Friday, November 11, 2011


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Getting the News Out and Friends Being Awesome

I've been surprised lately by the sheer awesome of the Steampunk community at large. Being that I've written about the scene for awhile now, you'd think that wasn't possible. Except in this case it is, because more than a few people have written their own blogs about the project (at my request, but it still shocked me). And then there's two fellow Steampunks -- Andrea McDade and O.M. Grey -- who really surprised me because they offered further incentives for people to donate to the magazine.

Sarah Hans, one of the magazine's writers, offers her reasons why you should donate: http://sarahhans.com/2011/09/26/dr-fantastiques-needs-you/

Nancy Overbury of Overbury Ink, a fellow Steampunk journalist, featured the Kickstarter in her weekly Steam Tuesday article: http://overburyink.com/?p=2688

Nicholas L. Garvey, a Steampunk friend, blogged about the fundraiser: http://nlg-steampunk.blogspot.com/2011/10/doctor-fantastiques-kickstarter.html

Andrea McDade is offering up a 6x9 watercolor portrait if you donate $20 or more and email her a screenshot as proof. Donate $50 or more and she'll even send it to you: http://goodshipsappho.tumblr.com/post/11614943911/doctor-fantastiques-show-of-wonders-steampunk-magazine.The best part is that even if the Kickstarter doesn't succeed, you still get the painting.

Olivia Grey, Steampunk authoress, is offering up a free e-copy of your choice between her novels Avalon Revisited or The Zombies of Mesmer if you donate $25 or more to the Kickstarter and comment on her blog post that you did: http://omgrey.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/steampunk-spotlight-doctor-fantastiques-magazine

As if helping us launch this magazine into the stratosphere through donating wasn't enough, you've now got even further incentives from Andrea and Olivia to pass along your donations.

If you're uncomfortable donating, and I know some people might be, check out my blog post over at Free the Princess (my personal blog) for more ways you can support the magazine.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Doc F's Kickstarter update


So the Kickstarter for Doc F's is nearly halfway done, and we haven't even reached $1,000 yet. I'm starting to get a bit worried, so on suggestion of a friend of the magazine, I'm reposting here what you get when you donate:

Pledge $1 or more -- A thank you on the website, a shoutout on Twitter, and mention on Facebook
Pledge $10 or more -- Everything above, plus a thank you in the magazine and a free business-card sized advertisement
Pledge $15 or more -- Everything above, plus a copy of the January/February 2012 issue signed by Doctor Fantastique
Pledge $25 or more -- Everything above, plus a unique hand-painted pin from Merchandise Consultant Kristin Berwald
Pledge $50 or more -- Everything above, plus a copy of the July 2011 print issue (Volume 1, Issue 1) signed by Doctor Fantastique
Pledge $100 or more -- Everything above, plus a Doctor’s Note editorial written thanking you. (The first editorials will appear in the January/February 2012 issue).
Pledge $250 or more -- Everything above, plus all four 2011 issues and a two-year subscription.
Pledge $500 or more -- Everything above, plus a special letterpress item done by Calliope Strange, author of Aeryn Daring and the Scientific Detective: A Serial Novel
Pledge $1,000 or more -- Everything above, plus a feature article on a topic of your choice to run in an issue of Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders. (Feature articles will first appear in the January/February 2012 issue)

So please help us launch into offset printing -- you get some cool stuff!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Support Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders and you Support the Community

By now, y'all are probably aware that I'm the Publisher/Executive Editor and Founder of Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders, an online and POD print magazine. Our mission statement there is to be "Reporting on the Steampunk world, one cog at a time." As a result of this, we've managed to get some very awesome writers and artists to volunteer their time into creating articles for the website and print magazine and in actually designing the print magazine.

We’re currently selling the print issues through MagCloud, a print-on-demand service offered by Hewlett-Packard. The problem with this approach is that we have to sell each magazine for $15 (plus shipping of $2.63) in order to make any revenue off the print copies of the magazine. The e-version is sold at $3.99, incidentally, which offers roughly the same margin.  

Since the post title says "Support Doctor Fantastique's," you're probably off and wondering now what the heck that's actually about.  

