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Author Topic: Magic in Steampunk?  (Read 1064 times)
NoirMagus
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« on: November 17, 2016, 04:25:48 am »

I'm undecided whether to have magic in my world and would like to know what people feel about magic in steampunk?
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T. C. Halloway
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2016, 06:31:14 am »

Absolutely! I think it complements the genre well. The period was just as steeped in spiritualism and the occult as scientific progress. Think Alastair Crowley to balance out Charles Darwin.
Some ideas:
1. Magic and science are in tension, superstition of the past battling with the reason and enlightenment of the future.
2. The above scenario, but with the caveat that magic is real and some of the superstitions are justified.
3. Magic is just another sort of science, and the lines between scientist and magician are blurred.
I like The Anubis Gates as an example. I think the Bartimaeus trilogy has somewhat the right feel. Also The Somnambulist, and a lovely anthology of short stories, the name of which escapes me at the moment. I'll let you know if I remember.
Anyway, you're in good company. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but that's fine.
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Prof. Cecily
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2016, 10:31:25 am »

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Magic and steampunk.
Some call it Gaslamp fantasy, I think.

I've seen Steampunk vampire hunters and Steampunk ghostbusters.

You could take the combination in any one of a number of ways and I'm sure you'll have a great time with it!

I remain yours,
Prof. Cecily

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Dr Fidelius
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« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2016, 02:56:08 pm »

The Victorians were just beginning to sort out how the world actually works. Ghosts were no less likely than the flow of electrical fluid, and there was just as much anticipation that an inspired Maxwell-type person could define the laws of the occult as "easily" as the laws of electrodynamics.

Have your Magick, but I do ask you to be consistent with it.

As one of our patron saints once wrote, "Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!"
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« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2016, 03:22:18 pm »

Oh, I second the good Doctor. You don't have to explain all the rules, but they had better be there.
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Peter Brassbeard
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2016, 05:10:48 am »

The characters may not even understand the rules, but as the creator you need them to keep the story consistent.
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RJBowman
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« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2016, 04:28:35 pm »

The nineteenth century is when terms like "psychic" and "telepathic" were coined; it was an attempt to provide a vocabulary for occultism based on latin and ancient greek, the languages from which scientific terms were derived. It seems to have been part of an attempt to give the respectability of science to practices like fortune telling. Something similar was happening in religion with the creation of new sects like "Christian Science".

The trend might have been expressed in fictional works like Bram Stoker's "Dracula", in which the scientist Van Helsing investigates the vampire.

I don't see why magic could not be part of steampunk fiction, but I think that the hook is that it would be treated as a little-known natural phenomenon, and investigated in a scientific matter.
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Hurricane Annie
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« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2016, 04:12:27 pm »



ECTOPLASM.
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Caledonian
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« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2016, 04:53:20 pm »

doesn't Alchemy border on both magic and science?

I've seen plenty of steampunk alchemists.
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RJBowman
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« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2016, 05:32:37 am »

The alchemists developed most of the laboratory techniques used by modern chemists; filtration, distillation, etc. Chemistry and pharmacology developed from the foundations of chemistry. But once chemistry becomes a real science, alchemy fades away.
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RoburtheConqueror1975
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« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2016, 11:00:22 am »

What  if  magic  was  shunned as  a  poison  by  the  masses  but  science  was  seen  as  OK?  You could have  science-based  battling  the  prejudice against  magic, too.
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Dr Fidelius
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« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2016, 02:33:31 pm »

In the Lord Darcy stories by Randall Garrett (which I consider to be one of the proto-Steampunk series) Magic is a scientific discipline. We readers recognize it as being 1960s psi powers, but because its rules were discovered before Newton folks who are studying science are considered cranks. I recall one conversation where (to paraphrase) 'Untrained hedge wizards are prescribing foxglove tea for heart problems and mouldy bread poultices for wounds instead of using the proven Laying On of Hands.'

Look them up; they are well worth reading.
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Prof. Cecily
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« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2016, 02:24:54 pm »

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Magic in steampunk.
Hmmm.
Psychic investigators, revealers of charlatans come more to mind than actual magic in steampunk.
I associate magic with gas lamp fantasy,myself.
But at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is : is it splendid?

I remain yours,
Prof. Cecily

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NoirMagus
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« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2016, 07:40:40 pm »

Excuse my ignorance but what makes something gas lamp fantasy rather than steampunk with magic?
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NoirMagus
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« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2016, 07:47:27 pm »

Excuse my ignorance but what makes something gas lamp fantasy rather than steampunk with magic?
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Prof. Cecily
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« Reply #15 on: November 25, 2016, 08:48:52 am »

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
An excellent question.
If I've understood correctly the panels and conferences I attended recently, the answer would be:
The magic.
Think Sherlock Holmes, rather than Lord Dunsany.


I myself am a great fan of Lord Dunsany, truth to tell.

On the other hand, I find myself a bit bored by the label-makers, unless they're buying the drinks.

