Friday, April 5, 2013

Gaslamp Fantasy vs Steampunk - by Leanna Renee Hieber

We looooooooooooooove guest posts. Today, we got lucky enough to get Leanna Renee Hieber, authoress extraordinaire of the Strangely Beautiful and Magic Most Foul series among other things, to talk about the difference between Steampunk and Gaslight Fantasy. Take it away, Leanna!

Those of us familiar with Genre fiction such as Romance, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, etc, we know our sub-genres, where things may be shelved, how they might be tagged, and how they're "supposed" to look from one genre to the next. Sometimes we might even label things too much. But in my particular sub-sub-genre they're helpful. Because if a reader wants one thing and they get another, I'll have an unhappy reader. So I'm here to talk briefly about what makes what I write, Gaslight Fantasy, different from Steampunk.

First, my overbroad one-sentence explanation:

What's Steampunk? Very, very broadly, it's a blending of 19th century (typically Victorian) steam-powered technology with Science Fiction elements into a narrative. Steampunk is gadget and world-building driven.

Gaslight Fantasy? A blending of the same 19th century aesthetics with Fantasy elements into the narrative.

Example: If my Victorian "ghost-busting" Guard in the Strangely Beautiful saga were in a Steampunk novel, they'd be stopping ghosts with Aether-Packs on their back, gadgets and devices galore. But my Guard of spectral police use ancient powers pulled from Greek Mythology; holy fire and the powers of the Muses, and follow a prophecy. We know those latter tropes from Fantasy novels, not Science Fiction.

The world-building is no less intricate in either case. Gaslight Fantasy novelists must create a viable magical / fantastical system, Steampunk authors must do the same with their scientific devices and choices about the world's technology. A lot of alternate history can be involved.

The term Steampunk derives loosely from the already established "Cyberpunk" (Think artist H. R. Giger and The Matrix) and highlights the steam-powered historical aesthetic rather than a modern/futuristic one, the term Gaslight or Gaslamp Fantasy has origins in the already established Gaslamp Romance. Gaslamp Romance focuses more on atmosphere, characters and relationships rather than fantastical and/or paranormal worlds and their tropes. My work falls quite squarely within both fantasy and romance.

And yes, I write Gothic romance as strongly into my books as anything, so I'm really a Gothic Fantasy Romance hybrid. The only thing you can't really confuse my work with is Sci-Fi. I love Sci-Fi but I just default to the fantastical, the Gothic and the paranormal. So yes, I'm difficult to shelve. But it's being able to have tags, labels, identifiers like these so that I can find my best audience and not alienate anyone along the way who might be looking for an airship or complex gadgetry. I appreciate said things, I just don't write them. I'm drawn to the sweeping and atmospheric, Gothic leanings you can put onto Gaslight Fantasy. The magic and mystery inherent to this genre is what keeps me coming back for more.

There's a great Wikipedia article on Gaslight Fantasy, by the way.

Thanks for the post, Leanna!

Leanna's doing something pretty awesome. Not only is her Strangely Beautiful series being re-released by Tor, but she's also serializing the last novel of her Magic Most Foul series for FREE on her blog If you haven't read her before, and ESPECIALLY if you love Gothic narratives in the style of Poe and Mary Shelley, you need to check her out. 

1 comment:

  1. A nice explanation of the genre which we both write. Well done!