Of Parasols and Cannon Balls…Fangtastic Friday Goes STEAMPUNK

I recently took a class in “Writing Steampunk” through RWA’s Charlotte Chapter.  Great online course.  I thought I knew the elements of the genre, having seen the new Sherlock Holmes movies and years ago, The Wild, Wild West.  Little did I know.  There are many nuances to steampunk.

But let’s start with the essential elements.  I’ve encapsulated here what Beth Henderson, who taught the class, had to say.

1)      Take a machine with large interlocking gears, power it with steam, and add an
element from the future…or present, if you’d rather.

2)      Add 19th century details such as polluted air, new
inventions of business, marvels of travel, the advances in
communication, in entertainment, the political,
the various wars on the Continent, and science or exploration.

3)      Change something…drastically.  In other words, tweak, warp, meld, alter, kill, maim, prevent, etc.

4)      Consider adding an occult feature.

5)      Give the main character or characters a quest that is dangerous to
themselves and to others. .

6)      Make it all very VISUAL…Steampunk has been very prominent in the graphics novel
world for a long time.

7)      Include a created being, either biological, mechanical, or magical.  99% of all Steampunk tales include this element.

Of course, Beth went into much greater detail in the class, and we had beaucoup exercises to do.

To get your juices flowing, here’s the plot to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a 2003 steampunk flick.

Allan Quatermain, the world’s greatest adventurer,
leads a legion of superheroes the likes of which the world has never
seen.Quatermain’s extraordinary League is comprised of Captain Nemo, Dracula
vampiress Mina Harker, an invisible man Rodney Skinner, American secret service
agent Sawyer, Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and M–the League’s enigmatic
recruiter.The League members are staunch individualists, outcasts in fact, with checkered
pasts and singular gifts that have been both blessing and curse. Now they must
learn to trust each other and work as a team for the very hope of civilization.
With little preparation and no time to lose, they will be transported via
Captain Nemo’s extraordinary submarine, the Nautilus, to the frontline of
defense: Venice, Italy. There, a masked madman known as the Fantom plans to
sabotage a conference of world leaders by setting off a domino chain of
explosions, sinking the entire city. The threat is catastrophic, the risks are
staggering. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has 96 hours to save the

Got a hankering to write steampunk?  Do you read it?  Any favorite books to recommend?  I particularly like Gail Carriger’s parasol protectorate series.  How about you?

12 Responses to “Of Parasols and Cannon Balls…Fangtastic Friday Goes STEAMPUNK”
  1. Heide Katros says:

    Hi, Susan, Steampunk sound complicated LOL but I know you are up to it. I think you might like to see the movie Super 8. It has a lot of steampunk in it, though I didn’t know that it was that LOL Little ole me sticks to historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense. That’s enough research for me.
    Good luck and thanks for a great explanation.

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      Well, I’m not so sure I’m up to it. I added a biologically-induced automaton to a story, and he ended up looking like an add-on. I deleted him. LOL. I think I’m destined to stick with what I know…paranormal romance. Thanks for stopping by, Heide. I always love your perspective and appreciate your advice.

  2. anna volk says:

    I didn’t know what steampunk was didn’t even know it was a genre great blog as I learned something new

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      It’s pretty hot right now, Anna. Sure you don’t want to plunk your werewolves into a steampunk setting?

  3. Steampunk has fascinated me for years. I’ve got a plot for a book, but it’s a bit intimidating to me as a writer. I took an online class and sat in on a few panels at the RT convention. One of these days I hope I will get comfortable enough to actually write the book.

    Very informative blog, Susan.

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      With your extensive knowledge of Medieval Italy and your talent, you could surely make it work, Jannine. I agree that steampunk’s a bit intimidating, but like anything else, once you know the elements, you can tweak a plot into steampunk.

  4. Very interesting, Susan. Is there much steampunk YA?

  5. Kate Hofman says:

    Hi Susan – I managed to read your post by doing Ctrl+A, and it became white letters on blue, a bit easier than what I’m typing now, which – to be quite candid – I can’t see!
    Steampunk is a bit too far out for me — imagine a clinch between a paranormal and a created being…. Maybe I better not try!

    xoxo KATE

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      Kate, kudos to you! Nothing gets you down, lady. Let’s see, I’m trying to imagine one of your clinches in a steampunk story. Would have to pair a Greek god, for sure, with what? A grandfather clock? LOL!

  6. Kate Hofman says:

    That’s hilarious, Susan, and right on the nose for Steampunk. But then, you can write anything you put your mind to. All the same, I hope you will continue with your delicious Vampies!

    xoxo KATE

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