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Manor Lakes Specialist College: 6. Steampunking

Thursday, September 2, 2010 , Posted by Sandy Fussell at 10:34 PM

The first time I heard the word steampunk my interest was hooked. I love words, just for the sound they make, and steampunk immediately has an exotic, fantasy ring to it.

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction. Stories are set in an era of spring gadgets, dirigibles, analog computers and steam power - often the 19th century Victorian era – and feature technology or futuristic innovations imagined by the people of the time. This technology of alternate history might include fictional machines or actual technological developments like the computer, but occurring at an earlier date.

Here’s the best definition I could find (see right). The picture is a bit hard to read but you can see it in all its glorious artistic detail here.

Historical steampunk is more science fiction than fantasy, but more recently the steampunk sub-genre has expanded to fantasy world settings that rely heavily on steam or spring-powered technology such as The Laws of Magic series by Australia author Michael Pryor (a favourite of mine).

I did a bit of research and discovered steampunk first became popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. But the word is quite new to me; I only discovered it last year, which is probably an indicator of its current publicity profile.

So what are the titles of some steampunk novels? Here are two lists to start with: Share Ranks Best Steampunk Novels and Steampunk 20 Core Titles . I looked through these lists to discover many of the titles were old friends. When I started Year 7 I was so overwhelmed by the huge high school library (compared to our tiny primary school room!) I didn’t know where to start. So I started at A. I found Aldriss and Asimov and read nothing but science fiction for many years. I didn’t know it then, but a lot of those titles were from the steampunk sub-genre.

Steam punk is a great example of how a fiction genre can reach out into other areas – art, fashion and music. Here are some steampunk gadgets - just for fun! Thes eimages would also make great steampunk story starters.

My challenge for you today is: give steampunk a try. Give it the first chapter test – read at least one chapter from a steampunk novel and let me know the title and what you thought of it. If you are looking for suggestions, start with one of these:

  • The Laws of Magic series by Michael Pryor – Australian! - (definitely start here if you like to read fantasy. Read an interview with Michael here

  • Worldshaker by Richard Harland (another excellent Aussie steampunk. Read an interview with Richard here Review with Richard here
  • Leviathan by Scott Westerfield (I haven’t read this one but I hear it’s great. I think Tye has read it)
  • His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman (love it!)
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne (an oldie but a classic goodie)
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (another excellent classic)
  • Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. (I haven’t read this on but when I saw the blurb I put it at the top of my list. Zombies, steam-powered technology, airships, pirates, and mad scientists—What more could you want?
I also surveyed my Facebook friends who are always a treasure mine of information on books and they added Kenneth Oppel's Skyborn series, Phillip Reeve's Larklight (Michael Pryor's recommendation), Phillip Reeves' Mortal Engines series and James Roy's Icabod Hart & the Lighthouse Mystery (I haven't read this one but in my experience anything by James Roy is worth reading).

Check out Michael Pryor's YouTube Channel and the book trailer for Moment of Truth, the most recent book in the Laws of Magic series.

Currently have 11 comments:

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey Sandy!

    We went to the park so we didn't get to read the blog so I did after school! I did a review on Mortlock so I hope you like it! Tell me what's good about it and give me a few tips for next time.

    By Lohgan Nash.

    The sister, Josie, is a knife-thrower in a magician’s stage act, the brother Alfie, an undertaker’s assistant. Neither orphan knows of each other’s existence. Until three terrible Aunts descend on the girl’s house and imprison her guardian, the Great Cardamom. His dying act is to pass the girl a note with clues to the secret he carries to his grave. Cardamom was one of three explorers on an expedition to locate the legendary Amarant, a plant with power over life and death.

    Now, pursued by flesh-eating crow-like ghuls, brother and sister must decode the message and save themselves from it’s sinister legacy. This is a stunning story and, cliched thought this may sound, you really will not want to put it down. With cursed circus’s, raven infested mansions, wet dark marshes and graveyards, there is no escape from the grasp of Lord Corvis, a hungry, greedy man looking for the Amarant, and Mortlock, a dark evil man who’s location is a mystery. The secrets that Josie’s guardian has kept from her, will unleash a vengeance in her to get what he wished for, the amarant to be destroyed!

    The book will have you hooked, with surprises on every page. You won’t wait until you get to pick the book back up, if you put it down, that is. I recommend you put this on your ‘books to read’ pile because it is a must read for readers that love thrilling page-turners and supernatural horror. I hope Jon Mayhew will release many more of these great novels.

    Lohgan ;)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Sandy :)

    I have to say I had only heard the term Steam Punk last year too! I met Scott Westerfeld when he was in Austrlia last year promoting Leviathan and I really enjoyed the book. The catch phrase they use, 'do you oil your war machines, or do you feed them?' gave me the shivers....

