It gives me great pleasure to introduce my very special guest, my Paper Crane press mate, the amazing Mrs. Holly Barbo! Enjoy her insight on steampunk and how it influenced her latest novel, “Sunstone.”
Geared for Steampunk
Hi everyone. Morgan asked me here today to discuss what is Steampunk and why I chose to write a book in this genre. Hmmm.
There are delightful aspects of steampunk that draws interest. If you are into cosplay nothing beats a fantastic steampunk outfit: Corsets, brass goggles, top hats or newsy caps, pocket watches and fascinating sci-fi level gadgets. A blend between the Victorian steam-powered world and advanced machines. Wow what a combination!
There was the Wild Wild West series and decades later a movie with the same name. Both fit the above description but when I began reading steampunk, I realized it really is poorly or loosely defined. Some were labeled steampunk but had little of the four core elements. So today I’m going to take a crack at defining it for you.
Let’s start with the fact that the world has to run on steam: cars, dirigibles, trains, factories all steam powered. That places the general era as sometime from 1870 to 1915, roughly, if the story takes place on Earth though it’s really an alternate timeline or history. It fits as a sub-genre of science fiction or science fantasy so it can take place on another world as long as all other characteristics are correct.
Elements of that time period set the society in an early industrial frame complete with the tug of the problems that era had. It was gritty with old social standards yet going against convention (which is the PUNK in the title).
The era had the very rich and the very poor. Factories were becoming the main working situation but regulations were not necessarily in place. It was free-wheeling and fanciful yet at the same time outlandish, dangerous and possibly grotesque. Sometimes the change is handled through the players of the story. Kick-ass heroines step out of the Victorian norm to be cutting edge, society changing characters. Other times the culture itself is on a pivotal point of transformation.
The birth of the change between the old and the emerging new opens up with the fantasy inventions that are liberally sprinkled in the stories. Steampunk could be seen as Victorian science fiction. Believe me, that’s a fascinating part of it’s charm!
Steampunk has the romance of that bygone time yet has incredible, futuristic inventions and mechanicals that run with gears, clockworks, primitive computers and pressure plates. It can have robotics from household helpers to war machines and these inventions are woven into the life and story line.
A FANTASY MIX?
There can be magic (shades of Harry Potter) or can have elements of Sherlock Holmes. Fantasy creatures can be present as can elements of the occult but these are secondary to the above core elements: steam, change and fantastic mechanicals.
As to the question of why I chose to write Sunstone in this genre? Well, it was a matter of changing gears. I’d just completed a five book sci-fantasy series on a low-tech bucolic world called Ose. It was a good series but the setting had limitations built in and I wanted to explore topics that couldn’t happen there. I looked at steampunk as well as futuristic sci-fi. In the course of my research I was intrigued with the possibility of steampunk even though I found several books labeled as that genre which didn’t fit… so I dug deeper. I decided my story would fit the above four points and began to write.
The steam power and inventive clockwork mechanicals enhanced the story without overpowering it. After all it is the way of life on Myrn not the prominent driving force of the story. Being an eco-aware person I built a world that had an abundance of geothermal vents so the steam power is cleaner than our gritty early industrial time but that was the only concession I made. Still vapor filled the air above factories and aether lamps were set on every street corner. The characters struggled with some bad situations that came with the times but did so with touches of fantasy and creative mechanicals while wearing victorian style clothing. What’s not to love about that?
I hope that helps. I’d love to hear your input as it is a fascinating genre. Go forth and read Steampunk! 😀
Living where the scenery is incredible with a rich abundance of wildlife “is so special and soothing that it feels like a quiet kind of magic,” according to Barbo. She is drawn to creating stories where there is just a bit of something unworldly, perhaps it is magic or psychic skills. Her stories are mostly in non-urban settings and usually have some focus on nature, building a discordant drama inside the peaceful frame.
A steampunk thriller
Before there was a history, the sun goddess Navora visited a moon within her realm that held primitive ocean life. She dipped her staff of power into the primordial sea and stirred. Pleased with what she had wrought, she departed, not at all troubled that a divine spark had touched two small dying sea creatures.
As centuries pass, life on the moon develops into a geothermal steam-powered industrial age. A triumvirate of politicians, banks and corporations bring strain and suffering to the masses they rule over. Unbeknownst to the people of the moon, there may be help. With the gears of time evermoving and trouble spiraling to a crisis point, can three individuals and a handful of fossils prevent a violent revolution?