June 2017 marks Steampunk month, in which I and several other folk around the internet intend to celebrate all things Steampunk! I’m starting this initiative because mid-month, I’ll be releasing my second novel, For Steam And Country, which is my first steampunk fantasy:
This book’s already getting some great buzz. The first professional review appeared in Steampunk Chronicle, in which it was hailed as “a solid adventure tale, much in the mold of Patrick O’Brian or other sea-story writers.”
Here’s the synopsis:
Her father’s been pronounced dead. Destructive earthquakes ravage the countryside. An invading army looms over the horizon. And Zaira’s day is just getting started…
Abandoned at an early age, Zaira von Monocle found life as the daughter of a great adventurer to be filled with hard work and difficulty. She quickly learned to rely on only herself. But when a messenger brought news that her father was dead and that she was the heir to his airship, her world turned upside down.
Zaira soon finds herself trapped in the midst of a war between her home country of Rislandia and the cruel Wyranth Empire, whose soldiers are acting peculiarly—almost inhuman. With the enemy army advancing, her newfound ship’s crew may be the only ones who can save the kingdom.
Cool stuff! Again it’ll be up on June 15th. I’ll have the amazon link for that when it’s available. So let’s get to Steampunk, as I’m sure I have several of my readers asking:
What Is Steampunk?
Steampunk is a sub-culture/genre in sci-fi/fantasy fandom. I call it both a sub-culture and a genre because it’s pretty unique in that it really developed from people cosplaying, rather than the other way around. It’s a Victorian-style fantasy, and can shift in its tone usually from a 1880s-1920s technology level and culture. A lot of the imagination is based on a “what if” question posed of steam engines, seeing them more in use in everyday contraptions. Gears and cranks are a heavy part of the themes. Alchemy is another element, representing some of the snake oil salesmen of the time, and the budding medical industry, but adding a fantasy/magical component to it as well. Airships and blimps litter steampunk scenery, and are some of the most compelling elements of the genre.
How Did Steampunk Begin?
I’m not exactly certain of its direct origins and when it became labeled “Steampunk” (Yes, I know we can go back to Jules Verne or literary works in the 1970s that tried to homage it, as well as several Anime that had the industrialized fantasy themes, but those were more proto-Steampunk in my opinion. I’ll talk about those in a different blog!), but from what I witnessed, the concept swelled in the early 2010s with folk who attended renaissance fairs and wanted to add little pieces of flare to their garb — from goggles, to cool mechanical or gear based accessories, and getting into the more dystopian elements of the genre, gas masks and the like. What it did was make for AWESOME costuming. And it caught wildfire quickly. That’s how I came into touch with Steampunk. In 2011, I was at Dragon*Con, one of the biggest conventions in America (50,000+ people) and I saw a Steampunk Ball that had hundreds of people dressed in faux-early 1900s military garb, in beautiful dresses, all these cool prop gadgets attached to them. It was glorious to look at. I went out and spent far too much money on my own costume immediately.
Around that time we saw a small surge in a literary movement with the genre as well. The webcomic Girl Genius really inspired a lot of folk to love the genre, providing a really compelling tale that still runs to this day. Some cool authors came out of this Steampunk boom, but by 2013-2014 the cultural fad had sort of died down. You didn’t hear about Steampunk much in pop culture anymore, though there certainly were other publications that came about. Looking at the twitter accounts of popular Steampunk magazines/ideas, that peak in 2011-2013 was really where it was at. So what happened?
I have my thoughts on that, but I’ll save that for another blog. There still are steampunk gatherings and a LOT of people who follow steampunk to this day. I just attended my first Clockwork Alchemy last weekend, which was very fun, and am eyeing the Gaslight Expo later in the year, as i’ve always wanted to go to that. For #SteampunkMonth we have a chance to explore Steampunk themes in its full potential. My goal is to bring about a Steampunk Revival and get everyone celebrating these cool concepts again. Join me!