by Victoria Grace Howell
Steampunk is one of my favorite genres and a severely underappreciated one at that, but I believe it’s finally rising to popularity as I’m seeing more and more people craving it. When pitching my steampunk novel to an editor last year, I had to explain what the genre was, and this isn’t my first encounter with someone oblivious to the wonders of steampunk. Maybe even you, reader, don’t know what it is. I am here to enlighten you. You may have been watching steampunk and you didn’t even know it!
The genre of steampunk surfaced during the 1950s, but didn’t gain popularity until the 1980s when the actual term “steampunk” was coined by K.W. Jeter. It’s a subgenre of fantasy and science-fiction and in some ways is a marriage of both, being able to have magic and technology. It often has influences from Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley.
The main thing that makes this genre unique is the time period it’s set in and the rudimentary yet advanced technology. Yes, that’s an oxymoron, but keep tracking with me. Steampunk centralizes around the Victorian era, the American Wild West, and the rise of the Industrial Revolution, so around the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. Electricity has either not been discovered or it’s used only by the rich. Like the genre names states, often most everything is powered by steam.
Unlike high fantasy, steampunk can have guns, newspapers, automatons, time machines, and vehicles, but no holograms, laser guns, spaceships, or wristcomms like science fiction. The technology is in the middle. If you go too much in either direction, too advanced or too ancient, you’ll stray into another genre.
In Howl’s Moving Castle, both magic and technology are included. They have steam-powered vehicles and wizards. On the other hand, Around the World in 80 Days has no magic, but Phineas Fogg’s inventions such as his horseless carriage have heavy steampunk elements.
Steampunk character’s costumes are often influenced heavily by their genre. You may have seen these in convention pictures, even ones from Realm Makers! Steampunk characters will often have rustic prosthetics, visors, wings, gasmasks, goggles, or tricked-out guns and swords. Leather, brass, and clockwork are classic steampunk costume parts. These are staple, but not every character can or should have these. Riese: Kingdom Falling costumes have a lot of medieval elements for example.
Trademark steampunk settings usually include a lot of cities. Brass, stone, and factories all with a dirty feel are common. Other steampunk is more moderate with mostly Victorian era or Wild West buildings with only little steampunk tech here and there, while others are overwhelmed with the growth of technology. Ultimately, it’s the author’s preference to how much or how little technological influence they use.
This is such a fascinating genre to me. There’s so much potential for unique worlds. Don’t get me wrong, I love fantasy and sci-fi, but I’d truly like to see more of this halfway world. From the rise of steampunk costumes at conventions and even in modern fashion, such as vintage, gears, and clocks; and the release of more steampunk books, we may finally see this genre come into light.
Curio by Evangeline Denmark
The Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
League of Extraordinary Gentleman by Alan Moore
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Howl’s Moving Castle
Castle in the Sky
Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
Riese: Kingdom Falling
Some Doctor Who episodes including Deep Breath
I hope this gave you a good rundown of steampunk. Thank you Faith and Fantasy Alliance for having me on the blog!
What do you think of steampunk? Have you written any? Have you read/watched any? Do you have further questions about it?
Victoria Grace Howell is an award-winning, aspiring writer of speculative fiction. In 2014 she won the Teen Writer of the Year Award at the Florida Christian Writers conference and in 2015 she won the Beyond the Steeple Award. She also edits for the Christian site Geeks Under Grace. When not writing she enjoys drawing her characters, blogging, learning Kung Fu, cosplaying, and a really good hot cup of tea.