Friday, January 7, 2011

Steampunk. An inside look at the mechanisms...

I'm breaking a rule with this particular blog entry. One of my own rules - don't go on about books here. This isn't the place to bore readers with endless book promotion. However, the bare bones of the matter dictate that I can't totally ignore them, since it's what I do, not only for a living, but for the sheer joy of writing.

Recently I had my first Steampunk novel released, and I realized to my astonishment that many folks were either unaware of, or confused by, the word STEAMPUNK. So...it's definitely time to rectify that situation and give you folks a look at what Steampunk is - and isn't.

Wikipedia (and where would we be without that amazing institution, I ask you?)...states that Steampunk is "a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used — usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain — that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy." A delightfully concise and accurate definition. But somewhat lacking in...passion?

For me, Steampunk is incredibly visual. I tend to "see" my books in my head, and the Steampunk tales leap to life without a blink. I love the mid-Victorian settings - that's the Brit in me, I think - and am very happy to have my characters involved in a world of quiet elegance and loud explosions! LOL Yes, they're historical novels on one level. Publishers tend to be leery of putting them in other genres and few offer actual "Steampunk" sections or "Speculative Fiction" categories. So if you're seeking a Steampunk tale, check out your favorite publisher's historical listings. Ditto the bricks and mortar stores.

So we're in Victorian England, draped, laced and corseted, watching our hero...do what? Well, he's probably tinkering with some amazing machine. One that will either destroy the heinous villain, save the world, or fly upside down. That's the sheer ecstasy of Steampunk - anything goes!

Here's a fabulous bit of machinery that embodies Steampunk for me. All that elegant decorative metalwork, the shining copper and gleaming valves/knobs/other thingies. This is a coffee urn from a delightful hotel on the Maine coast. I don't know if they use it or if it's just for aesthetic purposes now...either way, it's GORGEOUS. And about three feet tall too!

You've probably seen plenty of similar wonders; Steampunk is starting to make its way into our world. My favorite tv show, CASTLE, recently ran an episode featuring a Steampunk club in New York. (Oh!!! Wanna go wanna go!!) The world of Steampunk costumes is heating up dramatically and STEAMCON sold out last November. Attendance at this convention devoted to all things Steampunk has skyrocketed.

So don't be surprised if you see more Steampunk books/clothes/objets d'art around as 2011 progresses. It's deserving of a place in the genre categories, that's for sure. And I haven't even touched on the "alternate Steampunk" worlds - that's for another time and another day.

For right now, let me just end by hoping this has helped you understand Steampunk a bit more. Go rent Will Smith's "Wild Wild West" for a good example. (Or "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" for a BAD one. I'm thinking Sean Connery had a few outstanding bills to pay otherwise why, oh why, Sean???) Are you intrigued? Good. Then go buy MISS MINNE AND THE BRASS PLUGGIT and have some fun with STEAMPUNK!!!

Cheers,
Sahara Kelly
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