It’s my pleasure to invite Beth Daniels, who writes as Beth Henderson and J.B. Dane, to visit today. I read about Beth teaching a class on steampunk, a genre of romance and mystery that fascinated me and was thrilled when she agreed to share what she knows with RU readers. Whether you’re just curious about the genre, want to write in the genre or want to read more about it, this blog’s for you!
Beginning to feel like everywhere you turn you’re hearing the term Steampunk? It certainly appears to be the case.
If you watch CASTLE on Monday nights on TV, you were treated to an episode last Fall where the victim was killed with a 200 year old ball – not a bullet, a ball – that it appeared had been fired from a dueling pistol. The victim was dressed in Victorian style clothing and once the trail lead to a particular club in Manhattan, Rick Castle began spouting information about how Steampunk was a society of like minded individuals who liked socializing in a 19th century sort of way. A get away experience since most were involved in super geek type “real life” jobs.
If you go looking for information on the Internet, you might come up with a designation that I particularly liked, although it didn’t fit me personally: “Steampunk is what happens when Goths discover the color brown.” I always liked brown.
Actually, Steampunk is that as well as what Rick Castle said. It’s a lot of things and you’ll find all those things, many of them for sale, at a Steampunk convention because Steampunkers like getting together and donning their alternative personas just as much as Renaissance Faire (or STAR TREK and STAR WARS) folk do. A web search will supply at least eleven Steampunk gatherings around the US (San Jose, San Diego, Seattle, Tucson, Denver, Wichita, Philadelphia, Waltham, Massachusetts, Santa Clara, Roanoke, Virginia, and Oklahoma City). Some cities have Steampunk communities (Seattle’s Steam Rats, San Francisco’s Bay Area Steampunk Association, Sacramento’s Steampunk Society, and Philadelphia’s Dorian’s Parlor could well be just the tip of the steamburg).
But what we’re most interested in here is that Steampunk is a market for readers and thus for writers.
I must admit that I discovered Steampunk through an article in RT. A year later I presented my first workshop on Steampunk. Since then I’ve needed to create other Steampunk workshops and slip it into the Alternative History workshop because so many participants were interested in it. This is slowing down production on my own Steampunk tales…yes, I have more than one in progress, but that’s because I like more than one style of Steampunk.
Reading Steampunk equates to a part-time job because new titles are surfacing at a rapid rate. Steampunk is a subgenre of a subgenre in Fantasy, because it is alternative history. But saying that’s all it is is like claiming Urban Fantasy is just another name for a book with vampires in it.
Steampunk does the same thing that Urban Fantasy does, only with an emphasis on taking the steam-driven past and incorporating some more modern marvels – things like computers and regular air travel and robots – all steam powered, of course. It can add doses of time travel, magic, paranormals (vampires, werewolves, golems and ghosts are always popular), mystery, and then wrap it all up in an action-adventure.
Steampunk can take place in London or the British countryside under Victoria. It can run amuck in the American West (a subgenre of the subgenre of the subgenre, if you will, known as Weird West). It can cross dimensions, enter into alternate universes, visit other Earths, as long as the mechanisms in these various and sundry places is either powered by steam or leans toward Victorian mores, it’s Steampunk. Heck, if it does that, Steampunk can even be set in the future.
One thing that you need to do if the inclination to investigate Steampunk hits you is read, read, read, in the genre. There are so many different styles of Steampunk to choose from, narrowing in on one to make your own can be daunting – at first.
Steampunk can lean more toward the horror realm, as China Mieville’s novels do. It can be rather erotic, whether you’re going for Steampunk erotica (most turning up as e-books, some looking decidedly self-published) or an adventure with touches of erotica worked in, such as THE GLASS BOOKS OF THE DREAM EATERS.
Looking for romance where the steam isn’t necessarily describing the temperature of what’s happening in the bedroom? Katie MacAlister flung her 21 century scientist hero into a parallel Steam universe and the arms of a female airship captain in her romantic adventure STEAMED. For a delightful excess of humor with a plethora of paranormal characters engaged in running the British Empire for the Queen, you really shouldn’t miss Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, of which I believe the 4th book is about to be released.
If you work better having a visual concept of something, look to the movies and TV. Flix with Steampunk elements are SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE PRESTIGE, VAN HELSING, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, THE WILD, WILD WEST, TIME AFTER TIME, THE TIME MACHINE, and even to some extent THE BROTHERS GRIMM. The small screen has supplied THE WILD, WILD WEST (no echo, but the original series in the 1960s, I believe), BRISCO COUNTRY JR. and the difficult to find and also quite extinct series THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF JULES VERNE. Many DOCTOR WHO episodes lean toward Steampunk.
There are also quite a number of Steampunk graphic novels…series, even! In fact, this is the market that fueled the new enthusiasm for the genre…no, subgenre of a subg…well, you know.
Someone interested in writing Steampunk should be interested in history, particularly that of the Industrial Age, the 19th century. Themes deal with expansion, with invention, and frequently with taking over the world (isn’t that what the British were doing with their Empire?) for political, economic or just plain selfish reasons. It’s the manifest destiny of Steampunk characters. Their ancestors appeared in the tomes of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Rider Haggard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger tales of the Lost World, in Oscar Wilde’s DORIAN GRAY and Robert Louis Stevenson’s DR JECKLE AND MR HYDE. Let’s not forget Bram Stoker’s DRACULA or Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN…yes, even a tale penned during the Regency (or a story set in the Regency) qualifies. It’s the Industrial Age.
But the writer considering writing Steampunk should also enjoy warping things – like history.
aka Beth Henderson, J.B. Dane
RU Crew, do you have any burning reader questions for Beth? For our writers out there, have you branched out into steampunk? If so, what challenges did you face?
Join us Monday when Romance University founder Adrienne Giordano shares what she has learned in the first months since signing her contract.
Bio: Beth Daniels currently writes as Beth Henderson and J.B. Dane, though she answered to Lisa Dane and Beth Cruise in the past as well. She has worked with editors at Berkley, Zebra, Leisure, Harlequin/Silhouette, and Simon and Schuster’s Aladdin Paperbacks, done e-books for a now defunct company (not her fault, she says), and began her writing life with hardcover books slated for library use with a publisher that got out of the romance business (again, not her fault). More recently she’s had a number of articles about writing picked up by e-zines, saw a short story published in a mystery and suspense magazine that turned up its toes the next year (really, really not her fault), and has a story in the MOTHER GOOSE IS DEAD anthology slated for publication by Dragon Moon Press in 2011.
For over a dozen years Beth taught college level composition, both in the classroom and online, and a credit course on Novel Writing.
Twenty-six of Beth’s manuscripts have appeared in print or e-book format, and in 12 different languages in over 20 countries. At the moment she is working on various manuscripts, some fiction, some non-fiction but related to writing. Her current fairly consuming project is a little thing she calls WRITING STEAMPUNK!
She is a member of Romance Writers of America, and an active member and volunteer with the Kiss of Death Online romantic suspense chapter, and a fixture at SavvyAuthors.com.
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- Steampunk Week: The Lure of Steampunk with J.K. Coi
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for May 28 – June 1, 2012
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- Historical Romance Part 1: Hot? Not?