Book Review: Writing Steampunk

Writing Steampunk!Writing Steampunk! by Beth Daniels

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In “Writing Steampunk” Ms. Daniels has compiled a sort of quick start guide for the author looking to write a novel in the Steampunk genre. I think she has done an admirable job of distilling the genre into its essentials. For me, however, the most interesting, and potentially more useful, parts were the research aids, historical synopses and bibliography.

The book is roughly divided into four sections. The first section discusses what the author considers the essential elements of a steampunk novel which she boils down into 10 “Rules of the Road”. which outline various tropes that are common to the genre.
(1) “they need to be, in essence, Victorian”
(2) “the story involves steam driven machines … doing things that similar devices were incapable of actually doing in the time period”
(3) “uses elements of magic or that appear to be magic”
(4) “historical figures can appear or be mentioned”
(5) “Paranormal creatures and the fae can become featured performers”
(6) “beings created by science are welcome”
(7) “Mystery, suspense, danger and frequently a ticking-clock feature”
(8) time travel may be featured if the method is “Steampunkishly creative”
(9) “Beings created via magic”
(10) “Practitioners of magic”

She also adds a final guideline that “cannot, should not be broken” To wit: “The story must reflect the world of early science fiction tales in some way and it must include a being either mechanically, biologically, or magically constructed or with a paranormal, fae or spirit nature, or a person turned into a monster via a mysterious disease.”

These rules seem to cover the genre fairly well; however, I would be curious to know what The Steampunk Scholar might think of them.

In the second section of the book she discusses how one might apply these rules in establishing the setting for ones tale. Included in this discussion is a rather detailed enumeration of various character archetypes and roles.

While the previous two sections are indeed useful and provide ample grist for the world building mill, I found the last two sections the most interesting. In the third section of the book Ms. Daniels provides several Research Aides covering the categories of late 19th to early 20th century fashion, coinage, weapons, slang and entertainment. She also devoted a chapter to the various markets where the aspiring steampunk author might shop their opus.

The final four chapters contain brief synopses of actual historical goings on and technological innovations for the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The book concludes with an extensive bibliography of published works, classical and modern, which fit within the author’s steampunk model. These range from the works of Verne, Wells and Burroughs to those of Gail Carriger, Neal Stephenson and Scott Westerfield.

Ms. Daniels has produced a convenient and useful distillation of the steampunk genre and provided this aspiring author with an invaluable resource for adding verisimilitude and a rich background in which to weave a tale. The only thing preventing me from giving this book 5 stars is that the nook version I have does not have a hyperlinked table of contents which would make it much easier to reach a desired chapter or section.

View all my reviews


Keeper Of Obscure Knowledge, Designated Official Noetic Theorist, Professional Artificer of Noospheric Intermediary Constructs

Posted in Book Reviews

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