    LOVED the trailer btw, I will admit it made me cry...though I am unsure as to why?

    From what I am led to believe Cassandra Clare's new series which I have waited for with great excitement 'The Infernal Devices' is supposed to be Steam Punk also. All of your recommendations in this post are great! And I completely agree, anything written by James Roy is worth reading!

    Also LOVED the definition and the gadgets. Thank you for those.

    Lohgan, thanks for dobbing us in for wagging :) Im only kidding. Can I say I really love your review for Mortlock and wonder if you can bring it to me on USB so I might send it to Leesa (Little Bookroom) and post it on the blog also.

    Thanks for another fantastic post Sandy!! Wish you had been at the park with us :)

    Tye xx

  1. Wow LOHGAN. That is such an excellent review. I loaded it onto our RWZ Writers page and here's what I said about it:

    I really couldn’t add anything to this wonderful review with the exception of a few minor grammar corrections and the reword of one sentence which was a little confusing. You are an excellent reviewer. You have a strong vice that shines through your writing – which makes your reviews not only sincere and informative but entertaining to read. I definitely want you to review my next book!!

  1. I too am looking forward to the new Cassandra Clare series. I haven't read Leviathan either but it's on my 'to read' list and is the only Scott Westerfield title I haven't read. I think Peeps is my favourite.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hiya Sandy, TANAYA here

    Guess What, I am reading GRIMSDON
    Its getting good

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for that Sandy!

    And what is your next book called and when is it released? i'd love to read it and I want to read the Samurai Kids series after I finish the Wardstone Chronicles series!! Thanks for fixing up those mistakes!

    Lohgan =D

  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh it's Lohgan again! Where you corrected 'ghuls' with 'ghouls' it's actually ghuls. They are creatures that are in the story and they are mythical giant birds and are spelt ghuls. Thanks for fixing!

  1. LOHGAN, I call it tweaking not fixing because there was nothing wrong with it! Well, not until I messed it up changing ghuls to ghouls! You got me there! and I will take my error out of the copy I loaded. But I am looking forward to reading this book more than ever now. One of the on-line bookstores sent me a birthday voucher so I am going to put it towards buying Mortlock.

  1. I'll be interested to hear what you think TANAYA. I would say that Year 7 was the up end of the target readership age and some older readers will find the relationship between the main characters not as explored as they would like (the romance element is left in the air). I loved it. Great action and adventure. As a writer I felt I learned something from the storytelling.

  1. LOHGAN, I would be thrilled if you read some of my books. The Samurai Kids series is on the VIC Premier's Reading Challenge for Years 7 - 10 and my latest book Jaguar Warrior for years 7-8. Do you do the Challenge?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Sandy! Its Tegan here! I'm writing this from Canada, can you beleive it?! It is awesome here, but it is a little bit chilly! I'm traveling with my Aunty and Uncle, and my Aunty Karen promised warm/hot weather, so my mum wouldn't let me pack any warmer clothes. She kept on saying "Tegan, you have to pack light!" Now in Canada, everyone is commenting that my suitcase is only half full! We vistited some friends in Vancouver Island, and it is the most beautiful place in the world! Mountains and everything! We rode some bikes around Stanely Park, and I saw some squirrels, lots of Canada Geese, white swans and a racoon! I was so excited. I was hanging out to see a squirrel, and now I saw heaps of squirrels and a racoon! Tanaya and Tye, I got hold of the book LIES and I finnished it within about 2 days. It was... AWESOME!!!!!! I can't wait till PLAUGE comes out! Tye, you HAVE to read the other books! I also read a book called THE BLACK DOG GANG. It was a very good book, and I read it in almost a day!I might be able to get hold of a computer further on this week to talk to you guys, but I can't be sure. But one more thing, Canada is very different from Australia! When your paying for something, say a book for $12, when you take it to the counter, you also have to pay 12% tax, while in Aus, the tax is included in the price. And they have 1cent piece, and all the differnt handles on the showers and the taps. I have to ask my Aunty Karen how to use all the shower taps because I just can't figure out how. And the toilets are full of water! Almost to the top! Just imagine they got blocked, gee. Some of the toilets freaked me out because they automacticaly flush! The plane freaked me out a bit, but I was alright. Guess what, we left melbourne at 7:00 on Thursday mournning and we arrived at Vancouver (Canada) 7:00 Thursday mourning. Weird. And none of the power point things have switches, and one of the locks on the bathroom door that I was staying at, I couldn't figure how to open, so it took me 5mins to get out!
    Bye guys!