The formula for steampunk goes as follows:
MAD SCIENTIST INVENTOR [invention (steam x airship or metal man / baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plots = STEAMPUNK
Now, let us break this down and use my book, Gravely Inanimated, as an example for all this!
Mad Scientist Inventor: The inventors in lots of stories for steampunk are normally men. Including my own. I did this however, because I used Countess Samantha Ashdown as a different kind of strong female character in my book. I decided to make the Inventor the brainy type that is a tad dysfunctional when it comes to human contact. Whereas the Countess acts as the strong kick-butt character that handles the Inventor and is the brawn of the operation. So in a sense I did it in a different kind of way and yet I didn’t. I went with the stereotypical male as the inventor, yet added a female to be the brawn. However, in stories like Sherlock Holmes you see a male as the inventor as well. I recommend breaking away from this and adding a twist to your inventor in the story.
Inventions: As you can see you want to use steam powered inventions that were popular in the 19th century. Lots of writers like to be inspired by the art of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne for fictional machinery they built by using their art. But most steampunk-goers are enamored by the work of Edison or Tesla. You will see a lot of steampunk workshops or panels that discuss the two and their work.
The Metal Man or Airships: Though you can add both, I believe it is good to go with one or the other because you will be adding your own elaborate stylings to these creations. Now you may hear the term Automaton (Metal Man). Those terms are universal so don’t worry about missing out on something. To make my automatons elaborate in Gravely Inanimated, I made them killing machines because the characters are surrounded in a world that is full of zombies and that is what they would be most useful for. Airships, however, might be introduced in my third book to the Zombiepunk Series. So don’t worry!
Victorian Setting: Why is pseudo used when talking about the Victorian setting? Well, that would be because steampunk is either science fiction or fantasy based. It is not always the real victorian setting that authors research and make as real as possible. Some of us take our own liberties with the Victorian Age. However, normally we stick to the main attractions. IE Queen Victoria is normally the queen in the story and women are normally oppressed in some way or another. But, it is a fake type of Victorian Setting because back in the 19th century there were not the type of inventions we add to a lot of fantasy and science fiction books.
Reactionary Politics: What I find to be most true in the politics of the 19th century in steampunk books is that there is a group of people challenging the government in some way. For instance, in Gravely Inanimated I have made a man, Aeron, who hunts zombies as a vigilante. If he were ever unmasked and found out who he really is it could cause a real stir in the politics surrounding the society and who can do what there. The same way most super heroes test the boundaries of their own government in comic books today.
Action Adventure: Well, this one is quite easy. In Gravely Inanimated I have added zombies in to the game and there is a lot of fighting with these zombies therefore lots of action adventure. Even look at books by Kady Cross, such as her Steampunk Chronicles series where you see lots of battles and training for the young people with amazing abilities. It’s crazy fun and I couldn’t see a good steampunk book without a good steampunk action scene.
I hope this blog post as helped to explain the steampunk genre in a more understandable way for you!
Before I end this I would like to make one last suggestion. I am currently doing a fundraiser for myself to go to the Steampunk World Fair! I am giving away a handmade zombie doll with every purchase of a Hug A Zombie t-shirt you buy!
Here is my “spiel” (imagine how hard sales is to do over the net. So every little bit of money helps!)
You know what happens when the wolf stops blowing? He doesn't blow the house down! That is what I am talking about here. I'm talking about succeeding at life. And that is what I want to do!
This project will go toward helping me to go to the Steampunk World Faire in New Jersey on May 16th-18th. What I need is a room and a table to do my vending at. This journey into the steampunk world will help me to move forward with my writing. You want to know what inspires a writer? Life does. And life at the Steampunk World Faire helped me to write a book in a MONTH. Help me again write a book in a month by sending me to the land of steampunk inspiration.
My Zombiepunk book series helps those that are young see the greatness that is strong female characters and great heroic men. It introduces you into the life of V is for Villains (if their personas were in the 1890's). Take an action filled ride on the steampunk train of life and help me give to you so you can give to me!