Sean Kennedy Talks About Steampunk

When Sean Kennedy released his recent steampunk novel I knew I wanted him to write a post about the genre because Wings of Equity was so exciting. I don’t know much about steampunk except for old Jules Verne and H.G. Wells’  books, and more recent adventures such as Ginn Hale’s Wicked Gentlemen and Josh Lanyon’s Strange Fortune. Ingrid also reminded me about Sursein Judgment by Jet Mykles, another wonderful book in this genre. Many writers seem afraid to tackle this period of our history, perhaps because the use of steam power during the 1800’s and 1900’s requires extensive research for their stories. I wish more authors were daring enough to try this genre.

Here is Sean’s post on steampunk. 🙂

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Whenever somebody asked me what my next work was going to be and I replied “A steampunk” the response usually was “What’s that?”

And it’s a very good question.  And not really one that is easily answered because at times it seems like there are many definitions of the genre and many variations within it.  I really must state up front as well that the book I ended up writing, Wings of Equity, would probably be classified as steampunk-lite.

I have always been a fan of Jules Verne ever since I was a kid, and he is now thought of as being “the father of steampunk” (although the term was not in use during his time, having not been coined until the 1980s).  Generally, steampunk stories are those set in a certain historical period (usually the 1800s or very early 1900s) in which anachronistic technology is used and very often powered by steam.  They can be seen as existing in an alternative universe as the technology is ahead of its time although seriously antiquated by our standards.  The technology in more modern works is often seen through a romantic or nostalgic veil, and the genre is often skewed heavily towards speculative fiction and adventure stories.

Steampunk likes playing around with worlds that are familiar to us, and are usually in Edwardian, Victorian or Wild Western settings.  It has been making inroads into popular romantic fiction of late – one extremely popular series is Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate featuring the heroine Alexia Tarabotti – and is also now becoming quite popular in gay romantic fiction as well.  After all, who can resist dashing heroes flying through the skies and generally being larrikins with hearts of gold despite their rough exteriors?

The fact is that steampunk offers a huge, wide, and interesting world to play in.  It’s what drew me to write Wings of Equity – which I would say is really more of a gay ‘boy’s own adventure’ in a steampunk setting.  Some readers are put off by the sci-fi elements attached to it, but they shouldn’t be – there are a lot of steampunk-inspired stories out there in the mainstream that they have probably already been exposed to.  Will Smith’s action adventure Wild Wild West was heavily influenced by steampunk, as was Joss Whedon’s fanatically-loved and shortlived series Firefly.  Steampunk offers something new, but familiar enough for us to enjoy; its foray into the world of m/m romance should be welcomed due to its difference and irreverence!

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

20 comments

  • I love Steampunk, reading, writing and cosplaying it.

    This was a good article. And yeah, the tech daunts a lot of writers. OTOH, I’ve encountered it with minimal tech that also worked. Anno Dracula is generally considered steampunk, or Victorian AltHist, without any steam involved.

    I have 4 steampunk shorts currently available. And a novella coming out next month, which is the first of the bunch appropriate to this site.
    (Something about steampunk makes me want to write strong, wild women, especially lesbians or cross-dressers.)

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  • Sean, when I started reading your article the very first thing I thought of was the show Wild, Wild West; only I had visions of the original TV show from the late 60s with Robert Conrad! I’m showing my age, but that show was great fun.

    Those are the steampunk novels that are the most enjoyable, too, IMO. I think they’re best if the authors are clearly having fun writing them. It’s apparent in the tone of the story. Wings of Equity has that particular feeling of enjoyment.

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  • Great post, Sean. I’m a big fan of the steampunk genre in all of it’s variations.

    I think that is actually something readers, especially those new to the genre, need to be aware of and appreciate. That is, that like others steampunk has many subgenres and is more than just magic and cool gadgets set in the Victorian or Regency period.

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  • I like Steampunk settings as long as the author has been imaginative with it and also provided the right balance of gizmos to plot. Too many complicated contraptions and the plot becomes more about that than a good story, but they still need to be there as part of the setting.

    I thought Wings of Equity was perfect in that regard :).

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  • Great post Sean! I was one of those actually who didn’t know what steampunk was. Although, I did buy Wings of Equity yesterday after finishing Dash and Dingo (which I loved). So I’m very much looking forward to it.

    By the way, His Dark Materials, is my favorite series ever. I even have a tattoo from the little addition ‘Lyra and the Birds’ that was published as a short story (its a flock of birds).

    Anyway, thanks again!

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  • Great Post! I love this genre even though I will admit I didn’t know it had a name until recently. I really enjoy reading a book that can feel both historical and futuristic at the same time. When done well a Steampunk world is such an easy world to fall in love with, and hopefully we will see more in m/m.

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  • Good post! So true what Sean said about the variety in this genre (or subgenre or whatever the heck it’s considered).

    I also have a steampunk novel coming from Dreamspinner — release is tentatively scheduled for December — but I think it would be classified as fantasy steampunk, yet another variant (not-entirely-human beings living side by side with people; a setting that isn’t connected to a specific real-world place).

    I loved playing in this world. Steampunk has an enormous array of possibilities, and there’s nothing preventing writers from stretching its boundaries even further.

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    • Thanks! It was hard to even write this post as there are so many different subgenres within this, and people are very passionate about them. It’s like you can’t write about it generically because they’re all so different.

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  • Tam, you didn’t read Sursein judgment by Jet Mykles? That is steampunk too.

    It is a fascinating thing if done well. His dark materials by Philip Pullman was very interesting too. I loved the mix of old and new there

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  • I think your book may be the only steampunk I’ve read. That I know of. Off the top of my head I can’t remember anything. I’ve not read Ginn’s book yet. I think writing steampunk takes a special skill because so much of the atmosphere and the story is the gadgets and “technology” of the time and that means describing it in ways that can let the reader visualize it. Not something that is easily done I don’t think. Needless to say, you did a great job on that front.

    Great article Sean. Have a super weekend.

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    • Thanks, Tam. I’m not sure myself if I pulled it off 100%, as some people seem to be confused by the setting – so unsure of whether it is the genre or whether my worldbuilding was insufficient. I do love the genre though.

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