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Steampunk Books: Where It All Started

Steampunk Books

Before the fashion, before the art, and before the conventions, steampunk existed primarily on paperback pages as Victorian fantasy meets science fiction.  Steampunk is an alternate history where steam power is the prominent technology and a fantasy subgenre where fictional inventions and anachronistic devices are widely used.  This genre may also be used to explore worlds and eras in which theorized or obsolete technologies became prominent and modern science as we know it failed to exist.

Before Steampunk Had a Name

The usage of the term steampunk came in the 1980’s but steampunk fiction can be found long before the genre was so named.  Works from authors such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Mary Shelley have inspired what we’ve now come to know as steampunk fiction.  Written in the Victorian period they may be considered more simply as “science fiction” as opposed to the creation of an alternate scientific history.  These works all contain aspects of a world where fantastical machines and technologies exist as a reality or the science is on the process of being realized.  Steampunk sums up the science-fiction portion of these works and can often exist in tandem with the romance, horror, and mystery genres.

Steampunk After the 1980s

Steampunk earned its name in the 1980’s by K.W. Jeter in an attempt to describe the collective works done by himself, Tim Powers, and James Blaylock.  The popular genre at that time was cyberpunk and since steam power was the dominant technology in Jeter’s genre it’s safe to say the substitution was only natural if not somewhat humorous.  While Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells provided steampunk inspiration from the 1800’s, Jeter’s Morlock Night and Powers’ The Anubis Gates became the more modern inspiring works.

Steampunk Books Right Now

The most recent steampunk contributions can be found in works such as Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, and The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia.  As steampunk has evolved from no more than thoughts on paper into a culture and way of life the contemporary genre has evolved from the more classic works as well.  As older works were still forming the genre and carving out the footholds for their ideas, newer works are more subject to the criticisms of “what steampunk is” and is their style “steampunk enough”.  Of course, with that evolution and popularization, the steampunk genre has been given the chance to be introduced to new concepts, scenarios, and ideas.  As the genre grows it may receive more criticism but it is also given new life as well as an opportunity reach new potentials.

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