Just curious as to what everyone in this fine community would list - which will probably be of assistance in our writings. I'm speaking of SP clichés, not tropes. But therein lies some of the conflict, to some a particular writing element/character/plot is considered a trope, to others a cliché... oftentimes it's a personal opinion. Not to say that over time you can't establish definitive lines of separation, you can. Woodland elves, dwarves underground - I personally like these, I look for them. I don't like my fantasies to have a race of seafaring dwarves... Look at the density of their body mass and short limbs, and if they grew up in the usual 'dwarven' surrounds then large bodies of water and a dwarf just don't mix dammit! If the world was just inundated then fine, they try to survive - but they should do the right Darwinian thing and die off (What? I'm applying evolution to the fantasy genre? So sue me. eh eh eh - its personal). The elves? Well... that's a harder case to argue (I'm talking about the Tolkien-esque elves, I realize there are a lot of faeries out there... errr, somewhere). Sure, there have been works which pull it off (not with the dwarves imho), but not usually. It often just seems... wrong.
In steampunk I believe there are clichés that have arisen - and tropes. I'd like to add right now, that you shouldn't take this as a personal attack on your own writing if you find an element posted here that is in your own work (providing that you good folks reply to this post). After all, some of it falls down to personal taste, necessity of literary vehicles, and good writing itself. There are some amazingly good speculative fiction works out there that are riddled with clichés, are they going to be republished again and again? Perhaps not. But I like reading them (good subway reading - light and fun). So as to SP:
First off, goggles. But goggles that don't serve a purpose other than as a fashion statement ("look, this must be a steampunk setting because he's wearing goggles"). Not long ago I finished "The Buntline Special", which was a good read. But the shootout at the OK Corral (which historically, didn't happen in the corral)... the Earp faction put on their goggles, to keep the dust from their eyes. Weak. If it was that dusty all the time then everyone would have been wearing them all the time.
Uh oh... here's one that's liable to raise the hackles. Airships. Yeah - they are really cool, I love 'em. But when do they start becoming a cliché? Sometimes they seem to be inserted in the skies above just to show that they're there. "Oh look, another airship". Doesn't move the plot at all, I suppose one could say that it adds more depth to the setting... Really? Ya think? Or is it to the point where this is *gulp* cliché? Or is it a trope - something you look for and it doesn't bother you, in fact, it leaves you all warm and fuzzy inside with steampunk goodness. Yeah, yeah, I know it depends on the writing - but one could say that to virtually any post questioning literary merit. I'd like to read of other peoples' extrapolations as to why its acceptable or - gods forbid, boring.
My personal SP pet peeve is... wait for it... wait for it... orphans. Eh eh eh Strange but the subgenre seems to have a thing for killing off the main character's parents. Cruel Dickensonian bastards. To make matters worse, it is a cliché in other genres as well (especially the fantasy genre). Oh - so they are actually of the royal bloodline or have the 'magic' in their DNA so therefore they are the chosen ones... huh, didn't see that coming. :-/
So what's your SP pet peeve?
My pet peeve is goggles that serve no purpose, for sure! Random goggles bug me.
Orphans are a lazy writer's way of getting rid of bossy, protective parents and giving the child freedom to be the agents of their own journeys. More realistic would be to give them shitty parents that they have to out-manoever, but that takes thought, and skill. Easier to kill the parents off and make the baddie responsible for their deaths, but leave that revelation until late in the story. Sigh.
Now I'm feeling negative, and feel a need for a post on what I love about the genre! Anyone up for writing a post on what your favorite things about the genre are?
Hm...goggles is a peeve for me, but my big one is random cogs and gears. Yes, I know this is steampunk and a story is usually classified as SP if it's got such things, but random gears on boots or hats? Really? It seems like an easy way in to have a story put in the genre, and a lazy one.
Now that I think on it, orphans are pretty lazy too...
Good point Lia, I changed the post to include a positive aspect as well. No need to be all downers.
Nell... I'm going to be keeping an eye out for senseless gears now. Interesting, I didn't think of this one yet it's probably very prevalent.
I'm with you on the goggles, but I think the thing I dislike the most is faux-dickensian writing. You can imply idiom without trying to make it sound like you've just written Oliver Twist. Oh, that, and mockney (mock cockney) characters:
"'ere, 'ang orn ah bit! I fort the geezer were gonna lamp me, yer 'onour!'
In other words, writing like you're going to get Dick Van Dyke to read for the part...
and a positive thing, characters who both fit and exceed the expectations of the genre
Eh eh eh! Yeah! Was waiting to see who was going to bring up that one! For instance, "The Difference Engine" - don't get me wrong, fantastic SP novel in my opinion, and for the most part their speech wasn't near as bad as others I've read... in fact, it didn't bother me overall except for one word... 'Flash'. Everything was so damn 'flash'. And the second time I read it about a year ago (though I have a tendency to skip forward on second reads), I kept on thinking of the cheesy Flash Gordan movie every time I seen the word (as it had been aired before that recently). You know the one I'm talking about? And the song, "Flash! AhhhHaaa... he's unstoppable!" The word 'flash' is in all over the book! I realize they were going for the equivalent of 'cool' or whatever, but really? Flash that much? eh eh eh
Dick Van Dyke? EHeheahehe... yeah, I had to wait nearly five years after moving to London before I was finally called a governor - almost hugged that cabby in the east end, it was like a personal triumph. <[;-)