Author Topic: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?  (Read 2086 times)  

Offline ehhoward

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Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« on: June 04, 2016, 04:32:56 AM »
This isnt a request to be flamed to death. I genuinely like the genre, have written a couple of short stories and have been mulling with a full-length for a time. So, I decided to catch up with the latest to see how things had changed.
There is obviously a thriving artistic and fan community, but I went searching the web for Best 10 Steampunk books of 2015/6 not a lot came back. The genre seems to have stuck at 2010. People still rave about the classics, but where is the new?

I read the Gail Carriger, Kady Cross, etc. But these are rather derivative and became repetitive. Only so much teenage angst I can take.

For me there has to be more than goggles and vague impossible machinery, it has to have some chance of working. So, somebody cobbling together a fully intelligent bug out of a tin can and a watch means the book goes across the room (metaphorically speaking, as I cant afford a new kindle on every tantrum!)

Comments / reading suggestions gratefully accepted.

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2016, 04:40:20 AM »
And here I just discovered it...

:D

This was my gateway drug into steampunk:



Chasing the Star Garden (Airship Racing Chronicles Book 1)

And one of the things I enjoyed about these is that these are adult characters!  With some history woven in.

Looking for more recommendations, myself.

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Offline ehhoward

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2016, 09:01:10 AM »
Thanks Betsy, it's on your head and on my kindle. I'm really puzzled how such a promising genre can fade.

Offline Mark E. Cooper

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2016, 09:05:59 AM »
It's my understanding the market has always been small for steampunk. I love reading it, but from Lindsay Buroker's various comments on the subject, I probably wouldn't dare market a book as steampunk. Not exclusively anyway. I would probably go for epic fantasy with steampunk elements.

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2016, 09:39:28 AM »
I'm a long-time SF reader and fantasy reader, but the small amount of steampunk I've read did not work for me. In my admittedly limited sampling, I think my personal knowledge of both science and history were too much at odds with what the authors proposed as their "fictional realities", and I simply couldn't do the willing suspension of disbelief thing -- even though I'll do so pretty easily for epic fantasy with wizards and dragons, or galaxy-spanning space operas.

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2016, 09:42:32 AM »
steampunk to me has always seemed simply to be a sub-sub-genre of science fiction and alternate history with specific rules to make it steampunk.  because of those rules, i've found most steampunk stories to be too similar to go looking for more. 

Offline gerard_blalock

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2016, 11:06:47 AM »
There are still some good steampunk books coming out. There was Vermilion by Molly Tanzer last year, which I think is getting a sequel soon. The genre seems to be getting more and more Western-inflected entries, which I dig.

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2016, 01:06:38 PM »
I think both steampunk and urban fantasy are fading in popularity with readers.  That said, you might enjoy Frank Tuttle's All the Paths of Shadow (it's a series. I forget the names of the other two books).    IT gets more steampunkish as the series develops.  IMO, his urban fantasy is even better, but obviously mileage will vary!



Offline scifi365

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2016, 01:16:01 PM »
The thing with Steampunk is that it's become a 'fashion' genre. People (certainly in London and Brighton, the two cities I've seen it most) dress up steampunk style. The whole goggles, flying helmet and brass accessories thing (and, of course, Victorian boned corsets for the ladies) is what people mean when they refer to steampunk.

The indie publishing sector simply reflects this. It's now a literary form where the tropes, the styles, the mechanics of the genre outweigh what was good about it in the first place. In other words, steampunk is eating itself.

There's not really anywhere for it to go in a fictional sense and so people who read the genre (myself included) get bored in the end. It's all a long way from 'The Difference Engine' and 'Infernal Devices', unfortunately.

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2016, 01:34:29 PM »
I bloody hope not, I'm planning a steampunk book at the moment!


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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2016, 01:37:14 PM »
Oh, and Betsy - The Difference Engine (Bruce Sterling/William Gibson) and Infernal Devices (K.W Jeter) : those are my recommendations. There's some other cool stuff out there,  'Leviathan' by Scott Westerfeld is excellent as is Cherie Priest's 'Boneshaker'. Those four will pretty much define Steampunk for you.

