Steampunk, as a sub-genre of science fiction, should have a story that would fall apart if all technology or gadgets were removed.

If that's not the case, then you're probably writing one of its sister genres, like Gaslight Fantasy or Romance.

So if Steampunk is your oeuvre, how is technology integral to your story, and what gadgetry do your characters use?

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When I'm writing I can really feel how limited my knowledge of technology is. One of the characters in my attempted novel has created an improved version of Bell's photophone, using a form of laser (although he calls it "light oscillator"). This is actually just a side-kick invention, not the main one in the story, but it's so difficult to get it right! I mean, it's fiction and I don't want to be too "realistic", but on the other hand, it has to be belieavable. I'm sure I'll get it wrong...

I always had a soft-spot for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, a touring-complete analog computer conceived a century before the first actual computers appeared.  The plans for the thing are amazing, and I especially like the idea that telegraph lines could have hooked the things together into a very early form of the internet.

 

Current story has a neoVictorian "hacker" as its main character.  Actually, the story owes more to John Brunner's Shockwave Rider than anything else.  (The Difference Engine didn't go far enough into the implications of the AE, I think)

Technology plays a huge part in my stories, without it there would be no story. I use air ships, various weapons, goggles, and steam conveyances typical to the 1880's old west.

I'm on the ledge here, because my novel involves a war between a steampunk technologically advanced nation and a sea nation with little to no technology. The MC lives in the sea nation, so he doesn't experience all that much steampunkery (tee hee) but, if the gadgets and tech were completely removed there would be no war and therefore no story. So who knows where that leaves me.

I tend to want to make the people the most important element, so I tend to shove technology, even the stuff I find I want to write volumes about, to the side.  After all, whats more important, the Veerkamp Vulcan multi barreled pistol, copied by the Confederacy as the Maverick, or the character holding it, using it?

To contradict myself, the Steampunk bedrock is absolutely essential to creating the back story and setting.  There I tend to let the technological differences define the turning points from history and my world building. (As most do, I imagine)  For example, in my current piece, with the advent of advanced technology, the North handily won the civil war. (With steam-powered mecha, but don't get me started!)

I agree with you here. The technology is interesting, and fun and neccessary, but imho not more than the characters. Without the characters, it's just a steampunk tech manual (which would be AWESOME and i would totally buy that)

Robert D. Gray said:

I tend to want to make the people the most important element, so I tend to shove technology, even the stuff I find I want to write volumes about, to the side.  After all, whats more important, the Veerkamp Vulcan multi barreled pistol, copied by the Confederacy as the Maverick, or the character holding it, using it?

To contradict myself, the Steampunk bedrock is absolutely essential to creating the back story and setting.  There I tend to let the technological differences define the turning points from history and my world building. (As most do, I imagine)  For example, in my current piece, with the advent of advanced technology, the North handily won the civil war. (With steam-powered mecha, but don't get me started!)

Goggles and airships are the most steampunk tech elements in my current novel's world. (The airships are powered by photovoltaic cells on the wings and the goggles are for accessing a virtual reality, but...) Since so much of the British Victorian culture was basically a mashup between all the "exotic" images they were gaily appropriating, I feel rather comfortably placed within the steampunk aesthetic. My characters are appropriating future tech and mashing it up to solve their daily and plot-centric problems. Mwa ha ha ha ha. (Plus, I am way more versed in solar and computer tech than Victorian tube-tech, and I don't want to have to struggle against my ignorance.)
Technology will be key to Steampunk Imperialism simply because it gives a technological edge to one country, and specifically, one person/ideology in that country. Imagine what any country would be like if it has access to much higher technology; would it use it wisely, or would it quickly become a world dictatorship? So it's not so much the technology that is important as how it influences a certain 19c mind-set. If I can ever get the story to work, anyway...
The biggest thing tech does in my little world is that it creates a sort of anti-gravitational force without lift.   Basically so I can get ships to fly without lighter than air systems or airfoils.  (How does it work? Just fine thank you and it runs on steam too...)
Mine is similar to Penny's world, except replace old west with 1840's deep south. Airships are really only used for transatlantic crossings, at least in the americas. In that story, steampunk is more of a strange english movement that is gradually filtering over to America. Weapons are steampunkish, and what would the story be without goggles?

Penny Ash said:

Technology plays a huge part in my stories, without it there would be no story. I use air ships, various weapons, goggles, and steam conveyances typical to the 1880's old west.

That's a very good point -- mine would be mostly Gaslight; though my lead, Drosselmeier, does make automatons, they are "possesed" by spirits, and the series is a subseries of a larger fantasy / magic-driven storyverse.

 

This, of course, begs the question of whether Gaslight would be considered a wholly separate community from Steampunk or not -- I had considered it a sub-genre, but perhaps not? Now I should to poke around and see if there are more Gaslight-specific comms (or Clockpunk, for that matter), as I have yet to work any steam-power elements into any of my stories .... XD

When I write a Steampunk story I will use common sense technology, what I mean by that is, no Steam powered computers or airships. I also plan to use other devices like clockwork for the more mundane technologies, prosthetic limbs, etc. But only for the Steampunk characters.

If I add some extraterrestrial enemy into the mix, then obviously they don't have to be limited to what could be achieved by the people in the Steampunk world.

 

 

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