At an SF con a while ago, I bought a T-shirt that says, “Steampunk means never having to ask ‘Is this period’?” That’s always a big choice when you’re writing alternate history of any variety. How much to keep the same and how much to change? It can be a fine line, trying to give your world that historical flair without simply writing a period novel with some incongruous touches. To quote my agent, “You can’t start out with Downton Abbey and then turn it into Jules Verne.” Well, I guess you could, but it probably wouldn’t work very well. As a former scientist, I tend to want a little order to my fantasy. Yeah, I get the irony.
I try to set my world up with “butterfly effect” differences. In the Gaslight Chronicles, magick (sic) exists and so do paranormal monsters. Therefore, the Order of the Round Table still exists, devoted to protecting England from those threats. After all, who better to organize such a force than Merlin, and who better than Lancelot to head it? In my version of the 1850s, their descendents are still fighting the good fight. It’s a change from reality, but it’s got a logic to it.
The same goes for technology. In my world a man called Charles Babbage invented the first computers in the 1840s. (He really did, it just never got built. That’s the key change for a lot of steampunk.) In my world, he was also ennobled, and is known as Lord Babbage. From there, technology boomed, and along with it, pollution and other sciences, and women’s rights. Since the code for the Analytical Engine was written by Ada, Lady Lovelace (daughter of the famous poet, Lord Byron), it was proven that women could stand alongside men in intellectual pursuits. And then she founded a college for women in the sciences at Oxford University, which a few of my heroines have attended. (Wink from Moonlight & Mechanicals and Geneva from Kilts & Kraken for starters.) Again, there’s a logic, a cause-and-effect to things.
Is my steampunk realistic? Not in the least. There are vampyres and robot dogs and all kinds of other creatures and creations. But does the world make sense in of itself? A little. At least to me.
Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!
In non-steampunk news, Nailed, one of my older erotic romances is being re-released today. Find out more from Resplendence Publishing.