Here's the thing: we want to start printing the magazine on a traditional offset press. This will allow me and my volunteers to do a whole mess of fun things as it regards the magazine, including turning the print copy into what amounts to a Victorian magazine printed using 21st Century technology. This would be ridiculously cool, and we really want to go this direction to bring you the best product possible.  

To do that though, we need funding because currently ... well ... we have none. Everything as it regards Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders has been coming out of my own pocket since June 2010 when I launched the website. I've funded it myself because I believe in the project, and though we've broken even and made a bit this year it's all gone back into funding the magazine or the website for one reason or another. My volunteers and I are doing this all in our spare time (in my case what little of it I have), and love every minute of being able to promote the Steampunk community and write about the amazing people involved in this subculture that we all love. 

We want to provide the best product we can to all of our readers, but to do that we need to be able to switch to offset printing for the magazine. Once that happens, the price per copy drops significantly. I'm talking $6.99 in the U.S. and $8.99 in Canada as opposed to $17.63 (with shipping). We can also then offer subscriptions to everyone who wants one and be able to fill them at a significant cost savings to both Doctor Fantastique's and to you the reader.  

Yes, we could go with just an electronic edition to save some serious money, but Steampunk is about bringing the past into the future and the print medium just has so much more to offer than electronic right now. (At least in my mind it does.) It taps more into the true spirit of Steampunk. We don't have the capital to make offset printing happen for Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders, and so that's why I'm coming to you to ask for help. 

There's a number of ways you can make a difference:
  1. Tell people about us. I know it’s ridiculously simple, but whether you Tweet about what we’re doing, our kickstarter fund, mention us on Facebook, blog about the publication, take a copy to a conference with you and show it around, it all makes a difference. And costs you nothing!
  2. Buy a subscription – While the Kickstarter funds us for the first 3 issues, buying a subscription, on the other hand, will fund us for the entire year if we get enough people to sign on. It costs $40 for a full year of Print or Print/Electronic, and $20 for a full year of Electronic. One year is 9 issues by the way. And there's also a subscription drive going until the end of 2011 with some cool prizes.
  3. Donate to our Kickstarter fund – Our goal is $12,000 by November 23rd. This money will allow us to print the first 3 issues (January/February, March, and April) on an offset press and sell them at conventions/ship them out to subscribers. There's some killer rewards, including hand-made pins from jewelry designer Kristin Berwald and a special letterpress item from Nicole Sylvester (aka Calliope Strange, author of Aeryn Daring and the Scientific Detective). Whether it’s $5, $10, $50, $100 or more, every bit gets us closer to the goal.
  4. Buy an advertisement -- We've got some very attractive advertising rates, including web rates as low as $10 and print rates as low as $35 for 3 lines of text listing your product or service. Email me at matthew.delman@doctorfantastiques.com if you're interested in advertising and I'll pass along the pricing information.
  5. Buy an entertaining read -- We've currently got Chapter One of Aeryn Daring and the Scientific Detective and Chapter One of Steamsteel available as eBooks through the Amazon Kindle store. They're only $2.99 and every sale benefits Doctor Fantastique's. Alternately, you can pick up a copy of our (admittedly expensive) magazines at MagCloud. We're going to be releasing four issues this year total and a total of 14 eBook installments of our serialized stories. I'll keep announcing the releases, and if you like them please purchase a copy. Honestly you’ll spend more on a cup of coffee in a single morning at Starbucks, why not support a fantastique Steampunk magazine instead?
Because at the end of the day, we serve you the Steampunk community, and any investment you make the magazine, and the wonderful volunteers is an investment in making the community better. So please help however you can, and know that I appreciate it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A day of days ...

Three years ago, I proposed to Her Highness the Missus in the gazebo of the Port Orleans French Quarter resort in Walt Disney World. Naturally, she said yes, and we began on a whirlwind adventure that culminated in the middle of September 2009.

That day in 2009 was Sunday, September 13.

At 2 pm Eastern time that day, I said "I do" to the most amazing, funny, and smart woman I'd ever met. She's since become my best friend, my partner in the crazy, and a source of constant amusement.

Today marks two years since that fateful day, and I love her more each day that passes. She's done nothing but push me to take leaps I hadn't thought of before.

