Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl by David BarnettWhen I sat down to write the novel that would become Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, I didn’t intend to write a steampunk story.

I didn’t intend to not write a steampunk story, either. I’m not really into the idea of writing to a specific sub-genre, whether that’s steampunk or urban fantasy or epic fantasy or space opera or whatever.

I just wanted to write a novel.

You’ll see Gideon Smith described as steampunk. You’ll also see it as, variously, Victoriana, or alternate-history, or historical fantasy. I’m happy with any or all of these descriptors, but really Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is just a novel.

“Ah,” you say. “But it has airships! And automatons! And derring do! And didn’t I see Rowena Fanshawe with a pair of brass goggles hanging around her neck?”

That you did. So I suppose, if these are the signposts your happy with, then it’s steampunk.  I’m aware that there are a lot of steampunk fans out there. I want them all to read Gideon Smith and its forthcoming sequels. I want them all to enjoy the books.

I’m equally aware that there are people out there who profess to hate steampunk. Are you one of those people? Guess what. I wrote the book for you, too. And I wrote it for you precisely because you hate steampunk. You hate steampunk because it’s mired in unsightly Victorian values, because it’s institutionally racist and sexist, because there’s random technology that makes no sense and serves no purpose, because it’s largely full of rich white men with double-barrelled surnames who dash off across the world on unlikely adventures.

I wanted to write a book that you might wish to call steampunk that didn’t subscribe to those notions.

Gideon Smith & The mEchanical Girl UKSo yes, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is set in Britain in 1890. Let’s be clear about this, it wasn’t a great place to be poor, non-white or a woman. But this is the framework I chose to work in, so the only way to address those issues which steampunk haters has is to try to subvert them, however gently, from the inside.

As for the unlikely adventures… well, hands up, sorry. Yeah, it’s all pretty unlikely. But hopefully quite a bit of fun.

So call Gideon Smith steampunk, call it alt-history, call it what you like. I hope you read it, though, and if you’ve got any preconceptions about what you think it might be, I hope they’re blown away.

Me, I just call it a novel.

* Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is published in the US by Tor Books on September 10, and in the UK by Snowbooks.

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PRIZE UPDATE: David’s publisher has offer up to three copies of the book to US/Canadian addresses only.  So post a comment below and good luck!

Congratulations to Rhyss D, Dana siegel, and Kai W.  David’s publisher will get your prizes to you in the mail!