Steampunk is a type of speculative fiction that combines science fiction and historical fiction.
As I have said in previous articles, genre is much more than just a category of fiction. Genres can be used to make your story more interesting, more powerful, more whatever you want.
Brokeback Mountain was a much more intriguing story because it was set in the genre of the Western.
Boring Story? Send A Punk To The Rescue!
Perhaps, you’ve got a story you really want to tell. But, you realize it has been told over and over again. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl…you get the idea.
Well, spice your story up with the high tech gadgetry of science fiction in the setting and historical background of a historical novel.
Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity by hanging a key from a flying kite during a lightning storm. It’s a pretty well known story. Zzz.
Now, let’s re-imagine it.
After his experiment with electricity Old Ben adjusts the ruffled cuffs of his shirt and his powdered wig.
He then retires to his underground workshop via a secret passageway. Here he has all sorts of wooden computers and machines with brass knobs and glass tubes.
Flipping the tails of his coat up, he sits down on a stool and starts cranking away to generate power. The glass tubes flicker with light and the machine starts vibrating. Old Ben leans into a brass horn to call his lady love in another colony.
A bit more interesting. Right?
The Gadgets Must Be Believable
It is very important that the machines the characters are using in the past “fit” into that era of history.
We know that the world of Ben Franklin had wood, brass handles and glass tubes. We know that they had machines like grandfather clocks. Is it that big of a leap to think they could have used those things for some other purpose?
So now your tired old story fades into the Steampunk woodwork. The reader is pulled along by the novelty of a re-imagined past.
Use Steampunk To Re-Evaluate Commonly Held Beliefs
If I told you that the American colonies were originally corporate entities owned by the English Crown you might believe me.
But, if I said that after the Revolutionary War the government still owed a monetary debt to the English Crown you probably wouldn’t. It goes against everything you’ve been told.
If I then said that debt was the secret cause of the Civil War I’d lose you completely.
But, if I portrayed George Washington and Thomas Jefferson discussing this issue as they convert their carriage into a flying ship with the turn of a crank and the use of a hot air balloon it becomes more believable. Doesn’t it?
This is because the reader knows we are re-imagining the past.
These are just a couple of ways you can use Steampunk to save a story. The real point to remember is that genre is a very powerful literary device. You can use it to make the story do things it might not otherwise.