So Happy Anniversary to my gorgeous wife .... and here's to hoping I get to say that for a lot more years.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Subscription Drive at Doctor Fantastique's

Faithful readers! I'm quite proud to announce that Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders is officially offering SUBSCRIPTIONS

Click on the Subscriptions page in the left sidebar and fill out the form for us to get your information. Once you do that, we'll be in contact with payment details.

Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Tell your dog to subscribe!

Oh, and we're also offering some impetus to tell your friends. For every 10 people you convince to subscribe, you'll get a $25 gift card to a retailer of your choice.

If you convince 100 people to subscribe, then you'll get a personal phone call from Chief Editor Matthew Delman and a copy of the 2012 Great Plains Steampunk calendar, signed by James Conrad Agin and his team. All proceeds of the calendar go to charity, so this is for a good cause! 

Get 1,000 subscribers to sign up and you'll select a prize of your choice. Your prize has to be $500 or less though; that's the only rule.

The best part about this? Is that you can win these prizes MULTIPLE times.  

The Rules
  1. Only paying subscriptions are counted. An email newsletter sign-up, while good, is not counted toward your referral number.
  2. All referrals must be submitted by December 31, 2011.
  3. The person you refer MUST LIST YOU AS THE REFEREE in the "Who Referred You?" box on the sign-up form.
Happy referring!

This was originally posted at DoctorFantastiques.com

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Summer of Steampunk

The Summer of Steampunk


By Matthew Delman, Chief Editor

Abaddon Books is declaring the next two weeks The Summer of Steampunk in honor of their Pax Brittannia series of novels, the world's longest-running series of Steampunk novels.

Starting today, they're launching the promotion that'll mark a new direction in the series at the dedicated Pax Britannia Facebook page. Michael Molcher, the PR coordinator, also mentioned that "the event will culminate in a major announcement about a surprising new book which throws away the rulebook of how genre publishing works."

If you haven't heard of Pax Brittania, it's a series of stories set in the late 20th Century where Queen Victoria is kept alive by Steampunk technology and the British Empire never fell. With characters like Jonathan Green's swashbuckling agent of the Empire, Ulysses Quicksilver, and Al Ewing's ultra-violent El Sombra, Pax Brittannia is sure to excite Steampunk readers.

There'll be free eBooks and competition giveaways as well as debate and word from the Abaddon authors about what makes steampunk so much fun.

According to Jonathan Oliver, editor-in-chief of Abaddon Books, “Pax Britannia is one of the longest running steampunk adventures in publishing, and our Summer of Steampunk will bring a host of goodies bound to appeal to new and old readers of the series alike.”

Editor's Note: This originally ran on www.doctorfantastiques.com

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An important event

A very, very important event happened today a number of years ago. An event without which I would've been significantly lessened as a person (despite my contention that I survived 25 years just fine).

This "event" to which I refer is the birth of Her Highness the Missus. Like Harry Potter, born at the end of July, she's become a special fixture in my life. And though she doesn't have a lightning bolt scar on her forehead, she's got a bit of magic of her own.

So here's to the woman who was brave (or foolish) enough to agree to marry me. Happy birthday, sweetheart.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders in Print

Wow it's been a long time since anything new's gone up here, hasn't it?

Life in the World of Matthew has been incredibly busy as of late. Between my losing a fairly lucrative part-time job, Her Highness the Missus and I hunting for a new place to live (we're moving out of the current place due to a whole host of reasons), and my own self attempting to launch both a freelance writing career and make Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders into a proper going concern ... you can see why I haven't really had much chance to spend here with all you fine folks.

That all said, a momentous occasion has occurred than I want to share with you. You see, for the past two months or so, myself and the team over at Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders have been working hard to bring the magazine into a brand-new medium (for us at least, not brand new for everyone else). So it's with great pleasure that I announce we've put out our very first print edition for purchase from the fine folks at MagCloud.com. Click on the link below and you'll get taken to the purchase page.
Volume 1, Issue 1

Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders Issue 1: Volume 1, Issue 1

Come Join the Show! Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders is a steampunk magazine chock-full of features on movies, comic books, conventions, and stellar short fiction. This month we serialize two novels for the first time!

