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Author Topic: It's Fiction, my boy.  (Read 716 times)

United States United States

« on: May 11, 2013, 03:46:11 am »

Hi there Textual Board.

Anyone got any ideas for a Steampunk fiction?
I've recently been inspired to write about it, Victorian Era England, 1830's-1890's, like most people think of, but I'm new to all this Steampunk stuff. I've got the general idea, but no experience.

As an idea, I've wanted to include famous characters that gravitate towards Victorian Era England, Sherlock Holmes, James Moriarty, Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hide, The Invisible Man, maybe even characters like Dracula, or Frakenstein, maybe even historical figures like Jack The Ripper, and maybe Nikola Tesla would play some part in the back story, or in the story itself. It probably sounds League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-esque, but I'll try to avoid it.

With a world full of Steam Power, Clockwork, Class and maybe even magic, what could I do? Ideas anyone?
United Kingdom United Kingdom

« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2013, 01:47:32 pm »

My Dear Sir,

Gosh what a ripping idea. You may not have come across my friend Plantagenet Stiff ("stiff by name and so forth"). He had a similar wheeze but fell at the first hurdle called copyright. Fortunately he was able to suitably amend his character names eg Friar Tuck became Frank Tucker, the Sheriff of Nottingham became Sherry from Doncaster (gender change as well, please notice) and Robin Hood became Robbing Hoodlum - jolly clever I say. You may wish to follow his lead. Clearly you have a penchant for cogs and gears as well as plagiarism; might I suggest a night on absinthe? I find the old botanicals deliciously helpful for stimulating the creative process. Whilst I have no doubt as to your prowess with the pen, bare in mind that it matters not a jot when one is faced with a court case and probable penury.

Imagination dear boy must be cultivated not borrowed.

Larks in Aspic,

walking stick
Zeppelin Admiral
England England

« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2013, 04:49:06 pm »

Dear Sir
The very best advice I can give you is, if you want to write, read.  Read lots of steampunk, general science fiction, fantasy and alternate history books.  Read history books, newspapers, magazines and general fiction from the era you plan as your story setting.  

Please, if you haven't done so already, read the original books.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley first published anonymously in 1818.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 1891 after a magazine version the previous year.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson published in 1886.
All of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories 1887-1914.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, published in 1895.
Dracula by Bram Stoker published in 1897.

You should find out how different they are from their various film and T.V. adaptations. Take inspiration from what you've read but instead of borrowing wholesale develop your own ideas out of what interests you the most about these stories.  

Historical research will help you as well.  For instance, if you read up on the development of steam power or clockwork, some particular machine may inspire you to work out a scenario or character working with an outgrowth of that technology. Or read social history.  What surprises you about the way the Victorians lived. Start writing about that and see where it takes you.  Other peoples ideas wouldn't work nearly as well.



Time Traveler

Only The Shadow knows

« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2013, 11:45:48 pm »

Keep in mind that getting the characterization of all those people right could be quite difficult.

Resurrectionist and freelance surgeon.
Inflatable Friend
Zeppelin Admiral
Italy Italy

« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2013, 12:13:14 pm »

It's always worth checking copyright laws in your country, but a cursory look shows that all of the characters mentioned are out of copyright EXCEPT Sherlock (and by extension probably the rest of Doyle's characters). The Doyle estate is a lawsuit happy bunch who're as reasonable as Disney, Games Workshop and Warner Brothers when it comes to infringement (This could change after an ongoing lawsuit finishes, hopefully it'll put SH into the public domain).

I wouldn't worry to much about people citing plagiarism, much of what Steampunk has become is copied and built upon from various literary and visual media sources. Reinvention and reuse seem to be very much at the core of the Steampunk ideal, however that doesn't imply any lack of imagination or creative atrophy, far from it, the most skilled writers, artisans and creators take the various elements and combine them with their own fertile imaginations and create something unique and interesting.

That said, there is a great risk when directly reusing established characters either real or fictional, Atterton hit it right on the head: Characterization. Can you take those characters and keep them true to their origins, or establish them with enough integrity to be believable in relation to both their original works and yours? The more characters that are taken from established sources the greater the risk that characterization will fail, that they'll become parodies or that the story will just become a fetid soup of tired tropes, garnished with the sour cream of disappointment and served in a bowl of withered aspirations.

As for what you could do - Your limit on that is purely your imagination. There have been some truly outstanding Steampunk stories over the years, there have been some staggeringly terrible ones. Only your imagination and skill will dictate where your work will arrive.

My recommendation is to read a lot (add Henry Mahew's London Labour and the London Poor to Walking Stick's reading list) and write a lot (like most things writing is a skill, as such it's only truly developed by continual effective practice and development)- Post things up here for crits, get involved in a local writing group and find someone you mesh with to help you out with editing and so on. Write lots, read lots, work hard, xxxx, Profit.
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