Defining Steampunk (and Dieselpunk)

Someone tweeted this article today – it’s old, but it’s awesome and I agree with everything it says.

Also, someone on goodreads.com was looking for non-Victorian Steampunk, and someone *actually* answered “Why non-Victorian? I think that’s a positive element in Steampunk. There are some wild west stories that are Steampunk and I started reading one based on Alice in Wonderland that was alternative American history based but I can’t say that I was enjoying it. I’m primarily looking for good Steampunk that *is* Victorian England now.”

*headdesk*

I just finished one book a couple of days ago, and was today skimming through my ebooks to see what to start next, and decided I’d try out Gail Carriger’s Soulless, which I got on sale for 99 cents a couple months ago. I read about 5 or 6 pages of the main character beating etiquette into a vampire with a parasol, and stopped. It’s not a bad book, or poorly written or anything, it’s just not my *kind* of book. But it seems that has become the definition of Steampunk lately, and I dislike the whole idea that Steampunk is becoming pigeon-holed into this, and people are starting to say if it doesn’t have X,Y, or Z elements, it’s not Steampunk.

That resentment comes from my main reason for writing Dieselpunk in the first place. Which is, quite frankly, that I’m bored with traditional medieval fantasy. I wanted a setting that’s fresher and not done to death. So I have a setting a little farther ahead, tech wise, for the hell of it. I could set it in a medieval fantasy world. Easily – my character’s could ride dragons and their giant base could be more blatantly magic, rather than the magnetic handwavium powered gimmick I’m going with. Magic items could serve the roles of radios and radar, and my orphans could live in the “dark forest” instead of the sewer. But my way is more fun for me.

I just write what I write though, I’m not writing to a definition. Dieselpunk is just the closest definition there is for what I write, so I use it. So what happens if a book doesn’t fit into a particular category? Should the author be forbidden to pick the closest thing? Or worse, be forced to introduce elements into the story to solidify it’s placement in a genre category? Don’t think it doesn’t happen – I’ve seen discussions online where people insist that there be magic in a story for it to be classified as fantasy, so if that’s true, then where do you categorize secondary world fiction that doesn’t have magic? Because the Literary section sure doesn’t want it.

I say just relax, and let writers write what they write. If that means taking a little bit more time to describe what a book is like, then so be it. If it makes it a bit more difficult to write a pitch, then that’s the author’s problem. 😛

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