One response I got to my last blog post celebrating steampunk was a recommendation for the The Parasol Protectorate book series by Gail Carriger (http://gailcarriger.com/), and I did mention this was interesting yesterday due to her position as one of a handful of female writers in the genre. While I haven’t read her series yet myself, it does come highly regarded and well-reviewed. I find her background in archeology particular interesting, as that’s one element of steampunk cosplay to which I’m inexplicably drawn; if I ever were to go full bore with dressing up at a con, I’ve often thought I would go with a kind of “lady Indiana Jones” sort of thing, complete with pith helmet and jodhpurs.
The first book in the Parasol series, Soulless (2009, Orbit) was nominated for a Locus Poll Award. Reviews of her work frequently cite her use of witty wordplay, another favorite device of mine. Too much steampunk, I fear, is deadly serious, or can be if it tends to emphasize the science more than the characterization, and I think that’s something Carriger is managing to avoid. I’m excited to check out her work.
If you have more book recs, please send them my way in the comments or send me a reply on Twitter (@kwtaylorwriter).
Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction involving a reimagining of the late Victorian era as a time of innovation powered by extant technology, such as steam, clockworks, repurposed mechanical items, and is at times also infused with either time travel or “scientific romance” in the style of H.G. Wells or Mary Shelley or even the trajectory of romantic horror moving from Poe to Lovecraft into the early twentieth century pulp fiction auteurs. There are also variations on these ideas that set the action in either other dimensions, universes, or the future, though there is usually still a strong Victorian aesthetic at work. Steampunk visual style has much in common with the gothic subculture of the 1970s-1990s, though there is a sense of optimism and whimsy that was often lacking at the height of popular culture goth ideology (and I say this as a recovered goth). Cosplay, music, and art are huge components of the steampunk movement, though the heart and soul of steampunk remains the literature, television, and film.
Authors with multiple works on lists of “best of steampunk” include K.W. Jeter, Michael Moorcock, James Blaylock, China Miéville, Toby Frost, Chris Wooding, and Gail Carriger. Carriger is notable for being one of the only women on such lists, because despite the aesthetic of the movement being very popular with female fans, there is a distinct lack of female voices on the literary side of things. This is a shame, because many female-centric media properties with strong steampunk influences exist outside of the hard-SF realm (Alias, Firefly, and Doctor Who come to mind, all of which feature incredibly strong female characters and had many women on the writing staffs) but don’t seem to have fully proliferated the literature.
Later this month, I’ll give some more steampunk literature recommendations and discuss my steampunk series The Curiosity Killers.
Last weekend, I went to Pandoracon, a new multi-fandom convention with a steampunk bent to it. I’ve been to probably four different “brands” of science fiction/gaming/fandom conventions at this point, but I’m only just now getting kind of into the steampunk scene, as it were. As a recovered goth, I must say I find the neo-Victorian elements the most appealing part of the cosplay and literature, and I do enjoy the optimism and dedication to research that steampunk engenders in its fans. I would also hasten to say that my multi-part story series The Curiosity Killers (which I hope to turn into a composite novel) is something I’d definitely call “steampunk inspired.” Over the next month, I’ll be shining a spotlight on both steampunk in general and how my story both differs and adheres to various steampunk elements. For now, I’d love to hear about people’s favorite steampunk-inspired television, film, literature, music, and artworks. What do dedicated steampunks think are seminal works that one should become acquainted with in order to fully appreciate the genre?
In other news, if you’re local to the Dayton, Ohio area, please come to Ghostlight Coffee this Sunday, October 7th at 7:30 pm for the next installment of GHOSTLIGHT LIT. Ten authors will be reading horror stories in anticipation of the Halloween season getting into full swing. I’ll be serving as M.C. once more and debuting a little flash piece that hasn’t even been published yet. We’ve got a great line-up of poets and fiction authors, so grab a warm latté and settle in for some scares!