While the cool cats nod their heads knowingly, others ask: What the heck is that?
Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or fantasy that has a distinctive look and includes technology and designs inspired by 19th Century industrial steam-power. The term was coined in the 1980s by writer Kevin Jeter. Although the term was recently coined, the concept of steampunk has existed for over a hundred years, in the venerated works of Jules Verne, HG Wells and others.
Steampunk literature, fashion and architecture are usually set in an alternative history of the Victorian era or the American Wild West, where steam power has maintained mainstream usage. It’s been said that steampunk runs on the Rule of Cool, with some steam-powered technology being more advanced than modern electronics. Perhaps that’s how huge airships and ornithopters are able to fly.
The concept of steampunk is far-reaching and diverse, with its various sub-genres and derivatives. Some of these are out there…way out there. For this and other reasons, I had reservations about making steampunk the setting for my second (and now, fourth) novel. It’s too soon in the series, I lamented, there are many other fascinating places that Sky and Zac could or, more properly, should travel to.
Like biblical Galilee.
I originally wanted to have the guys go back to meet Jesus Christ in the second novel. I felt that, of all possible travels through space-time, a trip to visit Jesus would be at the top of their “To Do” list. Or near the top of any chrononauts’ list.
So, I started researching. And writing. The sheer volume of material about the life of Jesus and life during his time is abundant. And daunting. Enough to start one book and complete in another. As I wrote, I kept thinking about a possible detour for the chrononauts; a detour into another dimension. A detour that readers – hell-bent on seeing their heroes meet Jesus -- wouldn’t see coming until it hit them like a dive-bombing ornie.
I wanted to create a steampunk world that was true to form, but at the same time, believable. And frankly, one that could translate to a movie screen near you.
Real buildings, gothic, with garish filigree, not built on floating islands. Gizmos with brass dials, not emerging from the top of a top hat, like Inspector Gadget. Real steam trains, airships and ornithopters, not surreal mega spider vehicles. Real characters, not shiny automatons. Real clothing, real fashion. Brass goggles and flimsy bustiers yes, mechanical spiders, no.
Steampunk Light, perhaps, but Steampunk Real; if that were only possible.
For a time travel novel, steampunk fits snug, like Nelly Lovelocks’ fingerless glove. Cogs and clocks play a big part in steampunk technology. The simplicity and elegance of one cog turning another is pleasing to the eye. Reaching into your overcoat to extricate your silver and brass pocket watch, you could easily be mesmerized by the rotations and intricate movement of the cogs, driving the hands forward through time…ticking, ticking…
Over the last twenty years or so, people who enjoy the steampunk aesthetic have come together and grown, through forums and social meetups. There are now annual conventions, expos and other steam-powered festivals that celebrate all aspects of the culture, its music, fashion and the associated paraphernalia.
Steampunk has become more than an aesthetic, more than merely a way of dressing up. Steampunk, it steems, is here to stay.
Craig retired in 2015 and has been writing ever since. And boy, is his hand tired.