What does Steampunk mean to me?

I was browsing around WordPress procrastinating (of course) when I happened upon someone who was spending all of October talking about steampunk, which is the genre my novel is being placed in. I really enjoyed her questioning of Doctor Who (one of my favorite shows)–is it steampunk?

Well, since my subgenre IS steampunk, I checked out the rest of her posts about Steampunk October and really enjoyed an article where she gave a definition of the subgenre:

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction involving a reimagining of the late Victorian era as a time of innovation powered by extant technology, such as steam, clockworks, repurposed mechanical items, and is at times also infused with either time travel or “scientific romance” in the style of H.G. Wells or Mary Shelley or even the trajectory of romantic horror moving from Poe to Lovecraft into the early twentieth century pulp fiction auteurs. There are also variations on these ideas that set the action in either other dimensions, universes, or the future, though there is usually still a strong Victorian aesthetic at work.

Steampunk October: What the Heck is Steampunk Anyway?.

I know some of my blog readers are friends so they aren’t entirely familiar with the genre so this is a part shout out to you and partially a note for me. When working in a genre, especially in your first novel, it’s vital to actually work in that genre (or sub genre as it were). In fact, in Orson Scott Card’s “How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy” he addresses the same idea: When he submitted a short story set on another planet (though that vignette didn’t mention it) to a Science Fiction magazine, it was rejected because it was fantasy (a character had powers that were never explained as science based, though they were). Later, as a well established writer, I can push the boundary, but as I submit my first manuscript (next year), I have to keep in mind what genre/subgenre I’m trying to publish and what that means when it comes to submitting my manuscript. It ALSO means that as I work through revisions, I need to look at the aspects of my novel that tie to this subgenre and those that don’t.

I feel like I’m rambling a bit here but I guess the idea is for me to say to myself: Okay, Melanie, as you write you need to think about the steampunk genre and what elements you’re using that match or don’t match and what that means. So far, I don’t feel like I have any large issues fitting my subgenre, but that doesn’t mean I won’t or don’t need to keep re-examining my writing.

I really have fallen in love with steampunk fantasy. To include fantasy, you’d have to have a magical element (Ie: Gail Carriager‘s “Parasol Protectorate” series, Nickolodeon’s “Legend of Korra,” and Brandon Sanderson‘s new “Alloy of Law” sequel to the Mistborn series) which I’m not including, THIS time. I think I really want to explore using it but part of me worries as I dabble in something like steampunk which to me is very fashion conscious, how much I can talk about the fashion. I want to walk the line between “How is this steampunk?” and “I GET it, stop hitting me over the head with gears and cogs!”

I think at the end of this meandering post, I ask the question: “How do insert the artistic elements of steampunk into my writing without drowning my reader in unwanted information?”


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