Most people have never heard the term before. But, Steampunk is one of those up and coming genres that will take the publishing world by storm: if only it can grow up. That’s sounds harsh coming from someone who is writing in that genre – and so it should. Strong self-examination often leads to effective growth.
First of all, Steampunk is a subgenre of Science Fiction that in theory focuses on a world of steam driven technology and a great deal of historical what-if. The ‘punk’ part comes from the nature of the literature to criticize aspects of society that need to be scrutinized. What passes today for Steampunk, however, lacks the critical nature and replaces it with bad history and male erotic fantasy.
Like translations of Jules Verne in the late 1800’s, Steampunk is techno-fun written by men for boys. I should point out that Verne wrote his masterpieces for an adult, science curious readership – it was in the translations to English that the works became directed to younger audiences. Steampunk is suffering the same problem. It has become sophomoric because of a misunderstanding of who is or should be reading it. No longer does it offer social criticism. And it does not seem to have works written specifically for a female audience. I find this very strange since at every convention or gathering of Steampunkers I’ve attended, the vast majority of the fan base is female, over the age of 25. So why are there no books written by and for us?
In my opinion, humble or otherwise, I see the old stereotype of the standard Sci Fi fan rearing its outdated head. Science Fiction has always had a cross cultural appeal, but in times past has been the focus of many an 11 – 25 year old male. In times past. Today, with the internet, e-books, cable TV and 3-D movies, every genre is available to every person. No longer is Sci Fi limited to the brave child who sneaks into the comic book store after school to spend his lunch money on a superhero or monster. Conventions and statistics show women as equal fans: and, older folks with money are fans too (which should be outrageously important to publishers.)
The solution lay in only one direction: if one doesn’t like the offerings of a genre, write the damned thing yourself. Thus I’ve spent the last two years writing a pair of books (now looking to be three.) Steampunk as I want it – historical, fun, melodramatic, and full of people who actually could exist (as opposed to a Queen Victoria who is really just a sex-crazed lizard or girls who are not as brilliant as they are huge in breast size.) Do I bend history a tad: yes. Do I fill my pages with angry, punk criticism: well, no. But I do criticize and call portions of Victorian society into account.
What I do know is that having grown tired of female characters that are impossible physically and practically, bad history touted as researched facts, and story lines aimed at boys who aren’t old enough to know what girls are for, I had to do something. And I am! Are you?