Saturday, November 6, 2010

An Introduction to Steampunk

Hello!  My name is Vanessa Barger, and Kimberley has graciously asked me to blog on the first Saturdays of every month about YA writing, reading and such. Since this is the first post, I thought I'd start by introducing myself.

So, I'm Vanessa. I write YA/MG novels of many persuasions, but mostly paranormal and steampunk. I have a book coming out with Noble Romance Publishing's new YA line, which I'll reveal more about later when I have a release date and such to share. I also run an online critique group for YA/MG writers, called the YA Fiction Fanatics.

So what else can I tell you? I teach high school technology education in rural Virginia. I love reading and travel and cooking. All of which make an appearance in my stories at some point.

I think, for the rest of my post, I’ll address a topic I adore. Steampunk. Its great to create a world where everything runs on steam, men still have manners, women can be strong and wear a corset without hanging out all over the place, and there is a blend of old-fashioned tradition and new ideas and discoveries.

Raise your hand if you know what steampunk is.

A few hands, fantastic.

Now raise your hand if you can easily explain it.

Even less hands.
Wikipedia describes it as “[…] a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.
Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of "the path not taken" for such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage's Analytical engine.
Steampunk is often associated with cyberpunk. They have considerable influence on each other and share a similar fan base, but steampunk developed as a separate movement. Apart from time period and level of technology, the main difference is that steampunk settings tend to be less dystopian.
Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.”

Whew. What a mouthful! And it doesn’t really explain too much either. You have to know about Victoriana and what a Babbage analytical engine is and…well, it’s a hard topic. Even trying to simplify it, saying, “Think of a world where electricity and motors didn’t happen. Everything runs on steam, and it’s still the Victorian age.”

Not so easy to visualize. That was the problem I had when I tried to explain to my parents what it was. My mom thought the book was great, and she “got it” after reading it, but when she tried to explain it to her friends, she was at a loss.

We finally resorted to movies. I told her that City of Ember was a close comparison. But it’s not perfect. So I’m posting some great websites to go and look at the ideas and things behind it. There’s a magazine, Steampunk Magazine, that’s always got interesting things. The Steampunk Workshop has great projects and pictures. The Steampunk World’s Fair is in NJ every year. (I’m hoping to go this year.)  The Steampunk Tribune is a great resource, as is Brass Goggles.There are even steampunk musicians now – Abney Park is one of the most famous, as well as groups like Sunday Driver.

Check out a few and see if you catch the bug.
See you December 4!


Nayuleska said...

Hi Vanessa, great post here! I love steampunk - it's a great genre. Although I might have got into it before meeting Kimber An, I now keep an eye out for steampunk for her.

Kimber An said...

Great post, Vanessa! Love me some good Steampunk.

Riya said...

Hi Vanessa,
I am too a book worm!
And just love to read books,
especially romance! Can't live without it.
I hope we can become friends and shre our book opinions with eachother.