Steampunk – the Next Big Thing?

Above artwork is “Steampunk” by John Coulthart

Is Steampunk the new trend in the fantasy genre? I’m beginning to see it everywhere I look. But what is it? The image above has tongue-in-cheek a formula Jeff VanderMeer came up with: Mad Scientist Inventor [invention (steam x airship or metal man / baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot = Steampunk.

Some books to look out for:

  • I just read and reviewed (LJ / vox / wordpress) Dru Pagliassotti’s Clockwork Heart. She’s busy working on the second book tentatively titled Obstruction Currents. She has also been working on a third novel with the working title King’s Monster, but I don’t know if that is also steampunk.
  • Karin Lowachee is working on The Gaslight Dogs (she’s the author of an amazing science fiction trilogy Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird). I haven’t seen much about this one so it may be coming out later from orbit books:
    “Very different from her previous military science fiction novels, this is a Victorian era steampunk novel in the style of Philip Pullman taking us from the Arctic North to steeped rooftops of civilization and the savages to the east. (Fall/Winter 2009)”
  • Liz Maverick is working on Crimson and Steam, which should be out January 2010 and which is set in her Crimson city universe.
The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy ParkerSteamed by Katie MacAlisterSoulless by Gail Carriger

  • Katie MacAlister is working on a Steampunk series that will have it’s first book out in 2010. Her website has this announcement: “I’ve just received the cover to Steamed, the first in a new series of Steampunk romances, which will be out February 2010. The cover isn’t quite finished (you can view a large version of it here), but you can get a sneak peek at it and the back cover copy to see what all the fuss is about. Fluff up your bustle, polish your pocket watch, adjust your goggles, and crank up the Abney Park! It’s steam time, ladies and gentlemen! ”
  • The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber is coming out from Dorchester on 09/09/09 and has a lovely cover. The author calls it a “ghostly, gothic Victorian fantasy”. Looks promising. Link to the book trailer. The cover blurb:
    “What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death….”
  • Gail Carriger has a book out September from Orbit: Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate):Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.”
  • Meljean Brook has twittered about a steampunk book with pirates. Research reveals she’s got a new series in the works called the Iron Seas

The books coming out should be interesting. I see both authors with a background in romance and science fiction/fantasy coming into the same genre. I’m really looking forward to the results.

The Galaxy Express: Steampunk Romance Watch

Wired by Liz Maverick

Wired (Shomi)
Liz Maverick

I just finished Wired by Liz Maverick, the first book to come out from the  from the Shomi line. So far I'm liking the futuristic aspect of these books (I reviewed Driven which I liked a lot over here). I guess since paranormal is big now – that's sort of a melding of fantasy + romance, that it makes sense that sci fi and romance is another blend that would work as well. 

This book is told from the first person point of view of L. Roxanne Zaborovsky, a programmer who gets intercepted from going to the 7-11 one night by two men. What follows is a non-linear story where time gets manipulated like a record being scratched by a DJ – forward and backward, reset and spliced, Roxy lives through the same situations a few times but with different variables. The two men interested in Roxy are doing this all in order to ensure the right future outcome occurs, but who is doing it to keep the future as close as it was meant to be as possible, and who is doing it for their own ends? Roxy has to figure out why she's important and who to trust and she flip-flops on that decision.

I read some of Liz Maverick's Crimson City novel, and I prefer her first person voice here to the third person voice in that start of the series. Roxy's story had an urgent pace, and the story flowed well.

The comment I have would be similar to many other reviewers – I think because I expected this to have romance I noticed that the romance was cut short. But I can't imagine how the author could put more romance into this – Roxy is being thrown into a weird reality and doesn't know who to trust, and keeps reliving certain things over and over. Where is the time for some wooing in there? It was a stretch as it was that Roxy trusted people enough for the romance that was in there. So.. maybe if this wasn't expected, this wouldn't even be an issue? I ponder.. Not only that, I think half of the romance happens off screen – around the timeline of the book, not so much during it, and the reader has to just make their own assumptions. I didn't mind this, other people looking for more romance might.

The one thing that confused me in this book was the timeline thing. I felt comfortable with the record player idea of time, it keeps playing forward but it can get pulled back and sped forward and things can be changed in it. On top of this was the idea of time as a wire where you took splices of one piece and put it on another and made up a whole wire, and eventually it all gets used up, there is no more wire left. BUT, I got so confused by one wire bit changing here then being spliced there even though they're two different timelines really parallel to one another – and somehow this works? My head wouldn't quite wrap around it. I was actually thinking of perhaps a diagram of this on the book flap somewhere..

Light, interesting read.

Link to a dear author review. Link to guest review on the good, bad and unread.

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