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Steampunk! — My Opinion…

Woo… I am about to share my opinion with you. It’s something I don’t do a lot of. When I do, this sort of thing happens, so I tend to keep quiet, since I’m no fan of confrontation (in real life, anyway).

Anyway, I picked up the book Steampunk!, an anthology edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, as a replacement Christmas gift (my husband did really well: he decided to buy me a Discworld novel for Christmas and, after reading the backs of a few, picked the one he thought I’d most enjoy… he was right, I love “Going Postal”, but I also already own it… ah well, nice try).

I knew I wanted to include a little science in my fantasy novel, and my antagonist began turning into a bit of an inventor. When I learned of the existence of steampunk, I knew I had to learn more – I’m tinkering on the edges, why not dive in and tinker some more?  So, the second I saw this book on the shelf at the book store, I knew it was the one for me.

No, I haven’t finished it already (oh, to have that much time), but I thought I could comment on the stories as I go through.

The book opens with “Some Fortunate Future Day” written by Cassandra Clare. The first thing I will say is that if you are like me – you love the concept of Steampunk but have yet to be immersed in it enough to find your own inspiration along that path – this book, in general, is a good start. There are ideas galore, here. I usually read as a way of chilling before sleep, but this story (and the following) only served to fire up my brain. Sleep was a long time coming after this.

The first couple of paragraphs, after the Shakespeare sonnet, were about what I expected – a nice little opening passage that gave a little back story without overloading us readers (well, it has to, it’s a short story, afterall).

And then I was taken by surprise. The story changed to present-tense and, suddenly, I was no longer in the story. I don’t know why this is so, but it just seems to be the nature of present-tense – or, perhaps it is just me.

The story follows the daughter of a talented inventor after her town has been flattened in an airship attack and her father is most likely dead (she doesn’t know for sure). Her mother died several years earlier. She finds an injured airship pilot in her garden and sets about healing him, with the help of her mechanical doll assistants, in the belief that if she does so, he will fall madly in love with her. As the pilot learns about her world, so do we. She has a chef-robot, which now only makes soup, a gardening robot, and, of course, the robotic dolls. Her father also invented a time-travel device, which proves to be of some import to the tale.

On the whole, it’s a pleasant tale, and it opens the door into the Steampunk genre nicely – the possibilities are endless.

I have made a start on “The Last Ride of The Glory Girls” by Libba Bray, and am liking that in this case the genius tinkerer is a girl (so far, she doesn’t seem to be an inventor, but that’s OK). The language of the entire piece is written to reflect how the main character speaks and thinks. It is a little jolting at first, but you settle into it. I’m not sure of the exact influence of the language, perhaps lower-class, industrial London? e.g. “were” instead of “was” (“It were …” and “give” instead of “gave” (“He give me a choice …”). I find it interesting, since, in another setting, it could easily be the other way around – “was” when “were ” should have been used “We was just …” – which just happens to be the setting I have chosen for my own tale.

“Last Ride” is first-person past-tense. I’m more comfortable with that style, so it’s going down a bit of a treat. It has fewer crazy inventions than the first tale, so far, but that just goes to illustrate the scope of this genre (or, dare I say “sub-genre”, since I can see it being an extra label to attach to fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, etc tales … although, there is no doubt it could soon fill its own section of shelves in a store).

Anyway, so far, so good from me. If you have a passing interest in this genre, a collection of short tales such as this could be just what you need to develop a deeper understanding.

2 thoughts on “Steampunk! — My Opinion…”

  1. Sounds like Cassandra Clare was pillaging some of the plot of “Mrs. Miniver.” So, “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” is an example of the steampunk genre? I think we saw some steampunk roleplayers on “Bones” or “Castle” or one of those shows. I did not know what they were. I tried reading Harry Turtledove and other alt-history books. I liked “Guns of the South,” where South Africa helps the South win the Civil War with the help of a time machine delivering grenades and AK-47s to the rebels. But I can’t stay focused enough on the genre as a whole. I’m too much of a historian – if the author says “this would have happened if this other event went differently,” then I say “yes, and then THAT would have happened, and THAT, and THAT, and you don’t mention ANY of those things!” Logic is irritating when reading alt-history, especially when you’re already well-grounded in the history of this timeline.

    • I can sympathise with that. I am a fan of logic. And I, too, have an issue with alt history (my first foray into steampunk would have been “The Adventures of Brisco County Junior” – I wasn’t a big reader back then. I still remember rolling my eyes at them ‘inventing’ jeans, rather than good ol’ Levi, and motorbikes and the like … I still enjoyed the show – “You touched Pete’s piece!”). Which is why I’m applying steampunk to Fantasy. Fantasy still has to be “real”, but you can break more rules – well, since I’m not writing about real people or places then I don’t need to worry about being true to them, do I? So long as I am true to the places I am writing about (’cause, if I ever end up with any die hard fans, they’ll KNOW if I get it wrong).

      Personally, my main interest in steampunk is the fashion and the gadgets. Plus, I do love me a cowboy – mm-mmmm.

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