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2016, 03:51:54 PM »
Oh, and Betsy - The Difference Engine (Bruce Sterling/William Gibson) and Infernal Devices (K.W Jeter) : those are my recommendations. There's some other cool stuff out there,  'Leviathan' by Scott Westerfeld is excellent as is Cherie Priest's 'Boneshaker'. Those four will pretty much define Steampunk for you.
These are the 'classics', but they are fairly old. I like to keep in tune with what is being published this year, especially when I am toying with writing some. I even did a diet of vampires last year! Ohh that was so bad it put me right off.

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2016, 03:56:58 PM »
Oh, and Betsy - The Difference Engine (Bruce Sterling/William Gibson) and Infernal Devices (K.W Jeter) : those are my recommendations. There's some other cool stuff out there,  'Leviathan' by Scott Westerfeld is excellent as is Cherie Priest's 'Boneshaker'. Those four will pretty much define Steampunk for you.

Thanks!  Will check them out!

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Offline ehhoward

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2016, 03:57:17 PM »
The thing with Steampunk is that it's become a 'fashion' genre. People (certainly in London and Brighton, the two cities I've seen it most) dress up steampunk style. The whole goggles, flying helmet and brass accessories thing (and, of course, Victorian boned corsets for the ladies) is what people mean when they refer to steampunk.

The indie publishing sector simply reflects this. It's now a literary form where the tropes, the styles, the mechanics of the genre outweigh what was good about it in the first place. In other words, steampunk is eating itself.

There's not really anywhere for it to go in a fictional sense and so people who read the genre (myself included) get bored in the end. It's all a long way from 'The Difference Engine' and 'Infernal Devices', unfortunately.
I think you're spot on. The art/ fashion now has a life outside of the books. Even up north, we had the Crewe steampunk festival. They are going for bigger and better next year. There really has to be more to it than gears and goggles. And oh my god, the corsets! Take more than whale none to control all that.

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2016, 02:31:40 AM »
Glass Books of the Dream Eaters has strong steampunk overtones. And Johnathan Green's Pax Britannia series, and of course George Mann's Newbury & Hobbes books.

I'd agree that I'm seeing fewer startlingly good steampunk books coming out. It's a very prescriptive subgenre, and at times it does start to feel a bit mined out. Robert Rankin sometimes prefers to call it "Meta-Victoriana", pointing out that there's very little that is authentically "punk" about most of the titles out there.


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Offline anguabell

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2016, 12:47:42 PM »
I too would recommend George Mann's Newberry and Hobbes Alan mentioned, and the Glass Book of Dream Eaters is one of my all-time favorites.  My recent discoveries in this genre include Mark Hodder and his Burton & Swinburne series. The first 4 books were great, the remaining 2 not that much, but all well-worth reading. Lots of interesting real history, too!

I am just reading China Mieville's New Crobuzon series often described as "steampunk". Plenty of steam engines in those books, that's for sure, but otherwise they are more in the fantasy genre. Still, very vivid and fascinating, last but not least because of his amazing language.

All these are steampunk books for adults. I have no patience with silly romance tropes or YA literature, and I am sorry to see the genre going that way. Still waiting for Gail Carriger to write something for grown ups. She is such an intelligent writer, and can do something more challenging. But...I guess it's business, just like everything else.

Offline Mike D. aka jmiked

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2016, 04:27:31 PM »
I think both steampunk and urban fantasy are fading in popularity with readers.  That said, you might enjoy Frank Tuttle's All the Paths of Shadow (it's a series. I forget the names of the other two books).    IT gets more steampunkish as the series develops.  IMO, his urban fantasy is even better, but obviously mileage will vary!

Hmmm, I have all of Tuttle's books and wouldn't have called any of them either steampunk or urban fantasy. Of course, I'm an old guy, so I'm out of touch with almost everything.


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Offline Cal Lumney

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2016, 12:53:29 PM »
The trads published Elizabeth Bear's Karen Memory this past year. Her Garrett stories are a bit of magic and detective work combined, much like the investigators of whom Philippa Ballantine writes. Oh, and Adina's Lady of Devices.

There's a graphic somewhere, an analysis of genre "bubbles" and "cells" and whatnot, and while steampunk is a small subgenre, there's doubtless some strong loyalty and communication among its fans.

