What Is SteamPunk? Steamed and SteamPunk Q & A by Katie MacAlister
STEAMED AND STEAMPUNK Q&A
You have questions, Katie has answers!
Q: WHAT THE HECK IS STEAMPUNK?
A: The word “steampunk” was first bandied about in the late 1980s when a new type of fantasy/scifi book emerged. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling was really the biggest driving force in bringing steampunk to the attention of readers; their book was an alternate history take on the Victorian era, in which a steam-powered computer plays a big role.
The steam in steampunk refers to that steam-power aspect of the societies portrayed in the books; often in historical contexts (such as Victorian times). If you think back to Jules Verne’s books, with its airships and rockets to the moon, and Captain Nemo’s wonderful gadgets, you have the birthplace of steampunk.
The punk element was originally a reference to the fact that the books of the late 1980s and early 1990s didn’t fit in with a typical fantasy/science fiction categorization. They were different, and dipped into all sorts of elements like alternate history, fantasy, and lots of tips of the hat to the Jules Vernian “scientific romances” of the previous century.
It’s my opinion that steampunk has changed in the last couple of decades. I see the punk part of steampunk as being the adventurous element of the books, everything from grand, epic adventures that send characters careening across continents, to quieter, but no less fascinating, adventures of the spirit. I believe that nowadays, it’s the “man against the world” aspect that brings the punk to steampunk.
Q: WHAT IS STEAMED? IS IT PARANORMAL? FANTASY? HISTORICAL OR CONTEMPORARY FICTION?
A: It’s a blending of all four elements. Steamed is set in contemporary times (2010), with a contemporary protagonist in Jack Fletcher, who is a nanoelectrical engineer. But somehow, Jack gets zapped to an alternate version of his reality, one that is steampunk in nature, which is where the other main protagonist, Octavia Pye, resides.
In Octavia’s world, history didn’t happen as it did in ours; the British empire is still reigning strong with William VI, the English emperor in charge of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Prussia. Canada, the US, and Mexico have banded together, and are collectively referred to as “the Americas,” and are not favored very highly by the British empire due to lengthy wars.
There is another emperor, a Moghul one, who is determined to take over all of Europe, and a well-organized group of revolutionaries known as the Black Hand who want to topple William.
So Steamed has a contemporary hero, an alternate history, a heavily steampunked world, and a heroine who just wants to hold things together. Don’t worry that you’ll have to remember everything—there’s a glossary in the back of the book with definitions, and explanations about who’s who and what’s what.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR WRITING A STEAMPUNK BOOK?
A: Anyone who’s ever read one of my contemporary books will be aware of the fact that I have a deep and abiding love of history, and my natural geekiness led me to be instantly attracted to steampunk when I first encountered it (which was the graphic novel and later movie of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).
I wanted to explore my own version of steampunk, and Octavia and Jack burst into mind with all sorts of tantalizing possibilities. I love the ability to tweak history around a bit, and play a really long round of the “What if that didn’t happen, but this did...” game.
Q: IS STEAMED A STAND-ALONE OR PART OF A SERIES?
A: My intention is to write a series based on the characters introduced in Steamed. There is a lot of things going on in Octavia’s world, and I envision it taking several books to explore all of it.
Q: WILL OCTAVIA AND JACK BE BACK IN SUBSEQUENT BOOKS?
A: They will, although I am not sure if they will return as narrators, or as secondary characters. At this point in time, I suspect that each book in the steampunk series will have a different narrator (or sets of narrators), but that’s not set into stone. It really depends on whether or not the story demands a continuation with previous narrators.
© Katie MacAlister - Use of this Q & A oked by her publisher for this blog post only.