I’m kind of jumping on Lolita Seleste Delaney’s genre-mashing bandwagon here. I’ve been hanging out at a new steampunk group on The Consolidated Organization of General Steampunk Writers on Facebook this week and the question came up, “How much magic/paranormal do you like in your steampunk?” The same question came up last Friday on Twitter during #steampunkchat, so it seems to be weighing heavily on people’s minds.
This is a question I’ve thought about a lot since I started writing the Gaslight Chronicles, which are pretty close to a 50/50 blend of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy, along with a hefty dose of romance. I’ve had some readers complain its not steampunk, since there are werewolves and vampyres, while some historical romance or fantasy readers get confused when the tech exceeds what was actually available in the mid-1800s or the social structure is a bit more…evolved. As author Richard Asplund, Jr. so brilliantly put it, it’s like the Reese’s Argument: “You got your fantasy in my steampunk,” vs. “You got your steampunk in my fantasy.” That seems to perfectly sum up the debate.
Me? I’ve always been of the “throw it all in and shake it up” variety when it comes to genres. Before I wrote gaslamp/steampunk/fantasy romance, I was writing paranormal/fantasy/suspense/sf romance. For me, fiction is fiction, and there aren’t any hard and fast lines. Well, I do have a thing about happy endings, but that’s about it. I’ve never had the slightest qualms about mashing up fantasy and tech. I think that makes things more fun. You never know what to expect.
It turns out, though, that there ARE people, readers and authors, who do have very definitive opinions on just how much hocus-pocus ought to be allowed in steampunk. Others consider steampunk more of an aesthetic, and anything with the right “feel” can be considered steampunk, not just tech-only alternate history. One thing I would suggest to other authors–and I say this as both a reader and writer of spec fic–is whatever you decide, make sure your world is internally consistent. In other words, have your magical system grounded in some sort of science or folklore and have your divergence points for your advance technology clearly delineated. If the two flow together for you as the author, odds are they will for the reader.
I’m curious to know what you think. I’m offering a download of your choice of my steampunk/fantasy mash-up books to one random commenter.