Find out more on MagCloud


I'd greatly appreciate y'all heading over there and buying a copy, but failing that if you could please re-blog the fact that we now have a print issue for sale I'd be extraordinarily happy. To re-blog, click the Repost.Us button down at the bottom of the post and you'll get an embed code that you can use.

We're going to be releasing this as a monthly publication, and I'll be announcing the issues over at DoctorFantastiques.com as they're available for sale.

An additional note: If you have a Steampunk story you want to see covered, drop me a note at matthew.delman@doctorfantastiques.com and I'll assign one of my amazing correspondents to cover it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

GUEST POST: The Perilous Prophecy Haunted London Blog Tour with Leanna Renee Hieber


About the Haunted London Blog Tour: The Haunted tour has become tradition to celebrate release week of my Strangely Beautiful series of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels. Here I introduce the real, documented London haunts who “ghost-star” in the latest book. Special thanks, as always, to Richard Jones, www.haunted-london.com, for being my foremost ghostly resource! About this prequel novel: The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess features a young Beatrice Smith grappling with her duties as leader of The Guard of spectral police, while a faltering Goddess of beauty and light sacrifices all for a snow-white child of destiny to be born into the gilded Victorian Age. For all involved in the making of delicate Prophecy, the answers to divine questions lie in passionate, imperfect mortal hearts. -- I write Gothic novels, so prepare a capital D for Drama, set your sights on ghosts and myth, prophecies and fraught perils, all manner of intense characters, and come along for the ride!

Today’s ghost: The Ghostly Duelist of the Camden Arms

In the 1840s Colonel Fawcett died in a bloody pool at the Camden Arms Inn, the fallen loser in one of London’s last historical duels. Presently there’s a Brewing Company on the site of the Camden Arms. Many a patron said he was seen in a rear staircase of the building, thought to be near his exact place of death. He hasn’t been seen some time, but pub expert Mike Lewis was reported as saying about the matter; “Just because he hasn’t been seen for a while doesn’t mean he’s not there.”

Here’s how I allude to this story in a latter chapter. From The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess:

Back in London, Alexi and his Guard were ghost hunting. It was a rough case. The Pull had brought them to a grand inn outside the city proper, a stone edifice ringed with lush rose bushes and a tended lawn.
            The storm was merciless, rain soaking them as they worked. Alexi wound fire around the irascible spirit of a man who’d died in one of London’s last legal duels, but his was not the only spectre braving the storm. The sky was lit with a horde of luminous dead, all swaying, mouths open, as if offering proclamations or warnings. Not that the Guard could hear their wailing cries.
            “Alexi,” Rebecca called in alarm. She stood under a portico with an open notebook. She furiously scribbled down every particular of the situation, as was her custom.
            “Yes?”
            She pointed to the stone foundations lined with red rosebushes. “The roses.”
            “What about them?”
            Her face was ashen. “They were white. When we arrived, these roses were all white.
            Throwing a definitive punch of blue fire to stun the duelist spirit into submission, Alexi bent to touch the deep red blossoms. They were wet. He brought his fingers to his nose and took a step back. All the roses were covered in blood.
            Josephine the Artist cried out. “Is this a sign of Prophecy?”
            Alexi set his jaw. “Everything in our age is a sign of Prophecy.”
He touched his blue fire-kissed palm to the open bloom, and the blood streaked to reveal a still-white petal beneath. As he made contact, the crimson began to roll away as if repelled. Too oily to be human, the gore dripped to the earth.
            “So shall we heal the world,” Michael intoned, staring at the subtle miracle. “Through blood and fire.”
            “So long as the world is not too awash in blood,” Alexi retorted. “Every power has its limits.”
He glanced at the sky filled with clustered dead and wondered at the Guard’s ability to maintain balance. They felt dangerously close to a fulcrum. With such omens, he couldn’t be sure of long-term success, even though the duelist’s spirit appeared mollified. He used his cerulean fire to kiss clean the bushes.

-- (End of Excerpt)

Leave a comment for your chance to win either a download code or a print copy of one Strangely Beautiful book from the series (winner’s preference)! Follow along the rest of the tour for more ghost stories and chances to win! Tour schedule available via the Haunted London Tour page of my website: http://leannareneehieber.com where you can also find the archives from Haunted Tours past! I also hope you’ll join me for the launch of my new MAGIC MOST FOUL saga of Gothic Victorian Paranormal novels set in 1880s NYC with Sourcebooks Fire. DARKER STILL (Magic Most Foul #1) hits the shelves 11/11!

