Era to come alive. But I know Steampunk's a very popular genre right now, and there are a lot of excellent writers writing it.

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