1. D.Mears
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    D.Mears New Member

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    Other Steampunk/General Genre Enquiry

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by D.Mears, Feb 10, 2015.

    Hello all!

    So I am currently playing around with an idea for a novel and I could use some guidance. I am currently working on a fantasy epic (fantasy being my preferred genre to both read and write), however epic books take a long time to piece together and aren't necessarily good for first time publication.

    Essentially I have been playing around with ideas for a shorter novel series that I can complete in the meantime and hopefully push forward as my first published work. As a fantasy writer I find that the magic system is often the component that I like to scratch out first as I feel getting an interesting magic system together can often then lead to an interesting book in quite a natural and fluent way.

    So in that spirit I have come up with a magical system for this new book that differs from my epics. Here is the reason I specifically want the input of any Steampunk fans (I know there are plenty of sub-genres but please bear with me). I have been thinking about a fantasy setting outside of the middle-ages/ancient periods which is where I tend to automatically go as it feels like the most natural fit. I have specifically been thinking about something set around the colonial era (so swords, early black-powder/flintlock weaponry etc.). Now unfortunately the new magic system I have come up with doesn't lend itself to being used as a power source and I would like to keep away from electricity as much as I can. That said there are aspects that I wish to include that do require some sort of power source. Now it seems to me that the power source which fits into this setting in the most natural way would be steam power and it also seems to me that heavy use of steam power can often be associated with the overarching genre of Steampunk (please do correct me if I am wrong in this assumption).

    I don't know if I would classify what I am putting together as any form of Steampunk as it seems to lack the general characteristics of the genre (i.e. fashion, styling, setting etc.). Now to finally get to the point. I'm not a reader of Steampunk and so I guess I was wondering if anybody could help me with the identity of Steampunk so that I can clarify whether or not what I am working on is in fact something that could be categorized as Steampunk. I am enjoying coming up with all sorts of interesting technologies which I am trying to make as viable as possible. So another question for the Steampunk fans, just how realistic do you usually need these wacky and wonderful inventions to be/how realistic are the usually? I am basing mine off of real world technology however I just don't think that the inventions would work in the real world although I do try to make them logical. For example I have worked on designing exoskeletons that have a steam engine mounted upon their back which forces the pressurized steam into pneumatic gas cylinders (mounted around the elbow and knee joints) instead of a piston like in a steam engine, the idea being that the steam would replace the pressurized air that is usually pushed into the cylinders in the real world. Does this sound plausible enough to you guys or do you find that things such as that break the overall sense of reality? I have done research into both steam power and pneumatic technologies, however will I need to know steam power inside and out in order to write a Steampunk novel? (Which I currently do not)

    Also for all of the non-Steampunk fans here, how important is having an easily identifiable genre? If my book is not something that would be generally classified as Steampunk then should I work to make it a Steampunk novel or is it perfectly fine to have a story that doesn't necessarily conform to the popular genres?

    Thank you all for your time.
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have a look at Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials for a "Steampunk Fantasy".

    Have a look at the Warhammer world, where steam-powered devices are employed within a mediaeval fantasy setting.

    So, Steampunk Fantasy is definitely a goer.

    The problem with steam power, though, is the weight of the machinery, and the temperatures involved in operation. Have you SEEN a steam train? The big problem for the preserved steam train movement is that the engines need to have their boilers certified every few years, because running at anywhere from 150-300 psi is a LOT of pressure to have go wrong - men have died from scalding. So, an exoskeleton powered by a boiler carried in a backpack would require some serious insulation, and some serious lightweight metal (that we don't have now!)
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You don't have to be particularly realistic with the technology itself, since magic will also be at work. You have to be internally consistent.

    The term "steampunk" was coined by KW Jeter to describes works that he, Tim Powers, and James P. Blaylock were working on. If you look at their stuff at the time, they didn't bother with whether technology was presented in detail. Look at Blaylock's Homunculus, or Powers' The Anubis Gate, or Jeter's Infernal Devices. There is broad variety within the steampunk subgenre.

    In any event, this isn't something you should worry about at this point. If you publish traditionally, the publisher will decide how they want to categorize it for marketing. Just write it.
     
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  4. D.Mears
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    D.Mears New Member

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    Thank you. It seems so obvious now. Of course I can do practically whatever I want as long as I properly integrate it into the world. I guess I am heading into new unknown territory and let my nerves get the better of me.

    Thanks again for the help.
     
  5. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    Can you think of any really recent examples that are representative of this genre? I want to see what it is all about.
     
  6. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't read it (not a fantasy guy) but I've heard a lot about Brandon Sanderson's recent "Alloy of the Law". His Mistborn series is more medievalish high fantasy but for Alloy of the Law he booted the Mistborn timeline forward 300 years to a more 19th Century and used Wild West and Industrial Revolution themes.
     
  7. CrimsonKingdom
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    CrimsonKingdom New Member

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    One of the things about steampunk is that it's very science fiction oriented. You can make your technology as wacky and silly as you'd like so long as you give some sort of scientific reasoning. However, mixing fantasy into the pot can allow you to take it even a bit further and make that scientific reasoning a bit more fantastical.

    Also, don't let the standardized vision of steampunk be your only guiding point. I think the easiest way to visualize steampunk is to put yourself in the shoes of someone from the early 1900's and try to imagine what technology would be like in 100 years. Commonly, we think of steam power becoming the industry standard, but it could be whatever you want.
     
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  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't agree that it has to be science fiction oriented or use scientific reasoning. It can, certainly, but a lot of the work the term was initially coined to describe doesn't have those features. It's a bit of a broad, fuzzy category.
     
  9. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I thought Steampunk wasn't restricted to hard, workable science fiction, but was more about a neo-victorian aesthetic - either in the real world (in an alternate time line) or in an entirely fantastical world?
     
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  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I think that's a pretty good description, by and large, though some of the later stuff that still gets called steampunk loses the Victorian-style trappings.
     
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  11. Uisdean
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    Uisdean Member

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    Thank You!
    "Just write it" sounds like real freedom. I bet everyone who has not been published (like me) worries about this. But I decided to write the story the way I wanted to. "...be internally consistent." That is also great advice. Again, Thanks.
     

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