Nowadays, I read so many steampunk-labeled books that very few retain the innovation factor for me. It’s fine to see tropes that establishes the aesthetic as a subgenre, but it takes a lot to make a steampunk book read fresh to me.
Then, comes along Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac: a book that’a steampunk by way of Mad Max rather than gaslamp London. Killer of Enemies is not just a gulp of fresh air, but a hyperventilating-inducing adrenaline rush. Oh, and did I mention that this young adult book was initially pitched to me as “post-apoc Apache steampunk?” Yeah, let that catchphrase sink in a bit.
Guide to Writing Steampunk
Punk Genres: most common genres are in italics
So why are there so many sub genres? For starters, they help agents and publishers get an idea of what they’re in for if you’re going through the traditional publishing route. While bookstores usually just put these genres within science fiction or fantasy, you can still market your book through sub genres to reach a specific group of people who are looking for these genres.
- Atomicpunk: Optimistic retro science fiction based on the Space Age. Think The Jetsons.
- Biopunk: This genre is about altering genetics and DNA. These stories often take place in the near-future in which humans have been altered or in which human experimentation is common.
- Candlepunk: Similar to clockpunk, but darker and with less technology.
- Clockpunk: Think Da Vinci’s inventions, but more advanced while. This genre follows the aesthetics and technology of Western civilization during the mid to late middle ages, though sometimes it’s set in the Victorian era.
- Cyberpunk: Has advanced technology and often focuses on artificial intelligence and the cyber world. The setting is often near-future rather than far-future. Blade Runner is an example.
- Dieselpunk: Based on aesthetics and technology between World War I and World War II, sometimes up until the Cold War.
- Decopunk: Ranges from the aesthetics of the 1920’s to the 1950’s. Decopunk aesthetic is heavily based on modernism. Less gritty than dieselpunk.
- Elfpunk: Basically urban fantasy, but with common high or epic fantasy creatures put in an urban setting rather than vampires and werewolves.
- Nanopunk: Similar to biopunk, but biotechnology is less available and nanotechnology is common.
- Sandalpunk: Set in ancient worlds, such as Rome, but with advanced technology.
- Splatterpunk: Extremely graphic and contains a lot of gore.
- Steampunk: This genre gets its name from the heavy steam-powered technology involved. Aesthetics are based on the Victorian and industrial eras of the Western world, though other cultural elements may be used.
- Western Steampunk: Similar to steampunk, but with Western (as in Wild West) aesthetics and settings.
However, there are a lot of sub genres, most of which many have not heard of. If you’ve written one of these genres and intend to publish it, the best would be to put it under another name (with the exception of steampunk, cyberpunk, and biopunk). For example, if you have written a candlepunk story, you can propose it as fantasy, alternate historical fiction, or any other genre it may fit in. While atomicpunk is quite common, it’s not well known by that name. If you have written an atompunk story, the best way to market it would be to call it retro science fiction.
But what’s the difference between punk genres and historical fiction? The technology is a big difference. It’s usually more advanced for the time it’s modeled after.TECHNOLOGYThe technology is one of the defining aspects of steampunk. It’s the basis for the world you’re writing in. For the typical steampunk story, technology will be (of course) steam powered.CHARACTERS & FASHIONAnother defining feature of steampunk is the aesthetics and the characters. Steampunk takes the latter part of the word (punk) to mean the opposition of the mainstream, though that’s not always necessary in your story.Research jobs common in the Victorian age and add steam to it. Your characters will revolve around their setting and their clothing may be a part of that too.READING
- Best Steampunk Books
- Best Steampunk and Gaslight
- Favorite Steampunk/Alt History
- Best Fantasy, Steampunk, and Science Fiction BDSM
- Asian Steampunk
- Buttkicking Female Steampunk
- Best Steampunk YA Books
- Best Unknown Steampunk
- Steampunk Adventures
- Gay Steampunk
- Best Vampire Steampunk
- Steampunk Novels and Short Stories
- Best of Cyberpunk
- Best Cyberpunk Books
- Books with Cyberpunk Themes
- Books About Video Games and Virtual Reality
- Researching Steampunk
- A Brief Introduction to Steampunk
- Steampunk Tropes
- What is Steampunk?
- So You Want to: Write a Steampunk Story
- Steampunk Inspiration
- 8 Tips and Tricks Every Steampunk Writer Should Know
- Writing Steampunk Fiction Tips
- Kady Cross Shares her Secrets to Writing Steampunk
- Tips for Successfully Creating Steampunk
- Steampunk Wiki
- List of Writing Steampunk Resources
- Steampunk: a List of Themes
- How to Write Steampunk
- Writing Steampunk
- Tips for Writing Steampunk
HEY LOOK ANON. :3
So white. Let’s not forget Silkpunk (Chinese Steampunk) and Beyond Victoriana as a start, yes? That link to ‘Asian Steampunk’ above doesn’t count because a) the goodreads list is called ‘Oriental Steampunk’ and b) a lot of the stuff on that list is actually actively racist and it’s mostly written by not-Asian people.
Whenever I’m writing Chinese steampunk I almost always start by playing this song - ‘梅花' (Plum Blossom) - 2003 Remix by Li Xiang-Lan (李香蘭)
That is why I can’t get behind a celebration of multicultural steampunk that really seems to bank on being able to create and dress in costumes and clothing and props of other cultures. Something different and something fun to do. Something cool to research. Something interesting to get to know, and maybe learn something about a different culture. But for all your knowledge about how we dressed and what the gender norms of 19th century China were, what is being done to ensure POC steampunk feel safe? Feel more than just tokens? Tony Hicks of Tinplate Studios said to me at GearCon, “sometimes, you just want to be.” And sometimes, that being also means being able to talk about some of the dumb shit we experience and being understood for that, being comfortable that no, we’re not alone.What do you think?
