After reading novels of adventure and fantasy, like Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices or Paul Crilley’s Lazarus Machine, readers are bound to wonder about the so called sub-genre, Steampunk. Just what is it exactly? Debut author Kristin Bailey gives us her definition and opinion of Steampunk and its role in our modern world.
Steampunk is a curious thing. The sub-genre of science fiction has a long and colorful history but only now, is Steampunk on the verge of becoming a larger cultural phenomenon. This article by Cory Gross follows the roots of the genre from the earliest forms of Victorian science fiction through the growth of the subculture today.
I believe Steampunk is on the verge of amazing cultural growth, but that growth will depend on a couple of critical factors. If someone asks “What is Steampunk,” I have a simple answer. I say that it is anything inspired by retro-Victorian Science Fiction or Fantasy. It’s the only definition I have found that encompasses all of the roots of Steampunk from Frankenstein to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The umbrella of retro-Victorian Science Fiction/Fantasy can shelter all forms of art from fashion to music and it doesn’t split hairs. The problem with this definition is that Science Fiction and Fantasy as genres, love to split hairs and section themselves down to “pure” fandoms where everyone has to meet a strict criteria for entry. This tendency has never served the genres well, and has only limited their audiences, not diluted their brands.
Steampunk has the potential to escape from this genre morass, but only if it can embrace its own wild and divergent inspiration. This will not lead to a death of the subgenre, but the growth of the subgenre into a cultural phenomenon that offers something for everyone. In a world of mass production, Steampunk offers hand-crafted beauty and exquisite detail that is missing in our minimalist IKEA soaked lives. The symmetry of the Victorian era to the class issues, environmental issues, and moral issues we struggle with in our modern world, gives Steampunk authors the ability to use “big idea” driven Science Fiction to draw new parallels between our history and what might become our future. Finally, the wonder and awe at technology that was expressed in the Victorian era allows for those inspired by Fantasy to blur the line between technology and magic. They draw inventors and engineers as the modern day sorcerers, and adventurers as a new form of the fantasy hero.
And so Steampunk at its heart is something easy for us to understand. It has been a part of our mass culture in some form for hundreds of years. If you’re curious what all the fuss is about, give Steampunk a try. Embrace its diversity, and enjoy the wonder and beauty of this multi-faceted genre.
Now she is a military wife and mother of two young children. She is also terrible about spoiling her pets. She has one fluffy mutt, two cats who think they own the world, and a fish tank with some really plump little fish and a pair of snails who are secretly ninja assassins.
In the course of her adventures, she has worked as a zookeeper, balloon artist, and substitute teacher. Now she enjoys writing books for teens who enjoy mystery and adventure as much as she does.