Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Steampunk

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

If you’re not really familiar with the term ‘steampunk’, here is a quick definition:

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. — from Wikipedia

Steampunk is something I’ve only recently started getting into. I think I first delved into it when I started blogging three years ago, so whilst this may not seem recent, it is fairly recent compared to the amount of time that I have been reading science fiction. Yet so far, every single steampunk book I’ve read has surprised me and enraptured me.

It really draws me in because it is a mixture of two of my favourite things: history and science fiction. Often, steampunk titles are set in the past and involve futuristic elements, or set in the future with elements of the past. Another fantastic feature of steampunk is when it is used to create an alternate history, like in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series.

Here are some fantastic steampunk reads that I have enjoyed:
Leviathan Incarnation by Emma Cornwall The Six Gun Tarot

This selection alone demonstrates the variety that comes with steampunk. We have an alternate history of the First World War, a Victorian vampire novel that is a semi-retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a steampunk Western.

And others that I can’t wait to try out:
Karen Memory The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack The Aeronaut's Windlass

One of my absolute favourite steampunk themed video games is Dishonored. Here’s a short summary from Wikipedia:

Set in the fictional, plague-ridden industrial city of Dunwall, Dishonored follows the story of Corvo Attano, bodyguard to the Empress of the Isles. He is framed for her murder and forced to become an assassin, seeking revenge on those who conspired against him. Corvo is aided in his quest by the Loyalistsβ€”a resistance group fighting to reclaim Dunwall, and the Outsiderβ€”a powerful being who imbues Corvo with magical abilities. — from Wikipedia

It is a truly fantastic game, and gives the player the option to undertake missions in a variety of different ways, including ultra-violent options and much more peaceful ones. Each choice the player makes has an effect on the outcome of the game.

dishonored

However, a game like Dishonored does remind me that steampunk is such a versatile element of science fiction. It is hard to believe that something like Dishonored and a title such as Star Wars could be considered part of the same ‘family’ – which shows just how varied science fiction is a genre. It contains so many different elements and facets that there must be something for everyone. Steampunk could be a fantastic way to introduce someone to science fiction, particularly fans of fantasy fiction.

What are your thoughts on steampunk? Do you love it or hate it?

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24 thoughts on “Sci-Fi Month 2015: Steampunk”

  1. I absolutely love Dishonored! It’s such a brilliant and beautiful game. I definitely haven’t read as much steampunk as I would like. It’s definitely a subgenre with all my favourite elements of fiction but somehow I’ve not read that many. I cannot wait to get into The Aeronaut’s Windlass though! Soon.. soon!

  2. Over the last few years I’ve come to love steampunk. I was aware of a couple of the books you mentioned, but you’ve given me a few more to add to my TBR. Thanks! My personal favorite steampunk novels are Boneshaker by Cherie Priest and Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. I need to pick up more books by both of those authors.

    I had so much fun playing Dishonored! I even bought the DLC so I could continue playing. I can’t wait for Dishonored 2. It looks like it’s going to be amazing. I recently played Thief which is pretty similar, although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. My other favorite game in this genre is Bioshock: Infinite. I’ve loved all the Bioshock games and one set in a city in the clouds is pretty fantastic.

    I was trying to think of a really good steampunk movie, but I don’t know that Hollywood has figured out how to make a good one yet. With the way steampunk is growing in popularity, I’m sure we’ll get a great movie soon. Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed this one.

    1. I haven’t read any Cherie Priest, but I’d definitely like to some day. And I never realised that Perdido Street Station was steampunk, it was actually one of my book group’s monthly reads last year.

      I love that we’ll get to be a certain female character for Dishonored 2, so cool! And totally fitting with my ending for the game, to be honest. I don’t know why I didn’t list Bioshock… I guess it doesn’t scream ‘steampunk’ as much as these other titles, but I LOVE that series. Infinite was gorgeous, right?

      1. I’m looking forward to playing that character in Dishonored 2, and I’m with you on being sneaky in the first one. I’ll be sneaking around, being all stealthy, and then someone sees me and all hell breaks loose. I love the Bioshock series, too. The first two games had that dark, ominous world to explore, and it was beautiful. Then Infinite came out and gave us a breathtakingly beautiful city in the clouds to wander about. You hit it right on the head, Infinite truly was gorgeous.

        Perdido Street Station was the first, and so far only, Mieville book I’ve read. He did a fantastic job of blending so many elements in it, steampunk being just one of the vibes I got from it. I need to read more of his books. Have you ready any?

      2. Haha exactly! And once you’ve started down that other path, it’s hard to go back to being sneaky because EVERYONE is notified. I actually just started replaying Infinite last night because I loved it so much – not sure if I will finish this replay though as I seem to have so many games on the go, but it was nice to go back to that world again πŸ™‚

        I haven’t read any of Mieville’s books, no, but I do own Perdido Street Station. I just don’t have my copy with me 😦

  3. I like steampunk even though I haven’t read a lot of it- I’m still figuring out which ones I like as there is quite a bit of variety. I don’t normally like alternate histories for some reason, but when combined with steampunk it becomes more palatable. I like the idea of clockwork creatures and think fantasy mixed with steampunk would be cool.

    1. The illustrations were so gorgeous! I also happened to be playing Bioshock: Infinite when I read Leviathan, and the airships reminded me of the game πŸ™‚

  4. I loved Leviathan. I just finished The Aeronaut’s Windlass and loved that too! Especially the character of Rowl, the cat. It started off a bit slow but it’s a complex book. I’m really enjoying your posts for Sci Fi month! Sadly I haven’t read too much SF lately but I’m working on it.

    1. I would have bought The Aeronaut’s Windlass today when I did some book shopping, but it seems to be hardback only and I much prefer paperbacks. 😦 There is a cat character?? I’m sold!

  5. I think I’ve only actually read 1 steampunk, the Falconer. Which, to be fair, was more magic than science. oh wait, it was… The Somnambulist which was odd and interesting. And the Something Strange and Deadly series by Susan Dennard.

    But I like the idea of the genre overall. I love the blending of history and science – whichever direction it’s going.

    So, I think I need to read more of it – and the titles you mentioned seem like a good place to start πŸ™‚

    1. I read a magic based steampunk novel and loved it – Avalon Rising by Katherine Rose (I think). That’s another bit of steampunk I’d love to delve into a bit more. πŸ™‚

      I would definitely recommend the Leviathan series to start with!

  6. I love steampunk, too, but I haven’t read as much of it as I’d like. In fact, I haven’t read any of the books in your post. 😦 Incarnation sound very interesting but is it a romance?
    I’m not a romance reader, I’m pretty bored with most romance cliches and dislike by some others. Many steampunk books seem to be romances which doesn’t endear the subgenre to me.
    I’ve loved Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker and the squels set during the US civil war (so I guess it’s alternate history, too) and a couple of others, tough. And I also have several steampunk books in TBR pile.

    1. You know, I don’t remember if there was a romance aspect… but if there was, it wouldn’t be that major because I am not a fan of romance either.

      Yet another recommendation for that series! Definitely got to look out for it πŸ™‚

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