My first introduction to “steampunk” is hazy. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was my first exposure to the forerunners of the genre, but it wasn’t literature that first got me into it. I’ve been attending Dragon*Con for almost a decade now and it was the culture of steampunk that influenced me. The people all dressed up in brass and steam vented tech hooked me deep and I never resisted the line. That was a horrible metaphor, I should really apologize for that but I won’t. See? Punkness.
My creative outlet for anything steampunky was roleplaying at first. I played Changeling: The Dreaming and Mage: The Ascension by White Wolf Studios. If you know anything about those old games you might understand what I mean by that. I’d invent my head off with a Son of Ether or create some awesome gear-operated armor for my Nocker. Even WoW had the Gnomes. I love me some gnomey goodness. FOR GNOMEREGON!
In 2009 I participated in NaNoWriMo and it was a fantastic experience. 50,000 words in one month was a challenge but it wasn’t nearly the impossible climb people told me it’d be. I just wrote everyday. That was it. I wrote about a victorian-esque world where mages were hunted down by religious zealots called Paladins and had to fight off these horrid creatures I called…. horrors. Okay, not my most brilliant name, but it didn’t matter. When I finished writing that, people read bits of it and told me “I love steampunk!” But… I didn’t set out to write a steampunk novel. Actually what I felt I’d created was “MagicPunk.”
That book died an early death just after NaNo. I just didn’t have the outline solid enough to keep it going. One of my two main characters got stabbed in the face right in the middle of the story, so that didn’t help either. It went into the drawer and I wrote a bunch of science fiction stories for a while. Still, my fascination with victorianesque worlds and magic continued to brew, bubble and boil. Several months ago I dug out my notebooks (I have a marble black/white notebook for every story I write) and read the notes for my novel from graduate school. This novel (my thesis) involved the conventional fantasy trope of a young group of heroes trying to fight off a great evil. I LOVE this story trope, and I will never grow tired of reading its many variations. But that story, much like the NaNo novel, died an early death as well. In reading my notes, I grew misty-eyed and nostalgic.
I also slapped it ontop of my NaNo notebook.
MagicPunk lives. It wasn’t what I ultimately did with the story, but a great deal of ideas came together when I looked at them together. I stole elements from both and even stole the seed of a novel concept I’d been keeping for a rainy day and threw that in. In stewed like … well, stew, in a crockpot, and came out smelling and tasting not at all like crap. I then set to work on massaging out overused tropes, cliches and adding conflicts, characters and seeds for the story’s future. What came out of it was something I’m tentatively calling my “Aether Dreams” cycle.
It’s steampunk, edging on dieselpunk with a heavy feel of World War I tech to it. Added to this world is Aether, a mysterious substance that is both a powerful fuel and a heretical substance. Those who chose to study and manipulate aether go mad, grow sick or kill themselves with their experiments… except for those who learned to control it, and those who did are capable of fascinating technology. Unfortunately their research was cut short by the untimely demise of their king, the overthrow of their kingdom and subsequent subjugation by a technocratic, heavily religious Empire.
I’m not going to go into much more detail about any plot elements yet but this world really got me thinking and writing. I love it and with the story I’m plotting, I hope some readers do too. Some of you know that I’m fascinated by military history and there is plenty of that influence in my story. I’m not talking about cold, detailed battles where I describe who ordered who, who shot who with which volley… no. I write about characters and about the conflicts that hit close to their hearts.
I know this wasn’t a fiction post and more about my writing ideas, but I’m glad you stuck with me so far. Next week I should be getting the first bits of 36 Hours up. Yay, more fiction!