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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Peril of Pauline - It was a Dark and Steamy Night...

…not fit for man nor beast—but perfect for an automaton. Okay, I guess it might rust, or maybe catch some lightning, but a machine doesn’t have the sense to stay in out of the rain unless the lightning makes it sentient…hmmmm….

And thus a steampunk idea begins to spin inside the brain…

It might sound a bit whacky, but despite a bit of crazy a steampunk novel is much like any other novel. It has a setting (Victorian period anywhere in the world—or out of it), characters (often crazy inventors/mad scientists and always some intrepid gals and guys), and a story (which may or may not include brass goggles, airships, clockwork inventions, and automatons on the rampage) that might have elements of romance, or mystery, some action adventure, a thread of horror, or a mix of some or all of those elements.

Unlike some genres, steampunk is wide open, free flowing, and ready and willing to be almost everything to everyone. It can start in the present and send characters time traveling to the past. It can take place in alternate realities/histories or on other planets. What defines it as steampunk is the presence of steam-based, but anachronistic technology, such as The Difference Engine, cool clockwork stuff or those pesky automatons. At present it also has a Victorian feel, but authors are already pushing its boundaries further into the past, curious to see how advanced technology might have impacted the Old West in the US, Egyptians and Chinese, or possibly deepest, darkest Africa.

Since there is no central, governing authority, steampunk is free to fan out in multiple—and fun—directions. Are you intrigued yet? Cautiously interested? How about a little test to see if you might like yourself some steampunk fun?

1.            Do you have a sense of humor? Feel drawn to the whimsical and the weird?
2.            Prefer horror? Cybernetics? Zombies? Creatures of the night?
3.            Read historical or romance in general?  Romantic suspense? Urban fantasy? Dystopia? Hooked on fantastical creatures? Things that go bump in the night (and sometimes the day)?
4.            What about alternate realities? Science fiction? Fantasy? Action adventure?
5.            Like heroic pirates? Sexy inventors? Airship captains? Detectives? Rebels? Spies?
6.            Corsets? Brass goggles? Whacky inventions? Derringers and parasols as weapons and accessories?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you passed “go” and can head straight for some steampunk fun. Here’s Heather Masey’s basic reading list to get you started:
Traditional steampunk

The Affinity Bridge (George Mann) and its sequel, The Osiris Ritual (a great place to start if you’ve never read steampunk before)
Whitechapel Gods (S.M. Peters)
Mainspring (Jay Lake)
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Mark Hodder)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Alan Moore)
The Narrows (Alexander Irvine)
Mortal Engines (Philip Reeve)
You can also read the immensely popular Girl Genius online for free.
Steampunk romance

The Iron Duke (Meljean Brook)

The Miraculous Lady Law (Robert Appleton)
Steamed (Katie MacAlister)

Like Clockwork (Bonnie Dee)

Tangled In Time and Steamrolled, and Steam Time (Pauline Baird Jones)

Clockworks and Corsets (Regina Riley)
Hot and Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance (DAW Books anthology)
Full Steam Ahead and Mechanical Rose (Nathalie Gray)
Clockwork Heart (Dru Pagliassotti)

And if you want to try a bit before you dive into a whole novel, check out the Dreamspell Steampunk Anthology. Four short stories by four authors and a great price (2.99). Digital only. 

So, dear readers, have you tried any steampunk? Read or watched anything on this list? Curious or ready to love the new genre? 
Pauline Baird Jones is the award-winning author of eleven novels of science fiction romance, steampunk, action-adventure, suspense, romantic suspense and comedy-mystery. Her latest release is a steampunk/science fiction romance called Steamrolled. You can find out more than you ever wanted to know about her at


Mara said...

Hi, Pauline and thnk you for a primer on steampunk. For the longest time I had no idea what thet word meant. It seemed to me that it just started appearing on review sites, online bookstores and even Banres and Noble.
Now that I know what it is, I really like what I've read of it so far. I answered yes to all of your questions, so it really is a genre that I'm going to enjoy and this will include checking out one of your books, too.
Thanks again,
marajbrandon AT earthlink DOT net

Pauline B Jones said...

Many thanks, Mara! It is a fun genre to read and write!

Anna said...

Hi, Pauline! Thanks for the recommendations. I hadn't heard of some of those steampunk novels.

You're right, Steampunk can be anything. I even read a Stargate Atlantis book set on a steampunk world, complete with blimps.

Robin said...

Great explanation of steampunk!

Robin D
robindpdx (at) yahoo (dot) com

Anonymous said...

I haven't read steampunk before but I said yes to many of your questions. I guess I should check the genre out!

User1123 AT comcast DOT net

Na said...

I have seen so many steampunk books released lately and they look interesting. The genre is new to me but I am looking to read a steampunk book soon.

Susan Whitfield said...

Super cool blog, Pauline! I can certainly answer "yes" to many of your questions. I'm planning to write ah historical novel about a medieval ancestor and steampunk intrigues me although I'm not sure how to get all the way back to such primitive times with it. Any suggestions?

Pauline B Jones said...

Many thanks to everyone who stopped by to comment! It really is a fun genre to check out. Even if you don't like one book, there is so much diversity you're sure to find one you like!

Susan, Cornelia wrote a steampunk that starts in Egypt. Really, all you need is a plot that needs some technology to propel it forward. It's really fun to play with the "what if's" of it all.