In a new interview, Phillip Reeve (author of the Mortal Engines quartet, and the Larklight series) made this statement in relation to his waning interest in Steampunk:
"As for the current Steampunk fad for faux-Victorian Science Fiction, that's actually the opposite of Science Fiction. Its fans often try to link it to Wells and Verne, but there's no real connection; those writers understood the science of their time, and extrapolated stories from possibilities which it suggested; Steampunk is all about ignoring science and pretending the Victorians could have built robots, or whatever. Its look appeals to me as a setting for cartoons, or lightweight comedies like Larklight, but it's really just a sort of literary dressing up box, and I'm afraid it's not a very deep one and the costumes and props are starting to look rather threadbare..."
I think he has a point, personally. While I hope there will always be room for lighthearted romps within the genre, there's not enough satisfying, thought-provoking, muscular writing out there.
What are your thoughts? Do you disagree? Can you think of any recent Steampunk novels that adhere to old guard science fiction requirements for technical accuracy, believability, and depth of theme?
If Steampunk reveres the writing of Jules Verne (who kept copious notes of scientific fact and theory), then shouldn't it at least try to make its science believable? Wouldn't it be easier to believe in the story world, too?
Are you writing a novel you hope will give new life to the genre, and how are you going about it?
Thank you Gary! Well, this is the first time set in Earth's history so I figure I should do it justice lol.
And surprised how fascinating it really is. It's on the Railroad Strike of 1877 and it's scary how similar their economy was to ours lol. I smell riots brewing again :) Nah but I DO see a connection and it's creepy but awesome at same time.
Anyway, it should be good and I'll keep you guys posted :)
What time period is your favorite for Steampunk?
You're right--history often repeats itself and there are sometimes scary parallels between then and now. Digging into the odd bits of history ahead of time always helps me discover things I wouldn't have known about otherwise, and that can generate all kinds of possibilities for plotting, characters and backgrounding that can add richness to the tapestry.
My current project is set mostly in 1880, which may be my favorite period, although there is one scene in 1870 and, oddly enough, one in 1943 as well. I kind of like the time zone for Sherlock Holmes because it was a transition period with horse drawn carriages starting to be replaced by the new motorcars in "real life," so with Steampunk nuances, the transitions become even more so.
Reeve struck me as a bit fascist in that quote. However, I will share a few resources for keeping up to date on modern science if not the science contemporary to the time period common to S-punk. I could see inserting modern scientific studies and findings in an earlier era to be fun and educational without being pedantic.
F-1000 provides a review of the newest writing coming from peer -reviewed journals. Probably the most dense if you go to the source. http://f1000.com/
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA). Also relatively dense. http://www.pnas.org/
Lighter reading comes from American Scientist, Sigma Xi and New Scientist. http://www.americanscientist.org/
http://www.sigmaxi.org/ Somewhere in there you'll find videos I did for them.
These are all searchable.
I personally find that really boring to read and to write. If I wanted plausibility in my fiction, I'd still be reading real sci-fi. I write about dirigibles that have shields made from lightning projectors, and giant rayguns powered by the static electricity of lake michigan. Gears constructed of solid light!
Anything that makes me (and hopefully a reader) say, "huh, that's pretty neat and could probably happen." and then I blow it up. 'casue explosions are cool.
All that being said, I have done a great deal of research in how steam engines really function, how the technology is applied to various types of machines or functions. But that's just so the utterly fantastic stuff sounds like it could maybe happen.
Really interesting, and I agree. Unfortunately, I'm not a scientist, nor a physicist, but that doesn't excuse me from research when I'm writing.
I do try and base my work on plausible science, but fun science. It does require research and reading about things like quantum computers and bathyspheres that I never would have thought about before. In that sense, writing to science is an enlightening experience.
Being something of a technological idiot, I was forced by my own limitations (and by a twist ending) to keep the technology largely in the background, and to keep it largely true to Victorian-era reality. A notable exception was the fire-djinn powered steamboat, but I write gaslamp fantasy and therefore can allow myself to fall back on magic occasionally.
Even if I attempted to harden things up and bring technology to the foreground, I'm still a character-oriented writer and may be accused of window dressing regardless.