Best thing I’ve heard all week (after Chinese New Year):
If there’s anything that comes close to rivalling my love for cyberpunk, it’s steampunk. Think about it: Victorian sensibilities, anachronistic technology in hues of blue, gold, and brown, Zeppelins, cranking gears, a steam-fogged air, and topping them all, leader-clad babes.
I haven’t met a man who didn’t love leather-clad babes.
There’s just something clean and clever about steampunk. Maybe it’s the naked gears seen through perpetually clean glass: it’s science, and it makes no effort to disguise how it works. There’s no technobabble involved in explaining how the fly-cycle works: you crank down on the pedals in smooth, circular motions, the gears transfer the energy into the wheels, the forward motion pushes wind beneath the wings, the resultant lift carries the fly-cycle off the ground.
(then there’s the problem of generating thrust while in flight, but I’m sure any writer with a rudimentary knowledge of physics would be able to work that out)
There’s science, and there’s the awesome anachronistic appeal of Victorian fashion thrown in with faux-retro high-tech. Nevermind the impracticality of having exposed gears in your hat, or steam-powered pistons in your gloves, or where the hell does one get all that steam power from – it’s awesome! That, and ladies in corsets and long dresses.
I have never met a man who didn’t love ladies in corsets and long dresses either.
I guess part of the fun in writing steampunk, for me, is the part where I get to figure out how things work. A world running on steam power, clockwork automatons, and simple electricity – how do people live their lives? What is normal for them? What would be new to them? How would they dress? How do they commute? Most of the time, it isn’t even about world-building – I’m not inventing the ways in which they live their lives. All I do is ask “What if…?”, and the world unravels itself as I explore it.
Then occasionally, I have to look up certain things just to further understand how and why these things work.
(steampunk trivia: did you know that a “real” steampunk world would have to rapidly evolve into a dieselpunk world, due to the scarcity of wood and coal? It’s true!)
Steampunk, as a subgenre of science fiction, gives that escape into the fantastic while remaining grounded in our world and the things we know. It’s not quite fantasy, but somewhere in between – and part of the allure is in bridging the gap between its world and ours.
(more trivia: when I feel like I can explain it, I write science fiction. When I can’t, I write fantasy. It’s true!)
So now, what shall I write about?