I've heard several discussions around adopting a kind of pseudo-dickensian style and voice when writing steampunk. Some people hate it and some people think it's necessary. I think it can work if not overdone but it can very easily become a barrier to reading. The Difference Engine is a good example of it working well. Stories in a recent steampunk anthology I bought were, almost without exception, examples of how it gets in the way (at least for me). I wondered what other people think.

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may i ask which anthology?
It's called 'Steampunk'd'. Looking back I should have taken the title as a warning to steer clear.

Ahh... one I haven't read...

but I do think that it does help to have the 'sound' of it fit the story... I will def. have to get a copy of Difference Engine now... :D

Yes, the sound is very important. Phillip Reeve manages it well in 'Larklight', too. But the Difference Engine is great. Some call it 'alt history' but its pretty Steampunk to me. Great book.

While I like the Difference Engine a lot and it's use of Victorian language is brilliant, I would say that it's more important for the author to find his own 'voice' whether it's Dickensian or not, otherwise the entire affair is going to sound contrived.  To me, Difference Engine sounds like Gibson/Sterling rather than Dickens. 


One more thought is that in  early Victorian era writers Dickens, etc, are much more readable than late Victorian writers (excluding greats like Conrad, Doyle or Kipling) , as they dressed up their prose with lots of flourish and ornamentation.


I don't recall Dickens using terms like "very flash".  Gibson overused "flash" to the point that, were I to ever use "flash" in a book, I would have to use it consciously as a nod to Gibson, or not at all.


If I want to get a vague idea of how people actually spoke back then, I read first hand accounts written by non-writers.  Then again overuse of unfamiliar terms can necessitate a glossary and make the work largely unreadable.



I would agree, there is no way that you could mistake their prose for Dickens, but they manage to convey the sense of the idiom without absolute adherence to the form, if that makes sense. I agree about Conrad et al too. H.G. Wells can be difficult in that way sometimes, too, but the narratives are so strong its always worth persevering - and you do get used to it very quickly.

Do you mean this anthology?  I picked that up a while ago and only read ta few stories, but the language didn't strike me as particularly Dickensian.

It's important to get the tone right in period pieces, even in SP, but I don't think it necessary to attempt to emulate a writer of the time.  For one thing, Victorian writers rarely used two words when fiftenn would do, for another it gets in the way of your own voice. 

That's the one. Its just the contrived dialogue and extended, florrid descriptions. A personal thing, ultimately, but when the language gets in the way of the story it isn't working. Which is, again, going to be on a very personal level. It just felt very un-genuine, if that's a word I can use. And I appreciate that genuineness is never something we would get, or necessarily want, but it has to feel genuine in context, not forced or applied afterwards.
i think it sounds stilted and forced for the most part.  very few writers can actually pull it off.  i know i cannot so i don't even try.


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