I first learned about Steampunk many years ago, when issue #4 of Girl Genius had just hit the stands. My brother is an avid comic collector and he encouraged me to read them. I found them really cool, but at the time I was busy with many other things, and the whole idea of Steampunk got put on a back-burner in my mind.
A little over a year ago, I was struggling to get my first novel out there, (which is still unpublished, with some re-writes and more experience I'm sure it will do well though) and looking for my next big idea to base a novel around. I hit upon the idea of a world of flying cities, which naturally dovetailed into the Steampunk genre. After I had some idea of the world I wanted to set my tale in I began to work on plot, carefully avoiding exposure to Steampunk other than what I already knew in the hopes of creating something truly new and innovative.
So the world evolved. A rift in the Aether caused massive mutation throughout Europe, and made it possible for people to tap a nearly unlimited energy source. The physically superior cousins to humans created were labelled Synari, and enslaved by Humans. Their population exploded as they outbred humans 10:1 and their generally obedient nature encouraged sales to cultures across the Earth. Because it was a recipient of slave labour, not a continent destroyed by slavers, Africa became far more significant than it is in our world.
But, as with all good things (well, good if you were a Human), it came to an end. The Synari decided they didn't like being slaves. Riots broke out in every major city in the world. Wealthy industrialists and politicians saw the end coming, so they created flying cities. The aristocrats, their servants, soldiers and such left the Earth, never to return. Cities with less wealth built zeppelins to escape, and those on the coasts fled to the few island chains that had been purged of Synari.
Humans cannot allow the Synari to breed too much, or develop a civilisation capable of advanced technologies, so they run aerial patrols, gassing Synari camps whenever they are found. The Synari, angered by this treatment would destroy every last Human to be free of their tyranny. But neither is capable of destroying the other, and there is no possibility of peace, because peace would allow the Synari to spread, and once their numbers grew great enough they would surely win any war between the two.
Into the greatest flying city in this world, enters Konrad. An eighteen-year-old with a secret.
[This is a cross-post from http://brassbolts.blogspot.com/
check it out for articles, cool tidbits and general steampunk goodness. Updated a minimum of thrice weekly.]