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|To commemorate the newest genre added to the WDC family, this article will be about Steampunk. Now, I will be honest, I don’t really dabble in this area, but I’ve combined enough things that don’t normally go together, like turning werewolves into cowboys, or soldiers in the U.S. Military, that I think I’ll take a shot at explaining.
Now, what is Steampunk? Well, first up, think Victorian Era looks, speech, and mannerisms, with things that aren’t from the Victorian Era, like computers, automobiles, planes, and other things that were invented after 1901, but seem to have been made in such a way that they fit right in. For the most part, there are two, if not three, main sub-groups of this genre- Retro- people in the future live life in a way that mimics the Victorian era, or another earlier time period, Alternative History- things are invented earlier, like the automobile, and looks like they fit in the Era, and finally, Post-Apocalyptic- where steam power has regained popularity. Now, there’s a fourth possibility, and that’s when you have elements of Fantasy set in the Victorian Era.
One author to check out for Steampunk type stuff would be Jules Verne. In many ways, this man predicted the future, like rockets that go to the moon, submarines that can go to the bottom of the ocean- makes you wonder if he actually had a time machine. Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t get into him much, but I’ve seen 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, in one manner or another, on T.V., and there were things about the Nautilus that most people wouldn’t think of for decades.
Now, let’s talk Retro- it takes place in the far future, where things we think are Sci-Fi are real, like solar-powered spaceships, however, that spaceship looks like a wooden ship-of-the-line from the early 1800’s. In this case, I’m talking about the Disney movie Treasure Planet. Let’s face it, even with all of the aliens, and advanced technology, from a distance, a 17th century person might mistake the place for home, that is, until they realized that things were very different. I mean, when you see Jim and his friends fighting the pirates, both sides are armed with what look to be flintlock muskets and pistols, that is, until they fire lasers instead of lead shot, and they don’t need to be reloaded after every shot. And let’s look at the ship itself- it looks like something from the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, only it’s solar powered, has artificial gravity, and it travels through Space, and not on the ocean- I wonder if it, and others like it, can float on water. In short, the story is set far into the future, but people dress act, and build things in a manner that things look to be from an earlier time.
For Alternative History, let’s take a look at Wild Wild West, the 1999 Weird Western starring Will Smith as James West and Kevin Kline as Artemus Gordon. In it, both the hero Gordon, and the villain, Dr. Loveless, use things that would never be found in the Real West, like giant mechanical spiders that use heavy cannons, or gliders, or steel mail bulletproof vests that are knitted together. However, while James West may have trouble adapting to the new-fangled things, Artemus Gordon has no trouble taking the new stuff in stride, even figuring out how to operate the mechanical spider in fairly short order.
As for Post-Apocalyptic steampunk, most of civilization has crumbled, for one reason or another, and when society tries to rebuild, they turn to steam power for aid. In some ways, technology regresses, but in others, it advances. In this area, Anime Producer, Hayao Miyazaki could be someone to check out, as he’s known for making movies about similar topics, where society has changed, or is changing, from how things once were. In many such stories, people are looking for artifacts from that past, and others will even twist things to their own messages, as they try to control people.
Finally, there’s the Fantasy version. In many ways, Treasure Planet could have been a Fantasy, as most of the people in it are Aliens, and as everyone knows, the opposite of aliens is mythological/fantasy creatures, as the Captain, who is a feline-type of alien, could have been an elf, and the Doctor, who looks like a humanoid dog, could of have been some sort of werewolf, with other such things for the rest of the crew. In short, Magic and Technology live side-by-side in this sub-genre.
Overall, a Steampunk setting is going to be different from your usual Sci-Fi/Fantasy settings. If set someplace like the Wild West, there’s going to be someone, Hero/Co-Hero/Villain/Whatever, who looks at the device and says, “What the hell is that thing?”, and there will be someone, the Inventor, who explains what the contraption is. Also, if someone begins talking about the contraption, you can bet apples to oranges that the contraption is going to be activated, either by some kid who presses a button, causing it to go off by accident, or by the Hero to save the day.
In any case, when you check this genre out, expect to find some very strange things. Who knows, you might apply this to some of your Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror stories. Well, time for me to put my Whirly Pack on my back, and fly off.