This article is excerpted from ::Free The Princess:: blog:

"Recently, there have been some articles and blog posts floating around lambasting Steampunk for any number of failings -- real or imagined --
that the genre seems to express. Now, there are some that I agree with,
and if you've followed my Twitter back-and-forths with Paul Jessup or
read his fantastic article on "The Future of Steampunk" (posted at Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders and Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review), then you already know that I'd love to see more non-European Steampunk kicking about.

However, one of the primary complaints that I seem to be seeing in
regards to Steampunk is that it's not historically accurate. That people
couldn't have possibly developed the level of technology some of the
fiction evidences -- like airships, for example. Despite the fact that
Henri Giffard first flew a dirigible in the 1850s, certain commenters on
other blogs (not here) have insisted that airships were an invention of
the 20th century and not the 19th, therefore you can't possibly have
someone flying an airship on the level of the Graf Zeppelin if your timeframe
is earlier than 1900.

All right I can see that argument -- Zeppelin developed his airship in
1898 to 1899, but he didn't fly it until 1900, so the point is valid.
However, and here's the really, really big point that I want to make for
people who dislike Steampunk on basis of it not being historically
accurate enough:

Steampunk is Alternate history"  (read the rest here...)

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I love The City and The City and, while I am not finished it yet, it seems to me that the mystery remains a mystery - which is good!

 

I think I need to clarify. It was bothering me as I wrote my above post that I could not make my point more concise.

 

When it comes down to mystery and accomplishment, you can only have one or the other, not both. If a mysterious and unexplained force comes along and solves all the problems, that's cheating. The twin cities in The City and The City don't SOLVE problems, they pose mysteries.

 

To use the Gandalf example again, Gandalf solves very little of the problems of LOTR on-screen. When he solves problems, it's elsewhere. The reader is following certain characters, and Gandalf could have easily solved every problem they faced - but he wasn't always around. Gandalf left Helms Deep because had he not, he would have waved his hand and magically won the fight (the in-story justification for him leaving is good, but the meta-reason is probably this). The magic in LOTR is large-scale and incomprehensible to the little guys like Aragorn (yeah, even a long-lost King is a little guy!), and that makes it immensely interesting. But when that magic starts solving all the worlds problems it either a) loses the mystery, or b) feels like an asspull.

 

I hate hearing 'it's alternate history' as an excuse for poor writing. Yes, it is alternate history. This does not absolve you of the responsibility to explain and justify, it increases this responsibility. If you want something to be mysterious, fine. Just be careful with it; mystery becomes asspull when starts doing important things and solving plot points.

 

EDIT: http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/12/05/writing-excuses-5-15-steam...

"When it comes down to mystery and accomplishment, you can only have one or the other, not both. If a mysterious and unexplained force comes along and solves all the problems, that's cheating. The twin cities in The City and The City don't SOLVE problems, they pose mysteries."

 

Ah, OK, when youput it like that, yes I agree.

I couldn't agree more.
Steampunk is Steampunk. Not historical fiction. 'nuff said, bub.

I don't think its accurate, your point about tanks and stuff, yes the reality of the times prevented such things from being constructed, but the idea of how you could have tanks did exist.

Now, to suggest that a tank weighing 5000 pounds could be motorized by constructing it out of galvanic plates which harness telekinetic thought waves, might be an extremely outlandish notion, but the idea of a tank still existed.

If any of that makes any sense.

Maybe people forget that it is called "science FICTION" for a reason.

Not that I think you should have those kinds of unlikely inventions in your Steampunk story.

 

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