Thanks so much Free the Princess for hosting me! Happy Haunting!

Leanna Renee Hieber

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Special Omnibus of Doctor Bill Shakes Anthology Announcement

All right, so you may or may not recall that a few months ago I announced the The Omnibus of Doctor Bill Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetrameter: A Steampunk's Shakespeare Anthology, which I'm co-editing with Lia Keyes and Jaymee Goh.

I mention it again now because we've been getting some questions lately about when we're going to announce which stories have been accepted and which ones have been rejected. We've discussed this question, naturally, and we decided that we're going to wait until after the submission deadline has passed before we start announcing the line-up of stories that will be included in the anthology.

As you'll recall, said submission deadline is 12 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time on 30 May 2011. That means everyone who's submitted thus far has roughly another month until we start announcing who we've chosen to include in the anthology.

I know this is a long time to wait, especially for those who submitted something to us earlier in the year. However, the consensus is that this is the best for everyone involved, because we want to give all the writers who expressed interest in submitting a fair chance to send their story in.

Mind you -- we're reading all submissions as they come in, so the announcement of the list may come pretty darn quickly after the submission deadline passes. So watch this space, and the one over at SteampunkShakespeare.com to see the final story list sometime in June or July.

Friday, April 15, 2011

GUEST POST: The Dangers of Steampunk – Don’t Forget the Punk

Sophie Playle is living the impoverished aspiring writer’s dream. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing and works as a freelance editor to pay her library fines. Her writings can be found at http://sophieplayle.com. This article originally appeared on Sophie's website.


Steampunk celebrates the aesthetic goodness of the Victorian era – and herein lies the problem. When steampunk becomes all about the way things look (a pretty parasol here, a cog-powered machine there), and the theory of advanced technology is applied to the creation of a superpower/empire, the genre is in danger of losing the most important part of its namesake: punk.

Paul Jessup addresses this danger in his article ‘The Future of Steampunk‘ which can be found on his excellent blog, Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review:
Novels not only give us a bit of escapism, but are also inspirations and blueprints to our thought process and our moral centers. [...] Steampunk as escapism that tells us Empire is grand! [...] We need to see more books with an anti-Empire bent, about anarchists trying to overthrow the evils of Colonialism and the wrongs of a Monarchy. Or even more books taking place in worlds that don’t have Empires.
Steampunk has been criticised for ignoring the bad elements of the Victorian society, such as child labour, slavery, extreme poverty, imperialism, racism… etc, simply because of the want to romanticise the era.

C Scott Morris adds to the discussion:
I don’t think Steampunks romanticize imperialism. One of the key features to the genre/subculture is ‘punk’. Rebellion.
Steampunk does not ignore the negative side of the period, nor does it embrace it. With Steampunk, and it’s sister Cyberpunk, there is a feeling of dystopia, of tyranny and repression, and Steampunk rebels against it. Steampunk is away of saying that all those negative things from the past are still going on now, and we don’t like it.
So where is this impression coming from? Could it be that by revelling in the aesthetic elements of Victorian times, people are essentially romanticising the era? Can such a leap be made, from the appreciation of artistry to the acceptance of out-dated values? Perhaps Jessup has a point: despite the innocence of escapism, are steampunks inadvertently attaching themselves to these values?

But wait. As Morris says, we mustn’t forget the ‘punk’ in all of this. There is a difference between Victoriana and steampunk.

Steampunk is not there to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the prettiness of the 19th century. The whole point of setting the genre in the past is to highlight the same terrible issues that are still relevant today. Just as dystopian fiction is usually set in a parallel future society to hold a mirror up to our own, steampunk is set in a parallel historical society to say ‘learn from the mistakes of the past – look what could have happened. Look what is happening now.’ If the steampunk book you’re reading doesn’t have this element to it, perhaps it isn’t steampunk.

