Thursday, 12 April 2012

What is Steampunk Romance?

A guest post from author Meljean Brook, whose book The Iron Duke is out today.

Steampunk has been earning quite a bit of buzz recently, but if you aren’t familiar with the term, trust me – it’s not as alien as it sounds. At its most basic, steampunk is historical science fiction. More specifically, it’s historical science fiction where the ‘advanced’ technology is powered by steam engines or clockworks, or utilizes historical scientific theories in some fashion. Simply imagine a movie like Sherlock Holmes combined with steamy romance and airships, or Pirates of the Caribbean with clockwork gadgets and automaton robots.

Steampunk is often set in the Victorian era (the Iron Seas series is set during a pseudo-Victorian period) but it doesn’t have to be. Other time periods are fine – other worlds are fine. Steampunk can be set in Feudal Japan, it can be set before (or during, or after) the European colonization of Africa, or before the conquest of the Americas. Anywhere, anywhen. The important bit is the steam, and writers can set an industrial revolution or technological advancement anywhere in history that they like. It’s science fiction, after all.

It’s also historical romance – a thrilling adventure, featuring bold, sexy characters exploring an exciting new world – with a steampunk twist.

In the Iron Seas world, that twist came from a small change in history that, over the centuries, completely altered the course of historical events: In this alternate history, the Mongol Horde didn’t halt their military advance into Europe in 1241 A.D. (as they did in our history), but came later with war machines and powerful technology. Much of Europe and Africa fled to the New World, but almost everyone in England remained at home, believing the Horde’s lack of a navy meant they would be safe. They were wrong, because the Horde used a weapon that was too small to see coming: nanotechnology that infected the population and enslaved them.

Using this twist in time, I was able to create an England that looked very much like the Victorian England that we know and love in our romances, but with some significant cultural changes. At the opening of The Iron Duke, England has only been out from under the Horde’s two-hundred year occupation for a decade ... and the man who freed them all – pirate captain Rhys Trahaearn – is a national hero. It’s not until he meets Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth that he becomes worthy of being a romance hero, however.

And as much fun as the steampunk worldbuilding is, this story is all about the romance. The conflicts that arise from the setting – the class issues, the changing technology and social roles, the zombies and the giant squid – they are all challenging or just pure fun, but the real reason for all of these conflicts is so that I can create characters who have to struggle to find their happily-ever-after. I want them to fight for each other and fight to be with each other. I want it to matter that these two people fall in love and hold on to their happiness, and I like to think that the Iron Seas world is changed for the better when they do.

In my story, the Iron Duke will do anything to have Mina, even if that means changing the world to be with her. That, to me, is pure romance ... and I hope that everyone enjoys the adventure with me.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome, I am pretty new to the genre but I have already had a taste of how amazing and engaging Steampunk can be. I am looking forward to reading more!