Heather Massey runs The Galaxy Express, a blog devoted to sci-fi romance. She’s also an author in the subgenre. “Steambot Rampage” (Dreamspell Steampunk, Volume 1) is her latest release. For more information about her work, visit heathermassey.com.
[Stay tuned for details about a giveaway.]
One of These Days, We’ll Get a Steampunk Romance Movie
By Heather Massey
Everyone loves a good redemption story, and if any institution needs one, it’s you—specifically, Warner Bros. Pictures, the studio behind WILD WILD WEST (1999). You had a chance to introduce mainstream audiences to the wonderful world of steampunk and frankly, you blew it.
I avoided that film for years. I knew it was going to be bad, but the intrepid steampunk fan in me had to discover just how bad it could be. Yes, WILD WILD WEST was bad, but what cut me to the quick was its rampant silliness. It was obvious inside of a minute that the suits behind the production went out of their way—to the moon and beyond, it seemed—to avoid taking that project seriously.
While the film contained a few interesting ideas, overall it was very painful to watch. And I’m a fan of steampunk. I can’t imagine what the experience felt like for viewers new to the genre. In fact, the comedic elements had an unintended effect: You were inviting audiences to laugh at both the film and the genre. For shame.
Well, I’m writing to let you know that now, nearly twelve years after that debacle, the time is ripe to revisit a big budget live-action steampunk film. I realize that risk-averse isHollywood’s middle name, but think about it: One among you could be the first to greenlight such an innovative project. Blatant ego-stroke: you could make cinematic history!
Here’s my pitch:
Make it a steampunk romance
I know how much you gravitate towards releasing films that deliver an upbeat ending. Your experience has shown that’s where the profit is. Traditional steampunk, while utterly amazing and thought-provoking, isn’t always about tying everything up with a neat little bow. However, a steampunk romance film, with its universally appealing Happily Ever After, would have the built-in structure of an upbeat ending.
The romance aspect would also be a draw for untold numbers of women—the segment of the population you are currently in denial about when it comes to marketing films in general. See where I’m going with this redemption angle?
Load it with action-adventure
Drawing upon steampunk’s Edisonade roots, a steampunk romance would lend itself very well to an action-adventure story. Throw in a yummy mystery, too, while you’re at it. Plus, you can market it as an alternate history action adventure film if you still lack the cojones to tell potential audiences what it really is.
And who wouldn’t love a dynamite airship battle? Preferably with lots of explosions.
Think of the trailer! If you played your cards right, news of the film could go viral before the director has even shot a single frame!
Gadgets, gadgets, and more gadgets
While I don’t suggest including every steampunk element under the sun in your steampunk romance film, some of the popular mainstays include airships, automatons, and brass goggles. Oh, and don’t forget the steam! Steam-powered contraptions figure prominently in the steampunk genre, and I don’t have to tell you how striking the visuals for those would be. Or maybe I do—they’d be striking beyond measure!
Steampunk machinery ranges from bright and colorful to dark and atmospheric. Gadgets come in small, medium, and large sizes. Take your pick—the sky’s the limit.
And don’t forget the merchandising. Victorian-era style—whether applied to fashion, gadgets, or accessories—is a classic look that’s also retro-cool. If you do the film right, merchandising is an area where you could really cash in. Seriously—I don’t mind you profiting off of me if you show me that you “get it.”
Take advantage of the current CG and 3D technology for some fabulous eye candy
Steampunk, as I’m sure you don’t know, is heavy on the aesthetics (in Hollywood-speak, that means “pretty” and also “shiny”). In other words, steampunk looks fantastic, especially on film. I can understand why you largely ignored the genre in the past. Filmmaking technology just hadn’t progressed enough.
Now, however, it’s a different story. While such an undertaking would undoubtedly take great effort, bringing the steampunk aesthetic to life is affordable these days. Current technology would cut the labor time in half or more compared to decades past. So yeah, it’s time to get with the program—I mean, clockwork.
Whatever you do, don’t make a dumb steampunk movie
There are times for “lowest common denominator” films that yield an easy profit.
This isn’t one of those times.
Remember, we’re talking about a chance at redemption. Steampunk is a complex and venerable genre. It has a rabid hardcore following whose members will support your efforts if you make a film that respects and validates their interest. Doesn’t mean the film can’t be exciting—far from it. But you must take it seriously.
Hollywoodhas actually been generating decent sci-fi movies recently. Why not continue the trend with a steampunk romance film? You could end up with a bona fide phenomenon on your hands.
Take your time. Think it over. I’ve waited years for such an event; I can wait a little longer. In the meantime, I’ll spend my hard-earned money on the steampunk romances that publishers are currently releasing (especially digital-first publishers—gotta love their visionary attitude, eh?).
At least authors and their publishers understand I have steampunk romance needs. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to fork over my cash in exchange for a big-budget theatrical spectacle that does steampunk romance right.
In fact, here’s a list of some steampunk romance/erotic steampunk romance titles in case you’re looking for inspiration:
Clockwork Heart (Dru Pagliassotti)
Here There Be Monsters (Meljean Brook, from the Burning Up anthology)
The Iron Duke (Meljean Brook)
Sky Rat (Angelia Sparrow)
Steamed (Katie MacAlister)
Full Steam Ahead and Mechanical Rose (Nathalie Gray)
Island of Icarus (Christine Danse)
The Miraculous Lady Law (Robert Appleton)
Like Clockwork (Bonnie Dee)
Tangled In Time and Steamrolled, and Steam Time (Pauline Baird Jones)
Clockworks and Corsets (Regina Riley)
Silk, Steele, and Steam (Samhain Publishing’s anthology)
Hot and Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance (DAW Books anthology)
Dreamspell Steampunk, Volume 1 (L&L Dreamspell anthology)
A concerned fan
Now for a giveaway! I’m going to give one person a digital copy of Dreamspell Steampunk, Volume 1. Winner chooses the format (PDF, Mobi, or ePub).
Entering is simple: leave a comment for this post by12 midnight ESTon Sunday, June 26. Tell me your idea for a steampunk romance movie, or what kind of elements you’d like to see.
Here are the story blurbs:
Steambot Rampage by Heather Massey
On the eve of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a no-nonsense secretary and an intrepid reporter join forces to battle a bizarre automaton on a rampage.
Steam Time by Pauline B Jones
The man formerly known as Tobias Smith hadn’t planned to ride along with Dr. Everly and his Medicine Show. Grifters gave him a pain their elixirs couldn’t heal. But he was headed to Marfa, too. And Everly’s son turned out to be a really fine looking damsel—one in distress when the ghost lights of Marfa bump them into an alternate reality complete with an automaton gang and airships. Could he be the good guy? Be the hero, save the day and get the girl?
The Prometheus Engine by Chris Samson
When an airship is shot down over the desolateKashmirlandscape, seven survivors of disparate backgrounds must band together to escape. As a swarm of marauders approaches, the survivors’ only hope lies in the untested Prometheus Engine.
Angelina by Linda Houle
Valerie is fascinated with an antique ruby and diamond pendant. Where did it come from and why was it hidden in a makeshift wall safe? An old log cabin on her new husband’s ranch holds the answers and a lot more, but once Val goes through a secret door will she ever find her way back home?
Thanks for reading!