Before you start bleating about how it’s a multicultural world and ain’t we all human and race doesn’t matter and we should all be free to use different things from different cultures, let me reiterate once more: culture is more than just things. It’s about people. And people of colour live in the still very racist system that dictates the discourse on what multiculturalism should be like. And thus multiculturalism is co-opted, not to begin critical conversations between peoples, but so white people can get their jollies off dressing like an exotic non-white person, eat weird foods, learn about foreign cultures, as a nifty thing for the day, without necessarily doing the hard work of confronting how difficult living in a multicultural world can be, when certain cultures are privileged over others.
Hey if you are at a loss for what you’re doing tonight, Friday 13th in Melbourne, you should come to Intrigue. I will be on the door in my super awesome modified qipao, it is a queer/alt friendly event, it is a good Friday fun time.
The fact that it is Friday 13th is a coincidence, I swear. Ish.
The REAL Toy Story | Michael Wolf
Behind those toys are a whole new world of “fun”.
This is not steampunk, but everything to do with the contradictions of steampunk subculture that will become more apparent with the rise of mainstream consumerism: a community that scorns mass production, but to an extent, is dependent upon mass produced goods to create the styles its aspires toward.
Many steampunk props, guns, and modification source materials for the person of average means is created by a larger global production force that is undergoing their own industrial revolution.
While many people thrift, mod, and create their own subcultural goods, that is more possible for participants with a certain level of class privilege (time to thrift, time to build, financial means to get special-order goods, access to stores that sell wholesale products, etc). And there are many steampunk participants who choose to mod, thrift or upcycle using source materials that are produced overseas (the classic Nerf mod being an example).
As mass popularity of steampunk items grow, this connection to non-Western mass production will need to be ethically addressed by participants of our community.
“Chinese farmer Wu Yulu drives his rickshaw pulled by his self-made walking robot near his home in a village at the outskirts of Beijing. The robot is the latest and largest development by hobby inventor Wu, who started building robots in 1986 with wire, metal, screws and nails found in rubbish sites.”[via Stareatasia Weird News]
that is the most steampunk shit I’ve seen in a while
Over at one of my other blogs, my review of Tai Chi Hero with some rambling on the previous instalment. Because I love Chinese SFF, and steampunk, and awesome things.
On the heels of tainopunk’s exchange with Robert Brown, this is a call-out from a steampunk POC to the whole community. I draw comparisons to the recent outcry against Evelyn Kriete which may or may not make sense to you depending on whether or not you know who she is, because I think the different attitudes of the communities at large towards these two people is very telling.
LOOK AT JAMES NG’S NEW IMPERIAL STEAMPUNK PIECE!!!! It has VAMPIRES and A MAD EXORCIST and A GIANT TORTOISE.
okay we need to talk about the ways in which this is amazing, because the dragon turtle has something under its paw (SUPER TRADITIONAL), and a banner in its mouth, and it’s just so amazing on so many levels.
Saw Tai Chi 0 this evening; full review to follow, but in short it was way better than I was expecting. Fierce lady (played to full fierceness by Angelababy); hilarious steampunk; adorable (girl) child prodigy; Brother Tofu doing kungfu with tofu in his hands; self-aware video game visual references (I swear). Several issues, but still looking forward to the sequel (allegedly later in October).
Note the traditional 19th century baby duck cup.
So this is my attempt at a steampunk Indian character. I was irritated into it by bad depictions of Western-aesthetic-pretty Indian Girlies in fake saris. Her hair is partly “inspired” by the Indian-rapunzels, because like Battameez, I cannot imagine an Indian woman with that much hair left unbraided.
I’ve tentatively named her Amrita Bai, but that’s probably not period-accurate so it’s subject to change as I do more research. Her family’s from Tamilnadu, & are Vishwakarma caste (specifically metalsmiths, I assume), but they moved to one of the forts under Shivaji’s control, and she’s training under a mechanical artificer there. — All subject to change as I do more research. (Plz do tell me if this is faily somehow…)
Real saris are hard. And group-specific; this is a Tamil-brahmin 9-yard sari, and probably not quite period accurate but I’m not sure how it’d be different. No blouse, because this is from my no-British-Raj alternate India. I haven’t actually worn a 9-yard sari myself, so I’m not at all sure I have the folds right on this one. But I did get input from my mother, who has.
Anyway ya know what’s not hard? Making her skin dark. I find that dark skin is so much easier to get looking human rather than zombie than pale skin is, so extra wtf to those whitewashers who say it’s haaaard.
And now I run off to the doctor.
OH MY GOD SHWETA THIS IS PERFECT. CAN I WRITE FIC TO GO ALONG WITH IT. OH MY GOD *BREATHLESS*
But, ontological question, if you write fic of my original character before I manage to write my story about her, which one is the fic?
(I want to run thoughts about that story by you if that’s okay sometime btw, not that I’m well enough to write yet but hey! Apparently I’m well enough to draw again, which is HUGE, so maybe soon!)
ETA: Name and sari do need more work — they are not caste-period accurate (hmm, must chew this over)
BUT OH MY GOD.
Yeah the earliest sari reference I could find is early 1900s, which is of course way too late. But *something* like it seems eminently practical for engineering work. Must make use of university libraries. & problem with Tamil names that are actually period will be getting Anglophones to parse them at all - but that is also true for those foreign Maharashtrans XD So her name could get shortened, as mine & my brother’s did, because these northerners can’t pronounce proper Tamil names only (I was Shwetambari, he was Saratchandra, we became Sharad & Shweta).
btw I invented the changeable-size wrench because the pipe wrench is a) Western and b) not invented yet XD