And so, the stories are in [mostly, she said with a stern look at a few wretched souls], and it’s time for the brass tacks of editing. But before Phyl and I take up our red-dipped pens, I took a moment to think about where we’re coming from.
When we say “Steampunk,” what do we mean? In these blog entries we’ve been referring to the literary form; a mash-up of Victorian mores and manners with the susawunder of science fiction and exploration.
But Steampunk, unlike almost any other literary genre I can think of, was inspired not by one aspect of society but rather grew out of the entire culture; arose not from so much the written word but the sewn – or fashioned – object.
Steampunk, first and foremost, belonged to the role-players, the costumers.
Costuming is, in many ways, the parent of Steampunk. It is a genre not only of words, but visualizations; an interactive, interconnected worldbuilding.
(see also: http://www.b3ta.com/challenge/steampunk/popular/)
That fact was driven home to me last weekend at Dragon*Con, that yearly gathering of all that is fun and fabulous in the book/media/music/comics/costuming world of science fiction and fantasy. As more than one person mentioned, this was the year that Steampunk exploded. Always a popular costume/performance theme, this year it was everywhere, spreading into other categories, including “fairy hunters” in full tech gear, a Steampunked version of the Star Wars characters, and a reimagining of the Ghostbusters as 19th Century spook-hunters (complete with back-carried containment devices).
So what does this mean for the literary side? How does it make Steampunk different, say, from cyberpunk, or magical realism, or epic fantasy? I don’t know. Some would say it doesn’t, that the two aspects, costuming and storytelling, are two distinct and separate halves of the movement.
I think they’re wrong, though.
Do you have photos of Steampunk fashion? Share!
Laura Anne Gilman is currently crazed, preparing for the release of her alternate 14th Century fantasy FLESH AND FIRE (also known as “the wine magic book”) in October, and has to be reminded to do things like eat, sleep and call her mother.
You can find more on her bookshelf