marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

How Much Steam Is There In Steampunk?

A Boskone panel I didn't make it to, but heck, why let that stop me?  Especially as I am less interested in the program description, about whether steampunk will blend into other genres, than in the question of steam in your steampunk.

I'm not the only one who puts a fair amount of "clockpunk" with springs and gears instead of steam and gears.  To be sure, it tends to assume springs that can contain a phenomenal amount of energy, but then, steampunk would soon drain all existing coal supplies dry.

And even in the Victorian times, there was a lot of variation.  It was a long period, and one in which scientific events moved apace.  It can be hard to sort out what to use, and how to fit it all together.  Jules Verne, mid-century, had futuristic cars powered by Lenoir engines -- internal combustion.  And despite the term "gaslight fantasies" electric lighting spread quite far in the era.

Not to mention other sciences.  Biology ala The Island of Dr. Moreau?  It was the era of Darwin -- and the era where Darwinism nearly died on the vine, because Mendel's work languished in obscurity, and evolution simply does not work with the "blending" theory of inheritance, and that was what the Victorians had.  Which is another issue -- roving all over the theories of the Victorians, it can be easy to forget what they didn't know.  The Atomic Age, for instance, was the point at which we knew that there really were atoms, and those little balls were not just convenient concepts when you really could infinitely subdivide stuff.

Then again, you can also introduce other things from the Victorian era -- the Arts and Crafts movement, the methodical collection of fairy tales -- which have no steam at all.
Tags: genre: steampunk, world-building: technology

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