Fellow blogger Jon Del Arroz recently released his first steampunk novel, For Steam and Country. I haven’t read it yet, so this post won’t be a review. (I will point out that there must be some humor in it, as one of the characters is named Baron Von Monocle.)
I’ve only had a bit of exposure to steampunk, so I’ll describe my experiences here, and I hope some of you will leave comments with your impressions of the sub-genre. Most of the steampunk I’ve read has been part of my magazine quest. I haven’t taken the time to go back and check the average rating I gave these stories, but my guess is that it’s not high. Still, most of what I’ve found in the magazines lately hasn’t been that good, so I shouldn’t hold that against the sub-genre. I also read the novel Leviathan, which is kind of steampunk/dieselpunk vs biopunk, and it was pretty good. I plan to review it in the future.
Steampunk authors, in general, seem fascinated with two topics that interest me very little: characters’ clothing and the manners and customs of Victorian-era Britain. Again, my annoyance may be at certain authors, rather than the sub-genre itself. I recently rated His Majesty’s Dragon five stars, and it contains elements of what HP calls “mannerpunk” (my brain keeps trying to file this term under Mannheim Steamroller).
By the way, what’s up with all the steampunk zeppelins? Are they actually steam-powered? Shouldn’t the diesel-punks be beating up the steam-punks for stealing their stuff?
Anyway, for those of us without much steampunk background who want to give it a shot, where should we start? HP has given us his top five steampunk tales, and Jon Del Arroz has provided his five favorites.
I noticed that Jon’s list includes an anthology, Steampunk’d. I’m planning to do an anthology quest after I finish my magazine quest, so I think I’ll throw a steampunk collection in. I notice that Terra Mechanica has a story by Jay Barnson, and I liked his story in StoryHack issue zero, so I may choose that over Steampunk’d. Amazon’s algorithms are also suggesting Steel & Bone and Mechanized Masterpieces to me.
That’s all I have to say about steampunk tonight, how about you?
I’ve always enjoyed steampunk as long as it is 1) not too generic and 2) not too wacky (unless a comedy, obviously). I feel that a lot of steampunk falls into the trap of simply being about “Victorian Aether Pirates” or something, which I do not find that interesting per se; I far prefer when steampunk (or dieselpunk) is used to do something a little different. Leviathan, which you mentioned, is an excellent example in my opinion; Mortal Engines is another, as is Shadows of the Apt.
Leviathan was more innovative than a lot of the SFF I’ve seen lately. I’ll have to look into the other novels you’ve mentioned.
I love finding a steampunk story/novel that lives up to the genre’s potential such as Boneshaker (Cherie Priest), Perdido Street Station and The Scar (China Mieville), and the anthology Steampunk (ed. by Ann & Jeff Vandemeer). I got a twisted kick out of The Buntline Special by Mike Resnick (Old West steampunk).
And of course, a couple of classics written before steampunk was a word are my favorites: The Time Machine (H.G. Wells) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne).
I’m not really into lengthy descriptions of clothing and manners that so many steampunk authors seem to focus on. (Never was a Jane Austen fan, either, which probably biases my view.) So when I finish the novel-length sequel to my steampunk novelette (which you had some very kind & encouraging comments about), those aspects, though present, will be less heavily detailed.
I’m currently reading a dieselpunk anthology as a comparison to the steampunk one mentioned. One thing I’ve noticed is that dieselpunk seems to take for granted readers are more familiar with the trappings of a later era, so the extreme detailing for steampunk’s earlier (mostly Victorian) era is no longer present. (Just a thus far observation.) I haven’t yet read enough of steampunk’s close clockwork cousin to know how it compares, but a few clockwork stories seem to take more liberty with era than steampunk usually does.
I might go back to 20K under the sea sometime, I can’t remember if I read it as a child, or only saw a movie adaptation. I love underwater stuff.
What’s the dieselpunk anthology you’re reading?
The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk edited by Sean Wallace.
According to the list of other Mammoth titles, there’s also a steampunk one I haven’t read. I plan to see if the library has it.
I think I’ll add a dieselpunk anthology to my anthology quest. I have a guess that some of the less-dystopian dieselpunk might be right up my alley.
My only “real” steampunk book was Priests’ Boneshaker. Goodness, I hated that book and from it I derived a rabid dislike of steampunk. Everything else I’ve seen, blurbs and reviews, for other steampunk books has done nothing to ameliorate that dislike.
On the plus side, I did like Butcher’s latest series, The aeronaut’s windlass. I’m not sure it really falls into steampunk, but it certainly has steampunk elements-airships, gadgety things you put on your arms or eyes, etc.
Steampunk is on the same level as zombie stories. I’ve read enough to know that I don’t enjoy the majority of the books in the sub-genre and it takes a really good story to draw me into reading one.
I’ll have to see how a steampunk anthology holds up to the other stories I’m reading, but so much of that experience will have to do with the editor rather than the genre.
Maybe I’ll add Butcher’s book to my to-read list as well.
I enjoy steampunk, and actually wrote an entire novel in that genre. (It’s locked in a trunk and will never be released.) It’s fun to immerse myself into that world, but I wouldn’t want a steady diet of it either.
When you die, your kids are going to pull that novel out of the trunk and release it. So, you’d better get in there and start editing it now!
Or deleting it.
Reminds me of Stephen King throwing away his first blockbuster novel.
I don’t believe it measures up, and it’s locked up for a reason.
I havent gotten into the steam punk yet, my fianceé loves Victorian era and the setting. My scifi so far have just been set in one specific universe, but its going to take me a while to get out of there…