J.K. is one of those people who I have been forunate to always have in my circle in other blogs, on the web, and now at the same publisher. I have always been lucky to get the benefit of her knowledge and expertise and her support. She was one of my first introductions to steampunk and I am still in awe of those who write in this genre.
The Lure of Steampunk
You never know what’s going to catch on and become a sensation. I mean, who would have thought that a story about a boy going to a school for wizards would spark ideas for books and movies for more than a decade, that vampires would become so diversely written/drawn and characterized because of one particular sparkling dude, or that the Transformers franchise from the 1980s would be rejuvenated into three multi-million dollar blockbuster movies (umm…maybe soon to be four)?
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s sometimes easy to see where the chain of a thing that is destined for EPIC-ness starts, the links that go from one thing to another, sometimes branching off in directions leading into another chain as well. But when you’re at or near the beginning of it, you can never be sure what the future will hold.
Some people would say this is where we are with the genre that has become known as Steampunk—somewhere near the beginning of a steady climb to great popularity—although others would say that steampunk has been growing steadily for decades already, and those people would be right.
Steampunk, in the generic sense of the word, has been around for a long time. Jules Verne was one of the first to write steampunk with The Steam House, Part I: The Demon of Cawnpore in 1880 in which four Englishmetn travel across India in a steam-powered mechanical elephant. Authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Bram Stoker are also considered to have written steampunk. Steampunk elements have also been present in film for over a hundred years: A Trip to the Moon (1902), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), The Time Machine (1960),The City of Lost Children (1995), Wild Wild West (1960’s television show and 1999 movie), Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), The Golden Compass (2007), and Sherlock Holmes (2009) – among others…many others.
So what makes something “steampunk”? Well, as Jeff Vandermeer puts it in his book The Steampunk Bible:
STEAMPUNK = Mad Scientist Inventor [invention (steam x airship or metal man / baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot.
In other words, steampunk embodies a feeling of adventure and technological discovery in a way that is both retro and forward-minded at the same time. There is also very often a sense of political and social revolution.
Why has it become so popular? Because it’s about more than just entertainment. Steampunk has gone beyond literature and has become a movement. It’s found a place in fashion, art, and music. It has even become broader than that, branching out to inspire Do-It-Yourself technology in an environmentally friendly way. Steampunk is about being engaged, crafting something, doing something, and believing in something that can benefit everyone.
This is why I love to write steampunk. Even though I don’t consider it true steampunk, my first crack at something with a bit of steampunk flair was a short story, Iron Seduction – about a British military ambassador and her Chinese mercenary bodyguard. Together they must defeat an evil Empress who has just unleashed an army of undead terracotta warriors on Beijing.
I think to write this style effectively, it’s important to do some reading in the genre, and more importantly about the genre, to learn what lives at the heart of it. I found my real steampunk voice after doing a lot of research about the movement, its fashion and lifestyle, and the history of its growth in popularity.
Far From Broken is a novella about a colonel’s fight to reclaim his ballerina wife’s love after a vicious attack leaves her with mechanical limbs. It’s got two of my absolute favourite characters. They’re both so damaged and angry, but fighting tooth and nail to hang on to each other. I loved writing Jasper and Callie so much that I had to continue their story. I’m pleased to say my publisher agreed and the second in the Seasons of Invention series is going to be released in September 2012. It’s called Broken Promises, and will continue Jasper and Callie’s journey, bringing them back to Manchester where the airships patrol overhead, the ski carriages run on steam, and the mad scientists are truly diabolical…
So, what do you think of steampunk? As a Genre? As a movement? As lifestyle choice? What have you enjoyed watching or reading that has steampunk elements in it?
Tomorrow we have a special RU event with Heather Howland, Managing Editor with Entangled Publishing. She’s actively acquiring and will be taking pitches. Don’t miss it!
J.K. Coi is a multi-published, award winning author of contemporary and paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She makes her home in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and son and a feisty black cat who is the uncontested head of the household. While she spends her days immersed in the litigious world of insurance law, she is very happy to spend her nights writing dark and sexy characters who leap off the page and into readers’ hearts. Please find her online at http://www.jkcoi.com/
Also writing Dark Fantasy for young adults as Chloe Jacobs. Find more information at http://www.chloejacobs.com/.
A short excerpt of Far From Broken:
She turned her head and fought a rush of dizziness. The door was closed, and she thought it was probably locked as well. Only a small amount of light filtered into the room from the square of glass inset in the panel of the door.
Yes, still a hospital, no matter the pretty trappings they had used to try and disguise it.
She could hear sounds of life beyond the door, the voices and footsteps of people moving past her room. She paid it all very little attention, it was her own body she needed to see now.
Lifting her arm felt strange, probably because it was heavier than it should be. Horror and bitterness formed a salty lump in her throat as she held her hand out in front of her face. She took a deep breath before clenching the fingers into a fist. After a long moment, she opened the hand again, spread the fingers. She used her other—real hand—to touch it.
Smooth metal fingers. Hard burnished curves.
Surprisingly warm, but empty and completely alien. She twisted the wrist. Its movements felt ghostly, even though she knew the appendage must be responding to her body’s commands and not its own.
She didn’t know how long they would leave her alone and she needed to see the rest. She awkwardly shoved the bed sheet aside and looked at her legs. Bile burned up her throat along with a fractured moan, but she forced it back down.
They were monstrous. She stretched out her arm, but then drew it back and dug her fist into her churning belly. She couldn’t imagine standing and moving on the unnatural combination of iron posts, balls and gears they’d fitted her with. Oh God. She would never dance again.
Finally, she lifted her good hand to her face, but stopped short of poking her fingers into the new mechanical eye that helped her see so well in the dark.
The door opened. The man who entered was dressed in shadows, a dark jacket over dark trousers, with only a little of the light from outside to show his face—scruffy with an over-long beard. He stepped closer to the bed, and she instinctively pulled away, deeper into the pillow.
“Ah, I’m glad to see that you’re awake again,” he said. “I hope we won’t have any more trouble from you.”
- Steampunk Week: Writing Historical Science Fiction through 21st Century Goggles with Meljean Brook
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for May 28 – June 1, 2012
- Steampunk! What’s So Fascinating About It?
- The Need for Speed with Elisabeth Staab
- Strong & Sassy Heroines with Annie Seaton