Stupid question? Possibly. Aren't genres easily defined? Sometimes. But what about when you are working in a genre and then there is other stuff in there that isn't part of the 'canon' and it goes beyond where that genre normally goes?
What happens then?
What would you do?
You're reading a book and it's Steampunk - it says so on the jacket. And there is steam and airships and goggles and Victorians (or in this case the unreconstructed descendants of Victorians) in curious and challenging situations. But there's that other 'stuff' in it that isn't part of that broad brush 'Steampunk', and you find it starts taking you much further in another direction.
Do you stop reading? Are you intrigued? Are you prepared to stretch your boundary of the definition or will you simply say 'this isn't Steampunk this is xxxxxx?
It's a problem I'm facing in writing.
What I am writing is unquestionably 'Steampunk' as far as I'm concerned, but I can see where it might go beyond that for others.
So, simply put, do you put boundaries on your expectations, or are you happy to see where a writer takes you and work it out from there?

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Comment by Jeremy Brandon Murphy on April 2, 2013 at 3:47am

I am currently finishing the editing on a novel that spends about 60% of its content in a steam punk fantasy but the last half goes into very high tech. I wondered the same thing and wondered if it would irritate the SP community. I finally resolved the conflict by saying to myself " I am a writer and this is the story. Some will like it, some won't. I could care less."

Comment by Paul Marlowe on April 3, 2013 at 12:57pm

I agree with Jim Blaylock (one of the first writers whose work was described as steampunk). In a recent interview he was asked about steampunk:

"How would you define the term, and especially how your works fit into the genre?"

and he replied: "I’m not crazy about defining the term at all closely.  Definitions are best left to reviewers and critics; writers shouldn’t have anything to do with them... I find that it’s impossible for me to write anything if I’m wondering what the audience wants or expects, and so for the sake of my writing I can’t think in terms of genre expectations.  It’s also impossible for me to write without loading up the story with the things that I want, including dirigibles, gears, fog-shrouded streets, squids, leaf-like fish and other magical things."

Comment by Darke Conteur on April 3, 2013 at 5:11pm

When I was at WFC on Toronto, they had a Steampunk panel and the one thing I took away from it, was how excited the panellists were to see the genre expand into new sub-genre's. That Steampunk itself, was a goblet that one would pour other genre's in to. So you would have paranormal Steampunk with vampires (which I see a lot of), Romance Steampunk, or anything your heart desires, but I'm with you, Mr. Bartram, curious and concerned that the story I'm writing might upset some of the more hardcore fans.    

Comment by Joseph Gatch on April 3, 2013 at 6:30pm

I had recently read Hunt's Kingdom Beyond the Waves, which was touted as a steampunk adventure.  Personally, it seemed more of a sci-fi novel than steampunk.  Though it had many aspects of steampunk ie airships, automatons, and genetic manipulation, the atmosphere just didn't seem quite right.  Many other short stories in collections that I have read have also suffered from this, like they 'just didn't get it', if that makes any sense.  I agree that a variety of genres added to the mix makes it much more interesting, though I believe that if you are going to label something steampunk, you should lean more towards that genre than say, fairies or vampires if they are in your story.  Of course, write your story the way you want it.  It is your story, after all.  Let the critics write their own.

Comment by Dan Kascak on April 8, 2013 at 10:24am

Is your story using Steampunk as a table spice, appetizer, or main course? Does it matter? Consider that many Sci-Fi movies cooked up in 50’s consisted of screaming, running, and shooting followed by a 30 second clip of a large insect climbing over small model. These vegan Sci-Fi flicks use little science or fiction. They’re merely shades of the genre haunting us forever in IMDB’s classifications and free streaming lists.  The other list they live on though is the one with a rating of 1 out of 5 stars. It’s not the ingredients in the dish…it’s how it’s cooked.


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