(image from ectoplasmosis)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dark Days in Bright City at Nevermet Press

I was surfing Twitter a few weeks ago, as I'm apparently doing every day now, when I happened across an account for Nevermet Press. Now, this was interesting to me because Nevermet Press had put out an open call for a collection they call Stories in the Ether, which is going to be a series of short pieces posted on their website and then collected into a multi-format eBook in 2012.

I asked Nevermet Press editor Jonathan Jacobs if they accepted reprints, and upon his confirmation that they did, I sent him along "Dark Days in Bright City." If you've been hanging around this blog for some time, then y'all already know that "Dark Days" is the story I sold to FISSURE Magazine back in November and also serialized on the blog a few months after that.

However! I got the word two weeks ago that Nevermet Press planned to include "Dark Days in Bright City" as part of the Stories in the Ether series, and guess what? It's live on the Nevermet Press website today! Go over there and read it, everyone -- there's also going to be ART with it.

I'm very, very excited about this because the folks at Nevermet Press are amazing to work with. They've also got their finger on the pulse of RPG gaming, which is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Look out, because I might write some stuff for that part of their site in the future. I'll let you all know!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CROSS-POST: HOW DO I WRITE A STEAMPUNK STORY?

Dru Pagliassotti is a professor in the communications department at California Lutheran University, whose research interests include the Western reception of boys love fiction from Japan; however her interests are currently in a shift toward studying the rise of the male/male romance as a niche genre among women writers. However, Dr. Pagliassotti is better known for writing the Fantasy Steampunk tale Clockwork Heart. You can visit her website at http://drupagliassotti.com and follow her on Twitter (@drupagliassotti).

Matt's Note: This is cross-posted from STEAMED with the gracious permission of Suzanne Lazear.


HOW DO I WRITE A STEAMPUNK STORY?
by Dru Pagliassotti

Steampunk fiction consists of two elements-the steam, or gaslamp aesthetic, iconography specific to the genre — and the punk, a critical ideology orpolitical stance that satirizes, challenges, or subverts societal trends.

Each element is a necessary but not sufficient condition for labeling a story steampunk: steampunk needs both the aesthetic and the critique. Much fiction is labeled steampunk that is all steam and no punk; these works are more accurately called steampulp. So, how do you write steampunk?

THE STEAM:

The steam refers to technology that runs on steam power, of course, since classic steampunk is based or draws upon 19th century culture. Steampunk has been extended in both historical directions, however, and as often as not it mixes several historical periods in a single work, such as a 19th-century England that includes both practicing alchemists and rigid airships. Writers have the freedom to choose which technologies and settings they want to use, although the farther the historical setting is from a 19th century equivalent, the more fantastic and complicated the technologies will have to become to capture the spirit of the genre.

Steampunk’s gaslamp aesthetic reclaims the future that 19th century writers dreamed we would be living today but that never came about — a bright, shiny, elegant future of fine craftsmanship and exquisite sensibility powered by awe-inspiring, world-improving technologies. (Never mind the fact that, in the 19th century, this world wouldn’t have been meant for everybody; we’ll get to that in the punk part of this essay.)

Thus the classic 19th century gaslamp aesthetic, from A to Z, might look something like this: Airships, brass goggles, canes-corsets-cravats-chronometers, difference engines, electromagnetism, factories, gaslights, hired help, iron men, juggernauts, keypunch machines, lords and ladies, military service, newspapers, orientalism, poverty, queens, railroads, society affairs, tea, urbanization, velocipedes, workhouses, xenophobia, young anarchists, and zeppelins.

Writers can find a longer list of iconic elements at Writing.Com. Victorian technologies are overviewed in an occasional but useful series at Free the Princess and here at The Age of Steam. Descriptions of character archetypes can also be found at those two websites, Free the Princess offering lengthy discussions of each and The Age of Steam offering a more succinct list.

The challenge is that a number of these elements have become clichés — the airship pirate sporting brass goggles and long leather coat, for example; the mad scientist sporting a nifty prosthetic or two who is about to commit an act of technological or chemical mayhem; upper-class items such as watches and umbrellas that mechanically morph into lifesaving or lifetaking gadgets; the use of real people as supporting cast, such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Charles Babbage, and Queen Victoria; and England, especially London, used as a setting. I have also seen enough vampires, werewolves, and faery in steampunk settings to dub them clichés, as well.

