Steampunk: the new old genre.
Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are the fathers of Steampunk, what with Captain Nemo’s Nautilus:
and the Time Traveller and his machine:
The word “Steampunk” conjures thoughts of gears, goggles, parasols and petticoats. Ingenious technology paired with Victorian sensibilities. It’s often easier to show someone a picture than try to explain the Steampunk genre in words.
Sure, the trappings are cool–the computer with the fine oak cabinetry, the steam-powered bomb factory, the button-up leather coat. But isn’t it interesting that Steampunk stories are generally set around the Victorian Era–and not past around 1930?
Why? You ask. Why? Why? Why?
Well, you’ve come to the right place, my dears. I have all your answers.
Steampunklandia is a safe place to play. To challenge ideas. Like who should be considered strong or weak, who is appealing and who is repugnant. Even who is right or wrong.
Once upon a time authors wrote about any human being they wanted to, in any fashion they wished, with impunity. The Pinhead. Jo Jo the Dog-Faced Boy. The Snake Girl. But now, it’s no longer popular to write about characters as OUTLANDERS. Our society has come to understand that we are all human beings, even the most seemingly different among us have the same fundamental desires and needs, and the right to respect and dignity.
Now, take the gal on the right:
You are not going to get away with writing about this little lady in a straight novel.
If an author wants to write about a gypsy in a modern-day novel, she will have to shed light on the historical context of gypsies: how they’ve been persecuted, their culture, lifestyle, migration patterns. Heck. She won’t even get to call them gypsies.
But in a Steampunk book, there is an alternate universe she can populate with all kinds of clichés and politically incorrect characters, because it is OTHER. Steampunklandia may feel familiar, but it is not our world. We have permission to enjoy any character the author cares to dream up.
I think it’s a good thing that we demand gypsies aren’t just silly, two-dimensional characters in our literature any more. That we want to know their real story.
But come on. Somewhere deep in a guilty little corner of your soul…don’t you miss stuff like this?
I wonder how many people recognize where the title of this post comes from. Does anyone read Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass anymore? Perhaps the craziness of real life has squelched the desire for the absurd in literature.
I am a children’s writer, primarily YA fantasy. I live in the imaginal realm four to six hours a day. It is a strangely familiar yet dangerous place, filled with our most profound fears and joy. I am lucky to work where myth and legend, imagination and creativity, and monsters and saints live.