What does Steampunk mean to you? It’s a fluid term in my mind. While I don’t believe in a hard and fast definition, to me, it usually involves a Victorian or pseudo-Victorian society with modern or even futuristic technology. Then again, there has to be that punk element, at least a little bit of a rebellious attitude. Now that’s mainly fiction I’m talking about. The steampunk community, on the other hand is a fun group of grown-up geeks who like to get together, dress in cool costumes, and have a lot of fun.
What is your favorite thing about steampunk or writing about steampunk? For writing, it’s basically the blend of history, SF, and fantasy. I have a great deal of freedom, and it’s just utterly wonderful to be able to mix and match so much cool stuff.
What is your favorite steampunk accessory? Ooh, hard to say. I was wearing steampunk-like accessories long before there was such a thing as steampunk. I have a Fossil watch with exposed gears that I bought 20 years ago in a clearance shop for 10 bucks. I still have some of the vintage costume jewelry my mom and aunt gave me to play dress-up with as a little kid. And you know what? I still like to play dress up! One of my favorite pieces, though, has to be the leather skirt in the photo of me, made by a Michigan artisan called Shoptroll.
What turned you on to steampunk? Again, this is difficult. I’ve always loved Victoriana and always loved science fiction and fantasy. Mixing the two was just designed to make me swoon. I suppose my first real exposure would have been the old Wild, Wild West television show, which I used to watch avidly as a kid. I’ve really been in love with steampunk ever since, especially now that it’s a genre in its own right.
Do you have any upcoming Steampunk stories you can tell us about? <grins> Why, I certainly do, thank you for asking. Cards & Caravans, the fifth story in my Gaslight Chronicles from Carina Press, comes out March 18. Here’s the blurb: Belinda Danvers isn’t a witch. But that won’t stop them burning her at the stake… Connor McKay can tell at a glance that Belinda’s magickal powers are minimal at best. She can’t be guilty of murdering village children. There’s something suspicious about her arrest and lightning-quick sentence. Unfortunately, telling anyone how he knows would mean revealing his own powers. He’s been sent by the Order of the Round Table to help and he can’t just let her die. Escaping from jail and running from vindictive villagers in her grandfather’s steam-powered caravan is more excitement than Belinda’s had in years. And despite the danger—or maybe because of it—she loves the time spent with her sexy rescuer. But there’s more to his magick than he’s letting on… There’s something going on that’s bigger than the two of them. It’s time for good to make a stand.
Who is your favorite character of all from one of your Steampunk stories? Without a doubt, it’s George the mechanical mastiff. I’ve had so much fun with him. Even Wink, the gifted engineer who built him, doesn’t quite understand how he can do all the things he does. He’s kind of a canine version of Mr. Data, with abilities and loyalty beyond scientific explanation. (This is artwork I commissioned. ©2012 by John Randal White.)
What’s the hardest thing about creating a Steampunk universe? Logical follow through in your alternate history timeline. If you change one thing at one date, you have to take into account all the changes that would follow as the timeline continues. In my universe, Charles Babbage invented a working computer in the 1840s, which dramatically speeded up the progress of the Industrial Revolution. Also, since his programming code was written by a woman, Lady Lovelace, women’s rights got a serious kick in the pants. In my world, Lady Lovelace opened up a college for women in scientific fields at Oxford in the 1850s, allowing for my engineer and physician heroines to get their educations, and it is less of a stigma to practice those professions than it really was in the Victorian era. History has a domino effect, so it’s a challenge to see exactly how one small change can affect everything else.
What’s the easiest thing about creating a Steampunk universe? For me, it’s the characters. I can just imagine what I might have been like in that situation. How some of my friends, relations might behave. It’s a lot of fun to invent people who are not only relevant to their own universe, but speak to us in ours as well.
What does steampunk allow you to do as a writer that no other genres can? Pretty much what I’ve said above. The freedom to mix and match historical and futuristic elements, and to develop characters you might not ordinarily get to put into a historical story, or mix with one another.
What are the challenges and advantages to writing a steampunk story? You have to get the blend right, and that can be an issue. I started one story and tossed it, because it felt just like an ordinary historical romance with a gadget. There has to be steam and setting, and that attitude…getting the mix right can be a challenge. The advantage is being able to invent practically any gadget I want. That can be fun.
How much research does it take and how much imagination? In my case, a lot of both. I try to use as much real history as possible, modified by the changes to the world timeline that define my world. For example in my first book, an important scene takes place at the Crystal Palace Grand Exhibition in 1851. I left that unchanged, except for adding a little more technology. Written accounts of the event, plus newspaper drawings, gave me the ability to describe it through my characters’ eyes.
In other news: Moonlight & Mechanicals, book 4 of the Gaslight Chronicles, has been nominated for Book of the Year at another review site, and named a 2012 Gem from by a review blogger. Also, it was named one of the top 5 romance ebooks of the year by the Library Journal. Photographs & Phantoms, a FREE novella, is also up at for an award, though in the mystery/suspense category, which kind of makes me smile. Steampunk can be very hard to categorize!
Fun Times: I’d also like to take a moment to pitch an upcoming steampunk convention! Up in the Aether, the Convention, will be held in Dearborn Michigan on Memorial Day Weekend, 2013. There will be lots of great steampunk authors, including Scott Lynch, Seleste Delaney, Steven Harper, Christian Klaver, Stella Price, David Erik Nelson and of course, yours truly. There will also be some amazing music, along with a drool-worthy vendor room and workshops on costuming, crafts, food, history and much more.
Thanks: to all of you for stopping by, and to Coffee Time for inviting me to come play at their steampunk grand opening. Visit me at my website, blog, or the Steamed! blog to find out more about what I’m up to in the steampunk world.
Giveaway: I’m giving away a free download of the first book in my Gaslight series, Steam & Sorcery, to one random commenter.
- About the Author
- Posts in the Past
Award-winning author Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after. Married for more than twenty-five years to her own, sometimes-kilted hero, she lives in southern Michigan with him and two grown sons, along with an ever-changing menagerie of pets. Author of more than 40 books, Cindy has been, among other things, a banker, a teacher, and an elected politician, but mostly an environmental educator, though now she is lucky enough to write full-time. Her degrees in zoology and animal behavior almost help her comprehend the male humans who share her household.