Today we welcome husband and wife writing team Clay and Susan Griffith. One lucky commenter wins both The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book One AND The Rift Walker: Vampire Empire Book Two. Don’t forget to show us your gadgets and win great prizes.
- Clay and Susan Griffith are the authors of the VAMPIRE EMPIRE trilogy (Pyr Books). The Greyfriar: Book1 (2010), The Rift Walker: Book 2 (Sept. 2011), Book 3 (2012).
What is this Steampunk of which you speak?
by Clay & Susan Griffith
We just returned from the RT Booklovers Convention. This convention is sponsored by RT Book Reviews magazine, which was once known as Romantic Times. Well, now RT covers all genres of books, including science fiction and fantasy. We were at their convention to promote our VAMPIRE EMPIRE series. RT has recognized the booming steampunk genre and sponsored a workshop track dedicated to it. We were on one of the panels because Vampire Empire is steampunk.
There was a lot of conversation around the convention about steampunk among readers and writers. The three most commonly heard comments at RT were:
- “What the heck is steampunk?”
- “I just read my first steampunk book, and it was awesome.”
- “I’m writing a steampunk book.”
All these comments say interesting things about the genre…or subgenre or whatever it is.
First, even among a large group of seasoned genre readers, steampunk is still a relatively new animal. Or at least, the word steampunk is new to them. When you tell the uninitiated to think about Jules Verne or H.G. Wells or Wild Wild West, they immediately get it.
Of course, you can wade into a more complicated explanation, but that only opens the door to the whole debate about “what is steampunk…really?” Does steampunk have to be Victorian? Does it have to have steam power? Is it defined by what it is, or what it isn’t? If you add an airship to Lord of the Rings, does it become steampunk?
Hardcore steampunkers care a great deal about that argument, but we believe that generally most readers are looking for something new, and they want to be immersed in an innovative and exciting atmosphere. They intuitively grasp the workings of a world of established manners, usually Victorian in nature, that are then challenged by new technologies or alternative historical events or supernatural outbreaks.
That leads us to the second comment in which readers who are new to steampunk find they really like it. (Self-servingly, many people told us that Vampire Empire was the first steampunk they had read, and now they wanted to read more. Yay!) So will steampunk become the new Regency romance? The new Western? The new hardboiled private eye? Those genres have readers who return over and over with almost slavish love and, in the case of some readers, are the only type of book they enjoy. It’s too early to tell whether steampunk will become the go-to genre for very many readers, but it is certainly becoming a favored item off many readers’ menus.
There was a lot of discussion at RT about whether steampunk has legs in the publishing world. Some publishers seem hesitant to buy, while others are stockpiling. Is steampunk a flash in the publishing pan that has already peaked in its popularity expansion? Or are we seeing just the beginning of a growing trend? From the numbers of the first two comments noted above that we heard at RT, you might conclude that the trend certainly isn’t played out yet. And, in fact, it may just be reaching a mass market.
The third most common comment we heard at RT came from writers who were delving into the genre for the first time. Of course, writers being writers, there’s always going to be an upsurge in manuscripts in a particular genre any time a new blip hits the publishing radar screen. Vampires. Paranormal romance. YA fantasy. Zombies. And now steampunk. That’s natural. Writers want to sell their books, so they look for what the hot trend is, or they get swept up in the excitement of a new genre and want to be a part of it somehow.
However, that isn’t the case with many writers who are working on steampunk novels who talked to us at RT. They are writing books they have always wanted to write, but never had a market. Now the steampunk “explosion” gives them the chance. They might have to make a few changes to render the book a little more steampunky, but they truly aren’t just pulling an old unsold historical romance or epic fantasy out of their file cabinet, tossing in gears and top hats, and sending it off newly labeled as steampunk. They are truly fascinated by the tropes of the genre, and want to explore them.
Even faster than vampires, paranormal, and zombies before it, tropes of steampunk are being twisted and shattered. Steampunk may be the one genre where the ground rules are never even fully established before writers begin flying off into their own directions. And that’s pretty cool. It also calls into question what steampunk is…really.
But that’s not the issue here. At RT, we learned that there is great curiosity about steampunk, a growing love of the genre, and a massive productive force ready to throw themselves into exploring and exploding the genre.
Things are going to happen fast and furious in the world of steampunk fiction over the next year or two. So hold onto your hats and corsets, a lot of new readers are about to be swept up in a wonderful genre, and fresh voices will twist steampunk in wild directions.
~Clay & Susan Griffith
One lucky commenter wins both The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book One AND The Rift Walker: Vampire Empire Book Two. North America only, please. Contest ends April 22, 2012 at 11:59 PM PST.