So while I’m sure it would be pathetically easy to sell a story in which H. G. Wells has been turned into a vampire and travels around the world in an airship as a spy for Queen Victoria … please, don’t.

One way to avoid clichés is to start by thinking about what the punk in the story will be, and then work backward to decide which steam elements best frame that punk.

THE PUNK:

The ’70s punk rock movement embraced individualism, anarchy, and rebellion. Disaffected youth defied the ‘truths’ drilled into them by society, distressed and repurposed material objects as a form of anti-consumerism, and created satirical, angry, and subversive works of art ranging from poetry to music to film.

This spirit became attached to the -punk suffix and applied to genres such as cyberpunk and splatterpunk. It is the same spirit that should lie at the core of the superficially more genteel and polished steampunk genre. Steampunk fiction embodies this spirit by presenting the sort of sharp, politically astute contrasts one finds between the worlds of the Eloi and Morlocks in H.G. Wells’ protosteampunk work The Time Traveller. It acts like a beautiful mahogany-and-brass screen that reflects, in its high gloss, the social failings and human weaknesses it was intended to hide.

Steampunk presents the aesthetic of a bright, shiny, elegant future of fine craftsmanship and exquisite sensibility powered by awe-inspiring, world-improving technologies … and then subverts it with the cynicism of the 20th and 21st centuries, pointing out the cracks and flaws in the Victorian dream that parallel the cracks and flaws in society today. Steampunk identifies racism, sexism, and other prejudices embedded in much scientific discourse; it describes the devastation caused by technological development carried out without a sensitivity to the environment or the indigenous culture; it highlights the problem of progress that is really a form of cultural imperialism. Even that most optimistic of steampunk genres, the steampunk romance, often presents sexual, racial, class, or religious prejudices as the obstacle the couple must overcome to achieve a happily ever after.

Steampunk writers should consider what rebellion or defiance lies at the core of their plot. In general, two types of problems are found in most steampunk fiction: (1) A material, external environmental problem caused by or solved by a technology, or (2) an ideological, internal social problem that is being strengthened by or that can be circumvented by technology. The involvement of technology is key (steam), although it can play a central or peripheral role, depending on the type of story being told.

Typical steampunk plots include the following, each of which offers an opportunity for social critique:
invention, in which Our Hero/ine is involved in creating or trying to prevent the creation of some new technology; exploration, in which OH is using technology such as an airship or other mechanical, vehicle to explore new countries, lands, or worlds; international warfare, usually involving an attempt to stop the infernal machines that threaten to wreak havoc on OH’s country; anarchy or revolution, in which case OH is either pitted against the terrorists or working with the freedom fighters and uses or opposes technology to do so; and social rebellion, in which OH is enabled by a technology to throw off cultural or social restrictions related to race, class, religion, gender, disability, sexual propriety, and the like.

Many steampunk writers situate their stories in the same places much Victorian fiction was situated — versions of London, primarily, or New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. That makes writing a little easier, because the shelves are full of writers’ guides to those cities. However, it also makes the fiction a little more predictable.

In recent years, the U.S. frontier and Australian colonies have received some attention, as have various colonial outposts in India and China. Note, however, that most of these stories are still told from the colonizers’ point of view — relatively little steampunk has been written from viewpoint of the colonized or enslaved. Yet technology did not just affect upper-class white Europeans and Americans in the 19th century. What stories haven’t been told yet? How might technologies have advantaged or disadvantaged those other groups, had history gone a little differently? If steampunk is largely set in 19th century England, what crumbling at the edges of the British Empire might reflect crumbling at the edges of today’s great economic empires? Writers seeking to extend the genre’s social critique might want to start looking at differentcountries, cultures, and ideologies for inspiration.

AND PULP?

What if you don’t want to offer social criticism with your fiction? No problem – steampulp combines the gaslamp aesthetic with pulp fictionÕs over-the-top, fast-paced adventure and excitement. It may offer occasional cultural critique, but its emphasis is on entertainment, and as often as not itÕs categorized with steampunk, anyway.

In the end, the important thing is to tell the story you want to tell. Leave it to the critics, reviewers, and academics sort out the genre’s details — your job is to write!

~Dru Pagliassotti
http://drupagliassotti.com/