The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote for this week's SPELLBINDERS post:
I was recently preparing to give a writing workshop entitled, "What's Hot in Teen Fiction." As I sat down to write my definitions for topics such as Steampunk and Dystopian, I realized I wasn't altogether sure about how to describe these fantasy sub-genres myself
That's when I decided to interview Elizabeth Anker, the owner of Alamosa Books, our local independent children's books store. I figured teachers and librarians would also be interested in exploring these different categories and hearing what a book seller thinks of their appeal to young readers. A large part of being able to recommend a book to a young person is knowing what these different genres contain. Below are Elizabeth's thoughts on the subject.
She says Steampunk started with good writers, mainly in Britain, writing on the edge of science fiction. Then editors saw the trend and began looking for other books with similar themes. These stories tend to be more about a similar look and an idea rather than a similar story line. The look is basically Victorian with Victorian type costumes, gadgets, inventions, and creative weaponry. Goggles of some kind are almost always involved. Plots involve adventurers out to seek their fortunes or defeat bad guys in creative and technological ways. Although drawing on elements of Victorian England, these stories are not so much set in the past as they are set in parallel worlds with Victorianesque influences.
Elizabeth says Sherlock Holmes stories, which actually take place in Victorian times, are a strong influence. Holmes's nemesis Moriarty is the perfect model for the archetypical steampunk bad guy is often based upon reliance on high tech (for the times) weaponry used by a villain who is trying to take over the world. Moriarty is not influenced by morality at all and many steam punk villains are equally as capitalistic.
Steam is often the primary energy source of the times, but something magical is usually involved as well. There is a lot of true science and pseudo science woven through these stories. In the better cases it's real science with pseudo science on the edge, but based in a true science like physics. In books trying for the trend but not so concerned with research it's purely magical in many cases.
Read the rest of the post at the Spellbinders Blog