I wish to thank Steve DeWinter for his very thorough and must read article on a subject that has me most curious. It is a genre, that I believe would be a challenge to tackle for any writer.
Readers of steampunk fiction fall into two categories.
Those, who read steampunk fiction and those who have never heard about steampunk fiction.
You might be asking yourself right now, ‘Why haven’t I heard about steampunk fiction?’
Well, a search on the Amazon Kindle store shows that there are only 744 results in the steampunk category (Yes! Amazon has a specific steampunk category!). And these 744 results are a very small percentage of the 45,120 results in the overall science fiction category on Amazon. Just a little under 2% (that’s 1.648936170212770% for all you math nerds) of the books in the entire science fiction category, are identified as being in the steampunk subgenre.
As the author of a recently released steampunk fiction novel, I’ve been asked to give you my take on what steampunk is all about.
A lot of people more deeply involved in the steampunk culture have answered that question in a variety of different ways. I’m not here to conflict with what anyone else has said what they think steampunk is. I’m just here to give you my thoughts on something that has been around for over 100 years yet still feels relatively new.
The word steampunk got its name from a modification of the word cyberpunk that was wildly popular in the 1980s. It was akin to calling your short fat cousin, ‘stumpy’. It was something said in passing by an author that stuck and the genre just couldn’t shake it.
Regardless of how this sub-genre got its name, the word, steampunk, is here to stay.
So what is steampunk?
The short answer: steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognisable historical period or a fantasy world.
The long answer: Well, the long answer is a little more complicated and has been hotly debated in recent years.
I think the reason for this debate is that, while steampunk is a subcategory of science fiction, it has a whole group of subcategories under it as well.
I was not around when science fiction first hit the scene (thank goodness I’m not that old), but I am certain that the authors of that time waged the same battles the authors of steampunk are waging now. Science fiction had so many flavours from so many different authors that it was almost impossible for them to agree on what science fiction really meant.
As a result, science fiction has subcategories so that you, as the reader, can further pinpoint what interests you.
When choosing which flavour of science fiction to read you can choose from the following subcategories:
Science Fiction – Action & Adventure
Science Fiction – Alternative History*
Science Fiction – Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic
Science Fiction – Hard Science Fiction
Science Fiction – Space Opera
Science Fiction – Steampunk
Science Fiction – Time Travel
Did you notice the little asterisk after alternate history? I did. Alternate history, while it is listed as a subcategory of science fiction, has also been given its own major category by the Book Industry Study Group, the people who assign the official categories of fiction used by North American publishers and booksellers.
What does this mean for alternate history? This means that alternate history can be given its own group of subclassifications that would further partition out the genre into subgenres.-
What, potentially, does this mean for steampunk?
Rather than trying to shoehorn steampunk into a single definition, we should recognise that steampunk has a mix of flavours, just like science fiction does. We should be rallying to get steampunk its own major category so that we can define subcategories under the overall steampunk heading.
And since I write science fiction novels under a pseudonym, I will use that name for my proposed list of steampunk subcategories.
So now I give you (said in an echoey announcer voice) S.D. Stuart’s Steampunk Categories of the World:
Steampunk – Adventure
Steampunk – Horror
Steampunk – Mystery
Steampunk – Romance
Steampunk – Thriller
Steampunk – Western
Steampunk – Young Adult
A, you can see there is no single definition that encompasses steampunk as a genre. Just like there is no single definition that encompasses science fiction as a genre.
I was asked here today to give those of you who know nothing about steampunk a little peek into the history of this exciting and fantastic sub-genre of speculative fiction. As this genre matures, you may find, as you read more steampunk fiction, that each author brings something new and different to the genre.
From a distance, every snowflake looks identical to all the rest in a blizzard. But science tells us, upon closer inspection, every snowflake is unique. And so it is with the current crop of steampunk fiction. Every story is unique, and that is the most exciting aspect of being part of the steampunk genre today.
About the Author:
Steve DeWinter is an American born adventure/thriller author whose evil twin writes science fiction under the pseudonym S.D. Stuart.