What is Steampunk? This is a question the editors are asking. It seems that they are still trying to figure it out. It goes hand in hand with the pat answer to the question asked at every publishing house. “What are you looking for?” The answer is “Something edgy.”
Every editor is looking for the next big thing. The next Harry Potter, the next Outlander, The next Twilight. On the other hand they want to cash in on the current trend. Vampires are hot so let’s buy vampire books. It’s a hard job to predict what will the next leaping trend will be and it’s scary for publishers to take a risk on something they’re not sure of.
I’ve been shopping a Steampunk proposal. I’ve gotten a lot of interest and I’m hoping for an offer very soon. What’s strange is that every editor I’ve talked to or that’s seen it, along with my agent, said the same thing. “I’m not sure what Steampunk is.”
I like to consider Steampunk as a blending of genre’s. I write historicals under the name Cindy Holby and Scifi Romance under the name Colby Hodge. To me Steampunk is the perfect blending of what I do best. Historicals and Scifi. For example my proposal, titled Prism, is a Victorian Historical with scifi elements. The scifi elements are purely Steampunk. I have a character with brass hands that have tiny gears and fittings. The hands are connect to his bones and muscles with tiny screws and need to be regularly maintained with oil. The hands are also larger than normal. I also incorporate a zeppelin and weapons that are powered with crystals. Some of it, like the zeppelin, is standard Steampunk fare. The rest is strictly part of my imagination.
The easiest way to identify Steampunk is simply say The Wild Wild West movie with Will Smith was Steampunk. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was Steampunk.
Steampunk can blend into several genre’s. Western Steampunk, Victorian Steampunk, Urban Fantasy Steampunk. Paranormal Steampunk, take your genre and add Steampunk. I’m pretty sure that Amish Inspirational Steampunk won’t work but hey, someone can try it.
My point is that Steampunk is a wide open genre at the moment. I believe it’s the new edgy that the publisher’s are looking for. Its boundaries are yet to be defined and like everything else, the editors will know it when they see it. Of course it needs to be well written. So let your imagination soar and get to writing.