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Steampunk 101 with author Suzanne Lazear

Steampunk has been around for decades, but has really gained popularity in the past few years. But what exactly is that Steampunk stuff anyway?

Imagine a world where steam and natural gas, not coal and electricity, are the primary power sources. Steampunk transports us to a place abounding with airships, gas lamps, gears, cogs, and brass goggles and populated with mad scientists, philosophers, adventurers, and air pirates. Steampunk stories are filled with exploration, optimism, curiosity, technology, and rebellion. They boldly go new places, explore and invent new things, and ponder the what ifs and never wases of technology and history. HG Wells and Jules Verne are huge inspirations for Steampunk. Examples include League of Extraordinary Gentleman and Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker.

It seems to me that by its very nature Steampunk is a genre meant to challenge itself. Lately, Steampunk has grown from its SciFi roots to really cross genres and boundaries. We have paranormal Steampunk, like the popular Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger and God Save the Queen by Kate Locke. We have “steamypunk.” We have clockpunk with steampunkatude. We have steampunk retellings of classic stories, like Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross. In YA especially, there’s a whole crop of steampunk mashups, where authors explore the breadths and depths of steampunk to the very limit, sometimes creating something new altogether. 

My Aether Chronicles series falls into that “mashup” category. I call it “Fairytale Steampunk.” I sought to combine my favorite things—fairies, Steampunk, and fairytales—into one book. I didn’t want to steampunk an existing fairytale, I wanted to create my own.

Book 1, Innocent Darkness tells the tale of sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock, a mortal girl who’d rather fix cars than attend balls and who’d like to save her family by going to the university and becoming a botanist, not getting married—something unacceptable in her world. A single wish tears her from her realm and throws her into word filled with wishes, bad bargains, huntsman, and evil queens. 

Charmed Vengeance, which releases 8-8-13, continues the story of Noli, V, James, and Kevighn. Book two is set mostly in the mortal realm and is an adventurous tale of quests, automatons, airships, air pirates, and cake.

One of the things I love about Steampunk is the 19th century aesthetic. There’s something about all that brass, the balls and bustles, and the ornate details, that just call to me. However, technology is an important part of Steampunk. There could still be extraordinary technology all done with 19th century materials and in 19th century styles. There can be Steampunk airships, spaceships, computers, and brass robots. In Innocent Darkness I have flying cars and hoverboards, in Charmed Vengeance we see a lot more Steampunk technology, since a large portion of the book takes place aboard an airship (run by air pirates, of course). 

Steampunk stories are hardly limited to Victorian London. They can be set in the past, in the future, or on another planet. They can be set in Victorian London, the Wild West, Asia, another world entirely – you are only limited by your imagination.  The Aether Chronicles series has a very heavy Victorian feel to it and takes place in an alternate version of the early 1900’s, where technology has evolved a little faster. Book 1 is set in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Otherworld. In Book 2 we revisit those places but also get peaks at other cities, such as Denver, Boston, and New York City.

One of the things that really makes Steampunk attractive to me is that it IS so many things. There literally is something for everyone in Steampunk. There is so much to explore. No two Steampunk worlds are alike, so if you don’t like one Steampunk tale, try another. Steampunk is also more than just stories—there’s music and art, handicrafts and beautiful clothing, conventions, balls, and so much more. Put “steampunk” into etsy.com to get just a peak at what it’s become. Go, explore steampunk and see what you can find.

Let the adventures begin.

~Suzanne Lazear

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA steampunk fairytale series The Aether Chronicles. INNOCENT DARKNESS is out now. Book 2, CHARMED VENGEANCE, releases from Flux 8-8-13. Visit the series site at www.aetherchronicles.com. She’s also part of the Steampunk group blog Steamed http://wwww.ageofsteam.wordpress.com