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Author Topic: What is Steampunk Literature?  (Read 1248 times)
J. Penn
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« on: February 05, 2014, 05:28:23 am »

I have a few questions here, but they can mostly be summed up by the question: what is steampunk literature?

As far as books, what is necessary to make a work fall under the category of steampunk?
What is needed to make something steampunk as opposed to another genre? Are there themes, character types, or tropes that occur inside of a steampunk world that make it unique?

I'm curious to hear from you all--what do you think of when you hear the word "steampunk"?
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pakled05
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« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2014, 06:48:55 am »

There are as many answers as people, but in general, dig back a page or two here, and look for 'what steampunk books' kind of questions.

Cherie Priest, Mark Hodder, SM Stir...wait, that one always gets me in trouble, try "Peshawar Lancers" instead, more suggestions to follow this post, no doubt...Wink
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2014, 06:55:33 am »

Well, I won't presume under which context you ask this question.  However, this is a rather explosive question, mind you, because there is no exact definition of Steampunk, and trying to define it usually leads to some sort of Internet brawl.

I assume you are looking at this from the perspective of someone wishing to write a first novel in this style, is that correct?

If so, stick to the basics.  Steampunk, often (but not always) involves an alternate timeline of some sort which is either connected to some period in the 19th. C, by way of technology or aesthetics, but also combines elements, like dress culture or technology from more modern eras and even future eras (our future that is).

It is extremely difficult to divorce oneself from certain tropes, namely 19th. C. technology such as primitive electromagnetism, steam engines, gears and clockwork to name a few, but it is precisely those elements which one must  use but not over-use to make good Steampunk.  It is too easy to fall into a cliché.  Please don't do that, otherwise we'll be forced to send you to the gallows.

Mad science is often another favorite trope, as the Victorians had a fascination with the natural and supernatural world, which they were trying to interpret through the newfangled practice of Science.  Horror often went hand in hand with science (eg Mary Shelley's Frankenstein).

Also, it is possible to create a type of Steampunk that is not related to any actual period of history (Uchronism) or even tied to humanity's history at all (an even more esoteric type), if you consider that the technology, culture and aesthetics if the 19th C are a product of a culturally evolutionary process in humanity.

In other words, any imaginable alien race in a galaxy far far away can also go through an Industrial Revolution, so a kind of "extraterrestrial Steampunk" is possible as well.  The type of Steampunk which is neither an alternative "timeline" (Anachronism), nor a complete dislocation of time (Uchronism), but rather one entirely based on an environmental "feel" or "ambiance" of Steampunk, I like to call (or rather I have coined the term) "Virtual Steampunk" (I'm rather proud of that one so don't claim that term).

Now that I have appropriately muddied the waters of this thread, I shall release the Steampunk hounds upon your hapless carcass.  Ladies and gentlemen, please continue this thread!  Wink

 Grin
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CPT_J_Percell
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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2014, 07:30:50 am »

What is steampunk?

To put it as loosely as possible, an idea or theme that clings to the ideal's, themes or technology's created in or theoretically created or even based in, those set during the Victorian era.

But as mentioned, everyone has there own ideas.
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RodDuncan
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« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2014, 10:52:12 am »

There is an interesting discussion on the following thread, which touches on your question: http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,42197.0.html

As for writing and genre - there is an age old tension between the infinite variety of creativity and the set categories that the publishing industry thinks in terms of.

As a general rule people have a much higher chance of achieving their publication goals if they are writing within a clearly identified genre. But if they set out to write something that slavishly ticks all the boxes of any genre, the book will likely end up feeling unoriginal at best. At worst it will read like a pastiche.

This is not a criticism of the publishing industry, by the way. Genre is a practical way of helping compatible writers and readers find each other. (And yes, I do think Literary fiction is a genre. Though I can fully understand others don't!)

Smiley

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RJBowman
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2014, 05:20:34 pm »

As for writing and genre - there is an age old tension between the infinite variety of creativity and the set categories that the publishing industry thinks in terms of.

There is a workaround for this; if an author sells the book as "young adult fiction", that seems to satisfy the publishers' requirements that it fit into a "genre", and the author has more freedom to tell the kind of story that he wants to tell.
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RodDuncan
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« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2014, 05:31:21 pm »

There is a workaround for this; if an author sells the book as "young adult fiction", that seems to satisfy the publishers' requirements that it fit into a "genre", and the author has more freedom to tell the kind of story that he wants to tell.

A very good point. Smiley Although YA does have its own parameters and restrictions that.
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J. Penn
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2014, 10:19:57 pm »

Thank you so much for the replies that have already been given. I appreciate that you have taken the time to respond to my rather vague query with such thoughtful answers. I imagine, before we continue too much farther, that I should clarify my question and in doing so make it somewhat more open-ended.

While I am always on the lookout for new books to read and have interest in genre studies, I was mainly proffering this question to get a sense of what goes into steampunk literature. I am not seeking a definition of this wonderful world because I know that few things could be more difficult to dress with words.

Allow me to pose these questions instead: What is it we love about these kinds of books? The adventure? The inventions? The lure of what might have been or could be?
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Kieranfoy
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« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2014, 11:48:59 pm »

Dunno.

What do you love? What do you like? What do you read? There is no we.
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J. Penn
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« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2014, 05:54:25 am »

For me, I believe I particularly enjoy the sense of adventure, the fantastic quality that arises when we take pleasure in everyday things and allow ourselves to become excited about creation, whether that is through words or tactile means. Steampunk has the wonderful quality of displaying the interior on the exterior and being proud that it is visible.
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