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I’m going to be teaching an online class on writing for Young Adults Feb 14-Mar 12, 2011.  More info here if anyone is interested.

Innocent Darkness is now on Goodreads. I also have a tentative release date of 8-8-12.  ~insert happy dance here.~  I’ve also joined up with the Apocalypsies, the 2012 debut YA authors.  If you’re curious about what five things I think are necessary for the apocolipse find out here.

Okay, enough chatter.

Today, I want to talk a little about Steampunk Archetypes.

Archetypes are stereotypes or epitomes of personalities, a generic or ideal personification if you will.  They often serve as a basis for characters.  Folklore has archetypes, art has archetypes, even Jung has archetypes.

Steampunk has archetypes as well.  One trick to using archetypes in our story without making them seem too stereotypical or stale is to turn archetypes on their ear or even combine them (though not all characters will be based on these archetypes, and that’s okay.  Original characters are just as fun).

Just a few archetypes sometimes found in Steampunk stories:

Air-Pirate – one of the quintessential Steampunk characters.  Airpirates and bad, bold, and armed to the teeth.

Adventurer/Explorer—they’re reason for being is to boldly go where no one has gone before and to experience new things and discover new places.

Aviator—weather roguish or military, whether they’re flying a bi-plane, a zeppelin, or a space ship, they they’re tough, brave, and a can even a bit gallant, especially in contrast to Air-Pirates.

Dandy/Femme Fatale—they use their wiles and charms to get what they want, sometimes at the expense of others.

Mad Scientist/Inventor—another quintessential Steampunk character, they embody the steam in steampunk, discovering new things, solving problems, and occasionally blowing things up

Mechanic/Tinker—a bit of a twist on the Scientist/Inventor.  Where the Inventor is creating things from scratch, the tinker is improving on things, often on the fly, or perhaps just trying to get things to work, making due with what they have.

Philosopher/Scholar-they like old books and wax poetic about the classics, they could also be trying to learn new things and discover new ideas—or uncover the ideas of old.  They may talk too much about things no one cares about or prefer books to people.

Socialite/Lady/Gentleman—Often based on Victorian aristocracy, they can often embody the refinement and social norms we associate with the upper class of that era.  Many times they serve as patrons for the scholars, adventurers, and inventors.

Street Sparrow/Scrappy Survivor—These are the street urchins, your pickpockets and beggars.  Hungry and dirty, they do what they need to do to survive.

Reformer –They could be suffragettes or seeking to get rid of child labor or protesting imperialism, they are working to make the world a better place, often loudly and not always peacefully and without scandal.

I’m sure you can think of all sorts of variations.  A Scientist doesn’t need to be mad, perhaps they’re naturalists or cryptozoologists.  Tinkers could work on Airships.  Airpirates might be reformers in their own way.

What would happen if you mix these archetypes up, either as a whole or as your character’s life progresses (the street sparrow grows up to be a reformer, or a lady is secretly a tinker…)?  You have characters that are familiar yet different, with potential for depth and interesting backstory.

What sorts of Steampunk folks populate your world?

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I thought I posted this “Steampunk Primer” before, but I can’t find it, so here it is again…

Steampunk is a term that there’s been quite a bit of buzz about.  But, what is exactly Steampunk? 

 Steampunkers party like it’s 1899 (and what happens when Goth’s discover the color brown, lol.)  Steampunk is set in a world where steam and natural gas, not coal and electricity is still the primary power source.  It’s a world abounding with airships, gas lamps, gears, cogs, and brass goggles and populated with mad scientists, philosophers, adventurists, and air pirates.  HG Wells and Jules Vernon are huge inspirations for Steampunk.  Examples include League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Stardust, Treasure Planet, and the Golden Compass.

Even though there’s a heavy Victorian influence and feel to Steampunk, there could still be extraordinary technology all done with Victorian materials and in Victorian styles.  There can even be Steampunk airships, space ships, computers, and brass robots.  Technology may have simply evolved differently–or maybe a natural (or unnatural disaster) caused society to “regress,” though Steampunk stories traditionally lack the dystopian/anarchist elements that cyberpunk has. 

Steampunk stories can be set in the past, in the future, or on another planet.  They can be alternate histories, mysteries with hard-boiled detectives or cozy Victorian ladies, they can be gothic, or horror, or sweet romance.  They can be bodice rippers, erotic, or “tame.”  Steampunk stories can even feature the supernatural or paranormal elements. 

It’s in the setting, the language, the gadgets, and the characters–who could speak like Victorian ladies or fast-talking American teenagers.  With Steampunk, there’s really a great opportunity to be creative and make amazing worlds ranging from gritty to opulent.  Its basis is Victorian in nature, but it’s also fiction so you can do incredible and imaginative things.  Are you ready to write?

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There are lots of similar genres and terms for Steampunk and things that are Steampunk-esque. Here’s a *very* brief summary of some of the really neat things I found. This is by no means definitive or exhaustive.

Alternate History—This is a really broad category because alternate histories are infinite and Steampunk is only a small part. This is when you actually explain how and why your Steampunk world got to be this way which could range from rebuilding after WWW III to portals to hell to earthquakes to aliens and beyond
Fireside Science Fiction–“Cozy” Sci-Fi where Victorian gentlefolk end up doing god-knows-what, god-knows-where, but it all ends well and laugh about it over brandy and cigars in the study afterwards
Gaslamp Fantasy–Set in a Victorian-esque fantasy realm these stories have tight bodices, slapstick, mayhem, mad science, and paranormal elements
Gaslamp Romance—same as above, but with more sex and a happily ever after and could be set in either a fantasy realm or the “real” (ish) world
Neo-Victoriana–Recreating Victorian life using modern tools, materials, and methods (most “traditional” Steampunk works have advanced technology but use Victorian materials not modern ones)
Retro-Futurism—Combining elements of the past with future technology but can be applied to any era not just Victorian
Scientific Romance–An early, primarily British, term for science fiction, also used to describe Verne’s works. Now used for Victorian based-science fiction
Steampulp–What if I was stuck in a bodice ripper and had to fight my way out before the brass robots ate me? Also another name for Steampunk, since the “punk” leads people to think stories are dystopian or anarchist (like cyberpunk) where in actuality they usually aren’t
Victorian Science Fiction–Gentrified name for Steampunk though often denotes fiction actually written in Victorian era, as opposed to stories set in Victorian times
Voyages Extraordinaire –Larger than life Victorian adventures, a la Jules Verne
Wild/Weird West–Steampunk meets the 19th Century American West. Lots of mad scientists, saloon girls, cowboys, and giant mechanical beasts

 

Do you have any other neat Steampunk terms to share? Cool linkys? Any of these inspire you? Or is this information overload, lol?

I have *one* tiara left (I’m going to have to go back and see if they have more. I bought them all out last time I was there, lol.) These are really beautiful art-deco style mini tiaras. This one is black with stones in shades of gold and yellow. Perfect for a Steampunk princess. One lucky poster will snag it…I’ll post the winner on Friday. 

Have a great week!

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