The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Is Steampunk Here To Stay?

It seems like something new crops up every week as the "hot new thing" in romance. M/M stories. Comedic vampires. Snarky first person heroines. Amish dudes?

Steampunk has really taken hold in the last year as a sub-genre of romance. I inhaled Gail Carriger's quirky Parasol Protectorate Series. The Iron Duke was universally hailed as one of the best books in 2010. It makes me steampunk here to stay? Or is it just a flash-in-the-pan? A temporary trend that's not going to last?

What is steampunk exactly? According to Wikipedia, its a "sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used--usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain--that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy."

Two examples that I've read recently are Gail Carriger's quirky series (Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless), and The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. Carriger's books are light-hearted fun, a mix of historical/paranormal/steampunk romance. I can't imagine a quirkier mix of elements...vampires, werewolves, paranormal politics, funky mechanical inventions, tongue-in-cheek comedy, and proper tonnish protocol strictly enforced by the spunky heroine, Alexia. There are dirigibles, mechanical beetles, automatons, a fully loaded parasol covered with weapons, and more. The steampunk inventions are silly and fun, but the glue that holds these books together is the romance between the soulless heroine and her lusty werewolf spouse.

The Iron Duke is an altogether different species of book. The steampunk vision in this world is dark and threatening. There is no comedic relief in sight. Brook's world is perilous indeed, and we find microscopic mechanics that have insidiously infected the human body and forced it into slavery. Steampunk is not merely a backdrop for this story; it is the story. This frightening alternate world has been horribly transformed by these strange mechanical inventions...zombies roam the land, the human populace has been permanently altered, and the romance is intense and feels desperate at times. This book is a fascinating example of steampunk world-building.

I'm not sure if the steampunk genre will be a long-term component of romance. However, I do think that sci fi and romance is a daring and successful combination. Whether it's steampunk or biopunk, or aliens or water-based societies, the choices are endless. The sky is the limit with the imaginative options for this marriage of genres. For authors looking to flex their creative muscle, steampunk offers a glittering opportunity to imagine an alternate world and re-write history.

Just don't forget the romance.

If you're going to tack "romance" at the end of this genre, then you need to remember the most important element--the relationship between the hero and heroine, their conflict and resolution. Funky inventions and nail-biting adventures need to complement the romance, not fight with it, overshadow it, or replace it altogether. It's a tall order....incorporating all of these complex elements into one story, but that's the challenge for the writer of this genre.

I'm not sure if steampunk will fizzle out or continue to gain popularity. But the interest in sci fi/fantasy romance, which allows a huge creative outlet for authors, certainly will. I find it curious that steampunk has gained so much, well, "steam" (pun intended). Maybe folks are eager for an alternate reality. Maybe they wish they could re-write history. Or maybe they just want to be entertained. Whatever the reason, steampunk looks like it will be here for at least the foreseeable future. Enjoy it while you can!

What do you think about this new sub-genre? Do you love it? Or are you tired of new trends?

For more information about these books, please check out the reviews at Penelope's.

Happy Reading,


Sarah Grimm said...

I have to admit that although I had heard of steampunk, I never really knew what it was. Thanks for filling me in!

Is it here to stay? I really don't know but would guess, yes. As long as there are talented authors out there with fun, engaging stories in the genre, I'd say it will hang around.

~Sarah Grimm

Penelope said...

Hi Sarah! If you haven't read any steampunk yet, I would start with Soulless if you like light and entertaining, The Iron Duke if you like more intense stories.

By the way, I just checked out your website and your books look great!

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I knew zip about Steampunk. I thought the name was kinda cute, but had no clue what it meant. To write in this genre would require a fantastical mind, a strong vein of creativity. Makes my brain hurt just thinking about it. Kudos to those with the talent to pull it off!!!

Penelope said...

Hi Vonnie! I totally agree with you...I couldn't write one of these in a million years.

Michelle Picard said...

I think it's here for a while, although I imagine the fervor for this particular subgenre will die down and be integrated into the general reading audience for fantasy/sci-fi romance. There will always be a segment of the population wanting fantasy/sci-fi books (my favorites--yay!!!).

Penelope said...

Hey Michelle...I know you love this genre! I am becoming a convert, too. It just seems to me that steampunk is a pretty esoteric subject matter...sort of strange how it has exploded like this. I'm looking forward to reading more of these books.

Linda Banche said...

I like a romance that has more to it than just the romance. I like the hero and heroine doing something important, like saving the world (*g*), in non-stop action as well as romance in an historical setting.

One of the main reasons I like steampunk is they usually have non-traditional historical heroines. I like rifle-toting heroines who can take out an enemy in one shot. Such heroines are not the norm in historicals, mainly because most women in the past weren't like that. But some did exist. And the leading ladies of our books are heroines, which mean they should do something spectacular.

I've never been able to find too many of these kinds of books. Maybe my time has finally come.

Take a look at Zoe Archer's Blades of the Rose series. I've read only two so far, but I love them.

Penelope said...

Linda...thanks for the great comment! I will def. check out Zoe Archer's series...thanks for the recommendation. I agree about the heroine observation...both Alexia in the Protectorate series and Mina in The Iron Duke are amazing heroines. Fearless, courageous, determined...I love both of them.

Dalton Diaz said...

I like the trend a lot, and hope it will continue. I keep thinking about Will Smith and Kevin Klein in Wild Wild West. I loved that movie!

Penelope said...

Hey DD! I haven't seen the re-make, but I used to love the old TV series The Wild Wild West with Robert Conrad. In fact, I had a huge crush on him..hee hee!

Anonymous said...

Steampunk romance has got it all, if you ask me. The Victorian age, what-if taken to mind exploding levels, strong women in dusters with guns, and HEA romantic ending. Steampunk's been around for over 20 years in the sci-fi camp. We are just jumping on the steam engine with them. Nice post.
Liz Arnold
Message to Love
The Wild Rose Press

Penelope said...

Hi Liz! Thanks for stopping by. I wonder if the sci fi camp thinks we're nuts to mix romance with steampunk? It's a weird combination!