I wrote a blog here a little while ago about whimsy. I've wondered for a little while why so much of the Steampunk scene seems to be whimsical, why much of the writing is whimsical, why the characters are often prone to whimsy. The answer, I think, is very simple. if you are dabbling in Victoriana in any way shape or form you will very quickly run up against some deeply unpleasant things: forced child labour, breathtaking poverty, people living in the most appalling circumstances, institutionalised oppression of the poor, asylums and horrendous treatments of the mentally ill and mentally impaired, pollution, fierce and careless colonialism of the very worst kind, bloody wars and so on. This of course, alongside incredible scientific curiosity, a sense of the great societal adventure, exploration, discoveries about science and the natural world, incredible industrial advances and, of course, the seeds of some of the most significant social reforms in the western world.

It isn't all pretty, and it isn't all jolly hockeysticks. But isn't this dark side a great opportunity to explore real ideas? to make Steampunk a powerful literary form that goes way beyond goggles and crinolines and explores ideas of greater moment and significance. Science Fiction has done this for years, think Slaughterhouse 5, or Farenheit 451, or Brave New World, or Through the Eyes of Heisenberg and so on.

Come on, fellow Steampunks, let's make it count. Have fun at the same time, and have a damn good laugh, but make it count.

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Comment by Winfield H. Strock III on August 11, 2011 at 1:29pm
Very much agreed. I think the whimsy focus comes from folks who seek escape from every day darkness in their daily lives or in the nightly news.


Comment by dave bartram on August 11, 2011 at 2:26pm
I think we all do that, and, especially these days, with damn good reason. I think all I'm saying is that there is huge potential for works of Steampunk to say something meaningful, too. And the only way that can happen, I think, is by looking at that darker side.
Comment by Jon Hartless on August 11, 2011 at 11:50pm
My own Rise of the Steapunk Empire, out next year, is crammed with most of the above, so it is a very bleak read. It all started with Charles Stross' rant about steampunk, so it will be interesting to see how readers react to the book .
Comment by Lia Keyes on August 12, 2011 at 6:06pm

I think it's also possible to combine the two! Whimsy has it's place, but there's also humor, love, friendship, and many other positive sides of life which any story that feels true to the human experience should include, to lesser or greater extent. Without shade, how would we recognize light? Conversely, light makes shadows deeper and more intense, by contrast.

Filmmakers understand this concept particularly well, alternating dark with light scene by scene.

But, either way, I love your call to arms: "Make it count!"

Comment by Ray Dean on August 12, 2011 at 11:17pm

Variety being the spice of life... I'm looking for both... a sardonic twist or two... paying homage to both the heights of the era and attitude and the darkness as well...  I've enjoyed bothof your posts

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