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Steampunk research

Discussion in 'Research' started by the21bluedudes, May 18, 2014.

  1. the21bluedudes

    the21bluedudes Acolyte

    I'm trying to write a story mixing both magic and steampunk elements. Engineers are common people without magic but are the ruling class in my world due to advancement in technology. The mages on the other hand are the ones that have a harder life due to their magic costing more energy to cast than one takes to fire a rifle.

    My question is this,I'm very new to steampunk and I've always wondered if there are any guidelines to writing steampunk. I don't need a whole rule book, but I just don't want to do end up doing what Twilight did to Dracula. (Oh and if there are twilight fans here I do humbly apologize) :biggrin:
  2. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Could I suggest the RPG game Arcanum as a guide to mixing magic and technology. It has a fairly major player manual which goes into detail about the differences between magic and technology and which you can probably find online somewhere. Also all the technology is pure steampunk.

    Cheers, Greg.
    Malik likes this.
  3. Malik

    Malik Auror

    Be thorough in your research. Steampunk is a very specific level of tech and if you half-ass your homework you stand to alienate potential readers who take the definition seriously. If you want to move outside the limitations of "steampunk," just call it something else.

    What I'm saying is this:

  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I have a copy of Dracula, as near as I can tell Twilight didn't do anything to it. It's still there any time I want to read it, just as are various other takes on vampire stories.

    The same is true of Steampunk. Write it the way you want it to be. You'll never satisfy everyone. You won't somehow destroy pre-existing works in the genre.

    The definition of Steampunk is, in my view, a bit more open-ended than argued by some of my friends who are into the genre. If you look at the works for which the name "Steampunk" was coined, they wouldn't qualify by some definitions, which seems a bit odd.

    What do you think Steampunk is missing that you'd like to see in a book? Write that.
  5. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

    Hi the21bluedudes,

    I'm writing a fantasy story set in Victorian England with time travel in it, so I automatically assumed that it's Steampunk. I just googled whether time travel is Steampunk and found this site. Apparently, steampunk originated with Jules Verne, Mary Shelley and HG Wells.

    Steampunk in 3D Design: 40 Fascinating Time Travels - noupe

    The artwork on it is fascinating. (I'm just pleased that I've managed to post a link on here. I didn't realise it was that easy!) :cool:
    Last edited: May 18, 2014
  6. the21bluedudes

    the21bluedudes Acolyte

    Thank you so much for your replies , all of you.

    Okay, so while I'm not about to start sticking gears to usb drives and call it steampunk I do have a lot of questions about the technology side to steampunk.

    I'm really lost on how far you can stretch technology. On one hand steampunk encourages innovation. On the other hand you have Steam Purists (is that a word?) who tend to pick out 101 flaws in your technology.

    "Hey that giant steam cannon fitted with lots of gears that's about to destroy an entire city isn't possible, take it down." (you get what I mean)

    I kinda want to create something like the legend of Korra. One of the devices I plan to use is a motorcycle drawn trishaw but I'm not sure how well it will go down with others readers.
  7. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    I worked on a steampunk game concept some years ago.
    the main problem I had was my and the creative director's different opinions as to what constituted steampunk.

    To me any Victorian technology expanded in unique and entertaining ways was fair game (I included in this Tesla's work and simple electronics such as torches and batteries). However the director would have none of it, and only wanted steam and gear technology to be used - everything mechanical.

    We had some robust discussions.

    The limits of what technology you allow and don't allow has to be nailed down right at the start.
    Personally I also don't like the mixing of magic and steampunk - but that's just me :).
  8. Two excellent graphic novel series for Steampunk inspiration; Bryan Talbot's Grandville series (also for anthro fans), and Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (well worth a film adaptation, but not the one it got).

    I also used to have an excellent book entitled "Victorian Inventions" by the Dutch author Leonard De Vries (Murray, London, 1971), which featured page after page of extracts from scientific magazines of the time and displayed etchings of actual and speculative inventions. Some of them are outlandish and would cause a modern scientist to scoff, but they make wonderful "what ifs". Try also researching books about the scientific developments of the 18th and 19th centuries. There was a great deal of amazing speculation about where science might take us and illustrated magazines and papers demonstrated this.
  9. Cloud

    Cloud Minstrel

    One nice tip I've heard for Steampunk, is to take a key image or idea (the thing that inspired you to pursue a Steampunk style) and extrapolate from that.

    For example, in Boneshaker, Cherie Priest has used the Airship as her steampunk icon, and keyed everything else in her world into that. For Leviathan, Westerfeld uses the the 'Walker' (a steampunk re-imagining of the much-loved Star Wars tank-with-legs).

    If your key image is a motorcycle-drawn rickshaw then run with that and build your other technology around that lynch-pin.
  10. KMR

    KMR Acolyte

    I think you just need to write the story and not worry about what aspects people are going to complain about. For every person that hates your giant canon there is going to be someone who thinks it is the coolest thing ever and wants their very own.

    If you are really that concerned about your use of the tech then I suggest you read some more steampunk from a variety of authors. And don't forget about the punk part. I have read a few stories where it was all about the airships and gears, very cool stuff, but the tech does not make a compelling story.
  11. phantommuseums

    phantommuseums Scribe

    The thing about steampunk is it is an ode, and perhaps an exaggeration, to the victorian time of invention and beginning of machinery. Steam machines are more slapdash: inventors would build simply to make the machine function, not as interested in any sort of design. The "steampunk" look comes from a time where they didn't hide the gears and cogs of the insides of a machine.

    I suggest reading The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. He does a great job explaining an invention, the time machine, but doesn't quite explain the way it works or goes back into time: it doesn't bother me as a reader though. If you leave the inner workings simply to the knowledge of the inventor, as if he wants to keep it a secret, then you won't have to go through the trouble of learning engineering. Just remember that in steampunk, none of the engineering is entirely sound--this is where we get the wonderful steam leaks, creaking noises, and goofy movements we all love about it.

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