Monday, 25 October 2010

What's in a Name?

When Chris asked me to blog about steampunk, I was a little nervous. You see, I have a novella coming out with Carina Press in February that's being billed (as far as I know) as steampunk, but I also know some of the die-hard steam set is going to balk at the label, because it doesn't entirely fit the genre. (Of course, some romance readers are going to balk about some of it too, but that's another issue entirely :P)

At the end of Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld says, "the nature of steampunk (is) blending future and past." In my experience, not everyone agrees fully with that definition though.

You see, most hard-core steampunk fans I know want the tech to be the driving force in the story: the steam engines, the scientists, the clockworks. Which is great and can make for some crazy-good tales.

Badlands (my novella) isn't that. It has steam engines, and a power-mad scientist and clockworks, and while the latter are huge parts of the story, they aren't the story. Instead, my tale revolves around a non-tech nation's fight to restore their sovereign to the throne and the romance between the woman tasked with doing so and the man helping her.

So…steampunk or not?

I've been calling it steampunk/alternate-history romance just because I don't want to argue with those who will come back and say it isn't steampunk. Gail Carriger's books are often referred to as gaslight fantasy instead of steampunk, and I've even heard some people say any story not set in Victorian Europe isn't steampunk. My response to that is why do these people want to subdivide the genre so much?

Steampunk is growing in popularity to be sure, but it's still a relatively small genre. If everything that doesn't fit perfectly into the steampunk box is cast aside, yes, it will remain an exclusive club. Maybe that's the goal. But if all those things that are kind of, sort of steampunky are allowed into said club, they have the potential to draw new readers to all the authors involved.

More readers means more sales means publishers will keep buying which means more books for people to read.

To me, as both a reader and an author, anything that gets sales moving is good for everyone. But that's just me, reader of many things and author of an upcoming alt-history romance with dirigibles, clockworks, and evil assassination plots. Or maybe I'm an author of steampunk.

I'll let the readers decide.

Seleste deLaney believes in writing romance with a healthy shot of something other: paranormal, steampunk, sci-fi. Her debut erotic paranormal short, Of Course I Try, is currently available from Decadent Publishing, and a holiday sequel, The Ghost of Vampire Present, is coming soon. In addition, her steampunk/alt-history romance, Badlands, is coming from Carina Press in February 2011. You can find her at her website, blog, facebook and twitter where she tends to talk about whatever pops into her mind (and sometimes it's even writing).


  1. Some of my steampunk friends have gone through lots of intense interests and lifestyle choices, only to be upset when those interests become more mainstream. I think some of the hardcore "that's not steampunk" arguements stem from people who really prefer to be on the fringes of mainstream society.
    Honestly, those people will never really be happy about blending genres, which bring about some great stories. I look forward to Badlands, whatever genre it falls into.

  2. I don't believe in arguing about whether something is red or blue via fine gradations. Just eyeball it! If it's mostly red, it's red; if it's mostly blue, it's blue. If it's more purple than not...well, if it's a good mix it doesn't matter.

    Just throw it all in the tag-cloud and see what draws 'em in. If they're arguing about what genre it is, they've probably read it. And that's always good.

  3. Thanks for having me here, Chris :)

  4. Good points, Jax and David :) Thanks!