Offline MichealC

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2016, 04:15:14 PM »
I think its less of steampunk/urban fantasy becoming less popular and more that they are being subsumed into sci-fi and fantasy as a whole. Becoming a bit of the fabric that makes those what they are in the collective unconscious. The same thing happened to cyberpunk. There are definatley plenty of cyberpunk based stories these days but are rarely labeled as such. Instead of a story being "steampunk", it gets labeled as sci-fi or alternate history because the public views them as part of that genre. It's what seems to happen when a sub-genre goes mainstream.
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Offline Holly Bell

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #19 on: June 14, 2016, 04:27:47 PM »
I always considered steam punk part of sci fi fad and I've never been a fan, but I'm probably outside the target demographic.
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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #20 on: June 14, 2016, 05:51:50 PM »
Steampunk is a funny one--very visually striking and recognizable, and the only literary genre I can think of that grew out of an aesthetic. It does seem to have lost steam (sorry, sorry, I can't help myself), but the hardcore readers are always on the lookout for something new. In my experience, it has to be more than just, as you say, gears and funny machines. There needs to be plot and innovation and a reason we find ourselves in this gaslight world.

A recommendation: Flix J. Palma's The Map of Time is an interesting sci-fi take on the Victorian crazy-machinery aspects, bringing in the likes of Jack the Ripper and Jules Verne for a wild ride where you as the reader are never quite sure if what you're reading is pageantry or genuine magic. Good stuff!
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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2016, 06:58:28 PM »
Thanks for the suggestion--looks interesting!


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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #22 on: June 17, 2016, 09:36:16 PM »
Thanks for the suggestion--looks interesting!


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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #23 on: June 18, 2016, 04:42:30 AM »
Hope you enjoy it! It's the first in a trilogy. I haven't had the chance to pick up the next one yet.

I've added it to my wishlist...one of these days!

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Offline Compton

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #24 on: September 07, 2016, 02:15:37 AM »
I'm hoping to publish my first story in 3 weeks - it's a steampunk/cyberpunk/dieselpunk/biopunk crossover. No fantasy...well, except for this one tiny plot device.

How the hell will I market such a thing? Crossoverpunk?

Offline Geoffrey

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #25 on: September 07, 2016, 02:51:17 PM »
I think part of the thing with steampunk - and it's been around for quite a while - is that the market saturated itself these past few years.   A few notable books and series rose to the top, but most of the books within the sub-genre became formulaic and so much background noise.  The earlier novels from the late 80s/early 90s had the advantage of being part of something new, so they invented the sub-genre, some of the later authors reinvented them by blending them genres or styles - Gail Carriger made steampunk amusing; China Meville blended in a lot of weird, in a way, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan was just standard YA steampunk flying ships, but it just worked.

I personally some of the other *punk sub-genres are less saturated and still more interesting.  Cyberpunk can be cliche but dieselpunk and biopunk are fun areas with lots of room to explore, IMHO.   They don't have that same feeling that I've already read that book like steampunk can (or for that matter, urban fantasy, werewolves, zombies or vampires ....)



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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #26 on: September 07, 2016, 05:03:46 PM »
Heather Albano's Study in Steampunk: Choice by Gaslight is easily my favorite Choose Your Own Adventure style game. So, no, I'd say steampunk is alive and well as a genre. http://store.steampowered.com/app/421630/

Offline Lorri Moulton

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #27 on: April 12, 2017, 03:14:31 PM »
Heather Albano's Study in Steampunk: Choice by Gaslight is easily my favorite Choose Your Own Adventure style game. So, no, I'd say steampunk is alive and well as a genre. http://store.steampowered.com/app/421630/

It seems like Steampunk fashion and even TV/movie influences continue to grow.  I hope there will be more popularity for the books, too. 

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Offline MariaESchneider

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #28 on: April 14, 2017, 01:04:18 PM »
Jackaby is a good steampunk-sort-of.  I enjoyed it.

Offline tocs100

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #29 on: April 23, 2017, 10:43:45 PM »
steampunk to me has always seemed simply to be a sub-sub-genre of science fiction and alternate history with specific rules to make it steampunk.  because of those rules, i've found most steampunk stories to be too similar to go looking for more.

