The Steampunk Hands Around the World 2015 event is happening right now, and as part of the event, great creative people all over the planet are posting on the web about their steampunk-related activities.
Isn’t it just great that I’m working right now on a steampunk project?
I’ll pretend I’m a great creative person and not just a hack, and do a few posts on the subject of steampunk, creativity and whatnot.
So, for starters, here’s a few ruminations on what I’m doing, and what I’m trying to do, and steampunk in general. I’m improvising this, so I’m not sure where I’m going1.
But that’s part of the fun.
Now, if there’s three main influences on what I’m trying to do right now, these are certainly Michael Moorcock‘s The Warlord of the Air, S.M. Stirling‘s The Peshawar Lancers, and Jeffrey E. Barlough‘s Strange Cargo (and the Western Lights series in general)2.
That’s probably the main reason why, when I first pitched what was to become GreyWorld, the tag line was something like “not your father’s steampunk”, or maybe “our steampunk is diferent”.
Or even “try and cosplay this!”.
Steampunk is, to me, first and foremost Victorian science fiction – and I intend this as the sort of science fiction the Victorians would have written.
And maybe wrote3.
On the other hand, there’s that -punk bit.
OK Victorian Science Fiction, but with a twist.
Maybe because I am a writer (can’t draw to save my life, helpless at sewing or making, a mediocre flutist4), I want steampunk to be more than an aesthetic.
Nothing wrong with the basic look of steampunk, mind you, but I can’t write stories that are just “the usual, with corsets and goggles” – I have to add something.
And I don’t like at all the idea of steampunk as nostalgia or – banish the thought – as reactionary fiction. It’s not about the good old days, about the excitement of war or white man’s burden.
There’s that -punk bit in it, after all.
So being, at heart, a science fiction writer and a positivist (if a wayward positivist, probably), I have to make things better through progress – which is, if you think about it, a pretty Victorian sort of attitude.
Science fiction is, after all, a way in which we try and envision options and alternatives – and steampunk, and retro-futurism in general, is a tool to re-imagine the past as a better place, in the hopes of building a better future.
This means, among other things, that a steampunk universe after my own heart should be as inclusive as possible, and take into account different cultures, different worldviews.
Variety is vitality.
And the -punk bit means empowerment, too.
What I want is a multi-ethnic world in which steam-powered technology has a good reason for being in place – once again, not just “Victorian London, with brass prosthetics”, but something a little more complicated, a little more fun to play, to read (and write!), to explore.
And again, I’ve nothing against Victorian London, with brass prosthetics, and I quite enjoy that sort of approach – only, I’m trying to do something different.
So that’s the idea at the core of GreyWorld – a Victorian hard science fictional universe, in which progress is a positive force, and the course of events has somewhat forced at least a part of the civilization to evolve in a progressive way.
A universe in which “evil” equals the worst of the 19th century, and “good” the best (with a few spoonfulls of quite-not-Victorian positivist attitude).
And with airships, lost cities, dastardly villains, sabre-tooth tigers and steam-powered robots.
And the end of the world as we know it – and as the Victorians knew it5.
Because they say that an end can be a start, to quote the poet.
- … and yes, you are completely right, this is another random post and this is getting insufferable already; why, you might ask, have a schedule at all if then it gets treated in such a cavalier way? I realize this is embarrassing – but as the schedule says, random posts will happen. ↩
- Note to self: do a post on each of these. ↩
- Note to self: do a post with a Victorian Science Fiction reading list. ↩
- but admittedly, a Boehm flute is a very steampunk-looking sort of instrument. ↩
- Note to self: do a post about the destruction of the world as the Victorians knew it, and why it was necessary to destroy the world in order to create GreyWorld. But don’t do it too soon. ↩