Why I Love Steampunk (by Ren Cummins)

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Greetings, fellow travelers!

Of all the genres (and sub-genres) out there, I keep finding myself returning to my first literary fascination: Steampunk. Why? Seriously, it’s a valid question. It’s not The Most Popular Genre Ever, and usually its very mention is followed up almost immediately by the question, “What IS Steampunk?”, and even though there are probably enough answers to that question to re-congest the Suez Canal, I’ll see if I can’t find a way to squirrel a shorthand answer into this brief thesis.

When I was editing my very first novel, my editor gave me her initial notes, including the sentence “I love this gentle take on Steampunk, it’s very organic and retro-futurist, but not too Steampunky!” So I rushed over to Google to find out what that even meant. Even though Steampunk has technically been around since HG Wells and Jules Verne, I wasn’t familiar with the term, but once I saw that it was so much more than “Goth kids discovering the color brown”, I saw why the concept as both a literary subgenre of Science Fiction and Fantasy adventures and as a form of self-expression had survived so long as to take on a life of its own. It is, in fact, pretty organic, and fairly retro, grounded on the notion that steam-powered technology might be capable of some hefty results. And it’s not hard to see why. There’s a warm comfort in the non-microscopic functionality of pipes, gears and aetherometers, dirigibles and soot-stained goggles. It takes us to a simpler time, when the very essence of technology could not only be held in the palms of our (often gloved) hands, but easily visible, wrestled into compliance with cold iron and proper leverage.

It may be somewhat romanticized, but the notion of a proper waistcoat, girdle, fedora, spats and perhaps a walking cane for elegant effect – well, it’s just that, right? Elegant. That’s a form of proper visage we just don’t commonly see these days, and it does transcend the fashionable into a manner of being. Minding your manners, maintaining respect to others, and leaving actual calling cards – I mean, I wouldn’t trade my WiFi and indoor plumbing and modern refrigeration for it, sure, but if I’m going to write a story that requires a bit of fancy to travel hand in hand with my whimsy and dramatic adventures, what better way than to step onto the path of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or around the world in 80 days? Could you find a better thematic setting than those elegant expeditions to the wild blue beyonds? I wholeheartedly embrace that bold taste of adventures, and, as always, I humbly invite you to climb abord and enjoy them with me.

My Humblest Regards,

Ren Cummins, esq.

Ren Cummins, author

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