Monday, January 18, 2010

Not Going Steampunk Crazy

You'll remember that on Friday I blogged about my theories for creating a realistic steampunk world. Part of that theorizing included knowing that how your world developed would determine what innovations you include as part of the steampunk aspect.

The reason for this is twofold: knowing how your world developed is good when you're playing with the political situation, and it means you won't include steampunk innovations where they don't belong.

What do I mean by putting the innovations where they don't belong? Let me give you an example. A landlocked desert nation would be at a disadvantage when it comes to steam power. They might not have the fuel resources to power the machinery, i.e. water and coal, but they might have the other raw materials -- metal and such -- in abundance. In this regard, they would probably work with their coastal neighboring nation to advance both countries in steam mechanics.

Similarly, our landlocked desert nation would see no need to build transoceanic steamers or any naval innovation at all. But they might assist their coastal neighbor, who does need steam-powered ships, in pushing the mechanics to a higher level.

Considering your world's development also has the added benefit of including just enough steam machinery to make sense, but not so much that readers question why the inventions are needed. Steam-powered rocket packs (and rocket packs in general, really) are an example. Rocket packs are cool, no doubt about it, but tend to be included simply to show the reader/viewer "hey look at we can do!"

My point, long though it took me to get there, is that a steampunk setting doesn't give you free reign to throw random cool things at the reader.


Anita Saxena said...

so a steam powered toothbrush might be a bit unnecessary for a clan of toothless ninjas in the victorian age?

Matthew Delman said...

Anita --

Just a tad, yes. But now I'm trying to figure out how a steam-powered toothbrush would work.

L. T. Host said...

Awwwww.... but that's my favorite thing to do!!! (Throw random cool things at my reader). You mean you didn't get the iPod I threw at you during V?

Just kidding. Living up to my smart-ass rep. But seriously, I think so, too. There are always limitations to a world, it is up to the author to figure out where they lie.

Get crackin' on those steam-powered rocket packs!

Joshua McCune said...

Excellent point... one that can be applied across the genre board

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Such a good point - for any fiction, really. Things have to make sense and be backed up. Steampunk sounds so fun, but I doubt I can attempt it. Maybe one day. :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Random cool things are the bane of science fiction as well. Not the Bane, the bane. You know what I mean.

Point well taken, and why world-building before you even start to write is so important, I think.

Adam Heine said...

I love world-building. Matt, you're making me want to create yet another fantasy setting. For what? I have no idea.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Okay, I've been mentioning this everywhere, but it seemed kind of fitting with this post too. You need to read The Hunger Games. There's a lot of technology in there that deals directly with the government and it SO adds to the story.

Again, I just don't know how you world builders do it.

Gary Corby said...

Maybe all technology evolves to maximise its utility to mass ratio. Think iPod vs early radios. I suspect it's a universal rule.