Writing Steampunk: Settings
Welcome back! I'm continuing my series about writing steampunk fiction. Every work of fiction needs a setting. An author must choose a time period and location. There also needs to be specific thematic material about the setting. You probably noticed that fiction writing has a lot details, but it's okay. I'm here to make the job easier.
Initially, Victorian England was the gold standard for steampunk settings. The majority of steampunk books are set in an alternate version of the Victorian era. Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series and Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices books are good examples. If you're choosing Victorian England as the setting, make sure to do plenty of research. You'll want to understand the culture, architecture, clothing, gender roles, socioeconomic classes, and conflicts during the 19th century. Steampunk adds more technological advancement during the time period. Common elements include body modifications, time travel, mutations, extraordinary transportation and weaponry, etc.
Lately, I'm seeing other settings for steampunk stories. Sometimes, the author ventures away from Europe. For example, The Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest takes place in the United States during the Civil War period. It's also a dystopian and post-apocalyptic setting with zombies. Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy takes place during World War I with many classic elements of steampunk. In a way, it has some biopunk influences because the airships and large vessels are partially organic. You can also choose a futuristic setting instead of the past. Alternate histories are more common, but you might have more room for originality in the future. The Victorian era and other past decades have been used many times by other writers. Plus, the future can have unlimited possibilities. We don't know what will happen in the future and maybe you can make some creative predictions.
Here's some key words to remember: retro futurism. Very important. Basically, retro futurism references a past time period that appears very advanced and futuristic compared to its historical counterpart. That's why we see a lot of fantasy and science fiction elements in Victorian settings. Retro futurism can also refer to a futuristic time period that is antiquated. This happens in The Vitruvian Heir by L.S. Kilroy. It takes place in the United States during a distant future. However, mankind was forced to live in a Victorian revival with a lot of restrictions that we don't have in the modern era. Women lost the right to vote among other things. It's easy to lose consistency in a setting, but remembering the concept of retro futurism should keep you on the right path.
I really enjoy post-apocalyptic settings. They work really well in futuristic settings, but earlier time periods are fine too. Post-Apocalyptic seems to be a popular setting in steampunk at the moment. My book series called The Post-Apocalyptic Society takes place in a dystopian future. It's somewhat of a Victorian revival as an effort to make serious changes from a version of the 21st century that failed miserably. Perhaps, my characters can find a better future by taking influences from the past. I'm not exactly sure why post-apocalyptic is so popular. It's probably a statement against problems we have in the modern era.
Regardless of the setting you pick, try to maintain a central conflict. It can be political corruption, culture wars, mad science, or all kinds of possibilities. The major conflict will directly affect how you build the setting. Be creative about your primary conflict and run wild with it.
That's all for now. I hope this post was useful for you. If you have anything to add, leave a comment. Helpful tips are always welcomed. I promise to make a brand new post in the near future. Be safe and have a good week.
Certainly a lot of food for thought here, and I find nothing to argue with. FYI, and in case you might be able to use it to improve you own work, I once read somewhere (memory ain't what it used to be) that your setting should be unique, almost like another character in the story, and if you can change the setting to another location and tell the same story, you haven't gotten the most out of it. I certainly haven't mastered this, but I try to keep it in mind while I'm working; it can't hurt!
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