Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Age of Steampunk: guest post by Jani Grey

I asked my very talented and generally awesome CP Jani (pronounced Jah-nee) Grey to write a guest post for me - with the very real hope that she would ask me for a topic suggestion, and I could scream "STEAMPUNK" at her. My reasons were twofold: first, Jani's latest manuscript is an epic YA steampunk novel which I can't wait to get my hands on; second, I'm not that well-read, steampunk-wise, but what I've read, I've loved. So, here's what Jani had to say about steampunk after I yelled (tweeted) at her...

Jani Grey. Enigmatic genius.

Steampunk is very tricky to define, and you know what made this really hit home? That little red squiggly line I saw every time I typed the word in my MS Word document. I say it’s tricky because there are so many elements that form a part of this genre, as well as how it is interpreted. Your idea might be slightly different than my idea, and neither is wrong.

So here’s a definition from Marsha A. Moore I found over at Fantasy Faction:

To define steampunk I like this idea I’ve run past a few times—it’s what happens when Goths discover the color brown, a big 1899 party. There are requirements for the fantasy worlds. Steam and natural gas serve as primary power sources. Fantastical geared, steam-powered inventions promise convenience and wonder. The worlds abound with airships, gas lamps, cogs, and brass goggles and are populated with mad scientists, philosophers, adventurists, and air pirates. An important difference between steampunk and cyberpunk is that steampunk traditionally lacks the dystopian/anarchist elements of the other subgenre. Examples include The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a comic series written by Alan Moore, Boneshaker (Clockwork Century Series) by Cherie Priest, and the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.
Marsha also goes on to list a few punk genres - some I’ve heard of, others I haven’t. Cyberpunk. Dieselpunk. Bronzepunk. Candlepunk. Clockpunk. Biopunk. Elfpunk. Mythpunk. I just read about nautical steampunk, and the other day I saw a query for arthurian steampunk. I get all tingly and happy when I think about all these genres and subgenres that we haven’t even started exploring. Oh, the story possibilities.

Copyright-free image by Deviantart

A few of the more prevalent trademarks of steampunk is that it has a very victorianesque feel to it, airships and dirigibles often make an appearance, of course clock work(personally my favorite part aside from the language I get to use). There is also an element of fantasy to the stories, be it major or minor, but it’s there sometimes. I like explosions in my steampunk. Fighting! Inventions! Pollution, a lot of it air because of burning coal which leads to smog and ozone reduction. The military aspect some of these novels carry. Robots/automatons! I love all these elements. It makes for a lot of excitements.

We also see a lot of archetypes when reading or writing. There is the air-pirate, the scientist(sometimes quite mad ones), the inventor, explorer. The pirates! Yes, I had to say pirates again because pirates are badass.

We agree that you cannot have steampunk without some of these elements, it’s these elements that make it steampunk to begin with, but you also don’t need to have all of them present. Be heavy on some of the elements, sprinkle a few of the others in here and there, and you’re pretty much set. By heavy I mean have some of these elements predominant to establish your novel/world as steampunk. The rest is up to you and I say go wild. This is such an unexplored genre that you can do whatever you want as long as you stay true to what makes steampunk steampunk.

Of course, this is just my opinion. At the end of the day we’re writers. We choose our genre and interpret it our way. We tell our story and build our steampunk world to best fit the tale we want to tell.

If you’re interested in reading more about it, I found some great links.

Cool steampunk blogs and posts:


  1. I discovered steampunk a few months ago. It's addicting!

  2. Yay for Jani! Can't wait to get my hands on that ms too! *pokes Jani* Read a few chapters and loved it!
    I confess I don't imagine myself writing steampunk, but, well, I don't think you did too, right Jani, before start writing it? ;)

  3. T, I think once you first get into Steampunk, no matter what form it it, you're in it. It's an absolutely fascinating genre.

    Juliana, you're so right about this. I never actually thought about writing anything Steampunk, but now that I have, I can't wait to start something new. There's still lots for me to discover. A lot can be said for trying something new. Sometimes you like it, sometimes you don't. This time, I fell in love it.

  4. I've never heard of those other punk genres, but now I REALLY want to explore. And yay for steampunk! My current ms is fantasy steampunk.

  5. I've always wondered but never looked it up. Now I realize I have read steampunk via Infernal Devices.

    1. The same here. I think it's because the Infernal Devices isn't that heavy on the Steampunk, it's not that obvious, especially in the second book of the series.

  6. I'd never heard of a lot of those other sub-genres either!

    I highly recommend Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series if you like your steampunk with added steam, BTW ;)

  7. I always wondered what exactly steampunk was... now I know! Thanks for the post!
    Just stumbled onto your blog, and decided to follow! I look forward to hearing all about your writing adventures!
    What's in a Name?

    1. I'm glad something good came from this post :)


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