Recently I blogged about my “squishy science” in a post called My Fiction is Totally Made Up. Expectations play a huge part in how a book is perceived/received by a reviewer or a reader. 

This was brought home to me again when a reviewer’s expectations ran into one of my steampunk stories. I get that some people don’t like romance in their anything. And I totally defend anyone’s right to like or not like something I wrote. Reading is essentially a personal experience shaped by our likes, our dislikes and our perceptions. There are some really famous, best-selling authors that I don’t get. It happens.

What prompted this blog was the reviewer’s assertion that the story wasn’t steampunk because it didn’t meet his expectations. (Excuse me, but who died and made you the Ruler of all things steampunk?)

Let’s take a look at what steampunk is and where it came from. 

Steampunk is fiction based on fictional science set loosely in Victorian times about events and technology that never happened. 

And it comes from authors’ imaginations. 

It’s even more made up than a mystery or a historical novel or a romance novel or a politician’s campaign speech. Those are at least loosely based on things that could, conceivably happen. In the real world, people do get murdered and elected to office and some politicians do what they said they would, or they think they did. Maybe. People even fall in love.
But steampunk never happened. Unless someone travels back in time and changes history by boosting technological inventions in Victorian times, in which case it will have happened, but it won’t be steampunk any more if it actually happened. Then it would be history and we would know nothing about steampunk because it wouldn’t have happened. (Feel free to pause for an eye twitch here.) 
What I particularly like about steampunk (besides playing with goggles and automatons and airships and hosing my characters) is that it is a genre that didn’t come out of New York publishing. It came from the grassroots of readers and artists and cosplayers. It is, for the most part, a genre without boundaries and rules, one fueled by the grassroots. 

Which makes it particularly ironic when anyone states that a piece of made up fiction broke the rules or isn’t steampunk because it did or didn’t have this or that.

A more definitive (and true) statement would be that “it did not meet my expectations of what I believe steampunk is.” 

Because there is no one in charge of steampunk. It just is.


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Yeah, I Made Up My Steampunk, too.

4 thoughts on “Yeah, I Made Up My Steampunk, too.

  • February 22, 2012 at 4:14 am

    It is funny how people will start something free wheeling, then try to fence it in. No way should you write someone else’s story! You have a great prism, so keep viewing through it. 🙂

  • February 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks, Marva. What I like so much about it IS the whimsy of steampunk and the sense of humor. Don’t get me wrong, some of it is very dark, but it is very much all over the map. It does make it hard to market it, because there are no, real genre conventions other than steam and Victorian (or around it).

    I get that people have expectations, but I can’t control that. All I can do is write stories that I like, have fun doing it and send them out with hope. I just wish readers realized that much of their disappointment comes from what they expected, not what we write. LOL!

    • February 22, 2012 at 12:17 am

      Love the ‘genre without boundaries’ view of steampunk. And you are right, not every reader likes every story! My steampunk world and stories will come out of the odd prism I view the world through and hopefully it will mesh with readers. I certainly can’t write anyone else’s story!

  • February 20, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Well said, Pauline. I’d kind of like to do steampunk, but I haven’t read enough to get the genre conventions down. One thing I’d add is that steampunk may never have happened historically, but it should be a possibility. But for a single inventor or engineer getting a bright idea, history would be steampunk’d. I see it the same as futuristic SF. COULD it have happened or COULD it possibly happen in the future?

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