This. It never got a series like Star Trek or Dr. Who to kickstart it. imo. There was William Gibson's cyberpunk "X-Files" episodes, and that game show last year(?) but the movie takes on it always rang hollow to me, unless maybe you count the original "Blade Runner," but even that didn't hit me right until later teen years. "Guardians of the Galaxy" seems somewhat in the spirit, but the similar-looking "Suicide Squad" kinda squashed the movement right out of the gate. :=(
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 10:47:12 PM by tocs100 »

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #30 on: April 23, 2017, 10:58:50 PM »
This. It never got a series like Star Trek or Dr. Who to kickstart it. imo. There was William Gibson's cyberpunk "X-Files" episodes, and that game show last year(?) but the movie takes on it always rang hollow to me, unless maybe you count the original "Blade Runner," but even that didn't hit me right until later teen years. "Guardians of the Galaxy" seems somewhat in the spirit, but the similar-looking "Suicide Squad" kinda squashed the movement right out of the gate. :=(

Given there is going to be another Blade Runner this year it's probably a great genre to be writing in at the moment.

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Offline Matt Khourie

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #31 on: April 25, 2017, 07:40:50 PM »
Can a genre of anything ever really run out of steam as long as quality works are being produced? As long as there are talented wordsmiths out there who can hit all the right notes and emotional beats, I think readers as a whole are willing to go along for the familiar retreads.

Offline Lorri Moulton

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #32 on: April 26, 2017, 08:26:15 AM »
This. It never got a series like Star Trek or Dr. Who to kickstart it. imo. There was William Gibson's cyberpunk "X-Files" episodes, and that game show last year(?) but the movie takes on it always rang hollow to me, unless maybe you count the original "Blade Runner," but even that didn't hit me right until later teen years. "Guardians of the Galaxy" seems somewhat in the spirit, but the similar-looking "Suicide Squad" kinda squashed the movement right out of the gate. :=(

What about Wild, Wild West (tv show and movie) new version of Westworld and I would say Firefly...although many disagree.  While not true Steampunk, there are elements of that blend of Victorian/old west and more modern technology.

League of Extraordinary Gentleman and even a few references on Once Upon A Time.  While Steampunk may not be hot, I think it wouldn't take much to bring it back to the forefront of entertainment venues.  It's such a cool concept and the outfits are great! 

Keeping my fingers crossed it makes a resurgence since one of my characters runs a nightclub catering to Steampunk! :)
« Last Edit: April 26, 2017, 08:28:39 AM by Lorri Moulton »

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #33 on: April 27, 2017, 01:03:43 AM »
Given there is going to be another Blade Runner this year it's probably a great genre to be writing in at the moment.
Also, Ghost in the Shell just got a remake. Most punk genres (steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, desertpunk, biopunk) are extremely popular in manga/anime compared to the West, so maybe learning Japanese is an option? ;)
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Offline MariaESchneider

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #34 on: May 01, 2017, 02:48:51 PM »
Can a genre of anything ever really run out of steam as long as quality works are being produced? As long as there are talented wordsmiths out there who can hit all the right notes and emotional beats, I think readers as a whole are willing to go along for the familiar retreads.

It can easily run out of steam if people don't find them or aren't looking for them or are avoiding them.  I've been running a book blog for 15 years--and I see various trends in what people buy.  For the longest time, cozy mysteries ALWAYS sold well.  Lately, that seems to have moved more to historical mysteries and women's fiction.  Even thrillers and general mystery are picking up compared to cozies.  Urban Fantasy had/has a steady stream of interest, but lately (last year or so) it's been trending down, slowly, but steadily.  I tend to post books that do well and switch it up if a certain genre isn't doing well.  Steampunk was never huge on my blog unless mixed with romance or unless it was on the cozier side (Frank Tuttle, Gail Carringer, shelley adina).  Right now romantic comedy and general mystery (including historical) are the top selling categories.  Romance hasn't been a top seller on my blog for a few years, but it's what is selling right now.   Steampunk doesn't do well if it looks too much like urban fantasy, but there are pockets that will still sell.  I haven't tried anything lately because it hasn't done all that well in the last year.


Offline CaylenMcQueen

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #35 on: May 26, 2017, 03:59:49 AM »
I've been lurking on kindleboards for awhile, but now that I've officially signed up, I have to say... this entire thread killed me a little! lol! (I just released the first book in a series that has quite a few steampunk elements)

Hopefully I included enough fantasy and romance that I won't be a total flop.  ;D

Offline Maalik

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Re: Has steampunk run out of steam as a litarary genre?
« Reply #36 on: May 27, 2017, 06:16:32 AM »
I forgot this genre even existed. I think it's always been a smaller niche but if you write something good the fans will come.