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Hello, everyone. As promised I have an article for you today on the noble art of steampunk, a concept that is equal part aesthetic, ethics, and no small amount of gears. I have written in this genre myself in one of my books The Rocks of Aserol, and found it to be stylish fun. In this article, I will focus on the various concepts that make it so much fun to write in. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few bits that stick out.
The style: Steampunk as a genre has inspired an aesthetic style that has gone far beyond the covers of the various books written about it. If you go to conventions today you will be hard pressed to find someone not dressed like they’ve stepped right out of an alternate history London, complete with the manners and the accent. This is a genre that comes to life as you write it, and to be part of such a passionate community when you’re writing about it is what makes steampunk so fun. In your books when you describe your setting and characters it might seem superficial to worry about what they’re wearing until you realise that the clothing isn’t just for style. Goggles are a standout accessory for many characters in this genre, but in a world powered by coal and steam they aren’t just for show but they also have a practical purpose like keeping coal dust out of people’s eyes. This is where style meets storytelling because the style is such an integral part of the setting that you can’t just paint over everything with a steampunk brush, it’s got to be part of the world you’re writing about.
The philosophy: although there is a lot of leeway with this subject when writing, usually steampunk draws from the old Victorian period of intellectualism, and it’s often during this time that most stories are set. This was a very interesting time, and I can see why it inspires so many stories, especially with the backroom politics and the grimy underside of this period. Manners, intellectual pursuits, quiet scheming, patriotism, and the forging of an empire through steam are just some of many tropes that define the genre, and each and every one can be told from many different points of view, and make many different stories as a result. It’s always interesting seeing a city from a character’s point of view, and then to see the same city in a very different way from another character depending on their job, social status, and income. Most stories balance between dystopia and idealism and every story can be subtly different depending on the alternate world that’s been created.
The romance: when I speak of romance I refer to the rose-tinted glasses through which people often view ‘the good old days’. A lot of us, even younger generations, have a romanticised view of life in the Victorian era, and many of us take a lot of enjoyment strolling through the streets of old London, or other such cities, in this era. You need an audience for books to be successful and the fact that so many people enjoy this genre means you will always have an audience as long as you can summon up the romanticised image that people have in their minds.
Writing this has reminded me just how much I enjoyed playing in this genre, and I’m looking forward to returning to it even more. I would love to hear from you if you have your own favourite moments from steampunk, it’s always nice to chat.