While I am obviously fascinated by discussions of whether the defining edge between steampunk and diesel punk is the beginning of the Great War or its ending, I'd rather, at the end of the discussion, go home and research the aesthetics of those decades of transition, not to mention the scientific, medical, and technological breakthroughs which punctuate them.

It's time for the first coffee.
I remain yours,
Prof. Cecily
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Adaddinsane
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« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2016, 09:52:03 am »

Excuse my ignorance but what makes something gas lamp fantasy rather than steampunk with magic?

Whether it's written by the Foglios, who write the Girl Genius webcomic? They coined the term to separate themselves from steampunk in general.

Gaslamp Fantasy is supposed to be the name for Steampunk-with-magic (see TV Tropes and Wikipedia), or "fantasy in a Victorian/Edwardian setting". Except I think that accounts for the greater proportion of modern literary steampunk anyway.

The distinction being that Steampunk is more focused on technological advancement while Gaslamp Fantasy is, well, fantasy.

Of course neither definition has much to say to writers like Cherie Priest, Susan Kaye Quinn, (or me) where Steampunk is the setting, but not the story.
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Steve Turnbull
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NoirMagus
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« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2016, 02:52:19 am »

Quote
Of course neither definition has much to say to writers like Cherie Priest, Susan Kaye Quinn, (or me) where Steampunk is the setting, but not the story.

Surely Steampunk should always be the setting and not the story?
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Atterton
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« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2016, 11:38:49 pm »

Rather the opposite really.
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NoirMagus
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« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2016, 10:17:12 am »

Quote
Rather the opposite really.

Surely not.
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CPT_J_Percell
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« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2016, 10:23:07 am »

Just to but in, but when talk of Magic comes up in SP i think that most forget about the triangle of beliefs that were in play at the time.

There has always been a battle between Magic, Religion and Science where each strives to disprove the other.
There is nothing stopping Magic from any use and I think that if people remember the triangle I could result in deeper stories.
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Wolfgang Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: January 15, 2017, 10:33:33 pm »

I doubt most people would be particularly scandalized to find some magical elements in a Steampunk work. After all, there is already an element of fantasy in the fictional aspects of any Steampunk, whether it is a Historical Fiction set in the real world, or a make-believe story in a universe of its own.
I think the key to any good 'magic' is to provide at least a modicum of explanation for where it comes from and how it works. Whether you introduce a made-up element not found on the periodic table, or describe a specific way that matter or energy can pass from one dimension to another, it's all about offering some rationale that bridges the gap between sci-fi and fantasy.
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Madam Takara
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« Reply #22 on: January 18, 2017, 06:01:51 pm »

Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about sub sub sub genre names, steampunk 'rules' and what people expect.
The question is: Do you want to write about magic, and would magic aid the story you're telling?

I write what I'd most easily describe as gohic-steampunk- fantasy, and the whole plot  of the series actually depends on the existence of magic. But if it's not relevant to your world and story, maybe think twice, or make it relevant? The thing that comes with writing a world where magic exists, is you need to make up the rules of it in universe. So you need to know what it can and can't do, how it effects the world and the people living in it, and why it's there in the first place. It's a big thing to implement if you're not going to use it much, and it will usually define how the history of the world works out. It affects all corners of the world, just as science does.
I suppose my point is, if you do it, think about it. Never just toss it in the story for effect.

Just in general though, I think steampunk is such a broad, adaptable genre that very few of it's 'rules' can't be broken.

If you want examples of steampunky books that use magic/fantastical creatures (usually both)-
The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
The Bannon & Clare series by Lilith Saintcrow
The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
All just ones I've read off the top of my head. There's way more.
(And hey, if you did really want to read Dead Night when the new one is out, I won't stop you!) Wink

Also just remember that ther Victorians were kind of obsessed with supernatural things: seances, ghosts, the occult...it wouldn't be out of context in a Victorian inspired world.
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Argus Fairbrass
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« Reply #23 on: January 19, 2017, 03:45:05 pm »

There's this book right called Morlock Night, oh & this other one called The Anubis Gates (good book that). I only mention them because they're actually both fantasy/magic heavy stories put forwad by this chap K.W Jeter as potential blue prints for a concept I believe he termed erm ...Steampunk? (or something like that) perhaps you've heard of it? Anyway I do recommend anyone to read them who may be curious as to how elements of magic and fantasy might tie in. ;-).

Edit, the only reason I haven't mentioned Homunculus (James Blaylock) is because it's part of a series I haven't read yet. Sardonic wit aside for a moment ( I feel obliged to be slightly roguish at times inkeeping with rank) those 3 books were examples of Jeter's original vision for SP. If you haven't read them & only know SP through the current subculture, I suspect they might surprise you.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2017, 04:27:48 am by Argus Fairbrass » Logged

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gaslampfantasy
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« Reply #24 on: May 17, 2017, 05:21:23 pm »

With magic in steampunk nearly everything can change. Think of inventions which are part mystical, and part technological.
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