When I turned 50 I wrote the following blog post:
We have Steampunk.
It is a concept I have been noting and following for some years.
I read The Difference Engine by Gibson and Sterling when it came out.
I played Space 1889 when it came out. (Probably before many of the current practitioners and fans of Steampunk were born.) And the computer game Rise of Legends which is based on Rise of Nations before it. I watched Q.E.D. when it first came out and then so quickly disappeared.
Those though who follow my blog, (and I know, it has only been a few of you going back to the beginning) will know that I worked on two books that take Steam, and Steam engines and marry them to the medieval era, to fantasy.
I take the historic and technological creation of the engine, for it was an engineering achievement and not a scientific one, and craft this through men and women who apply themselves to build things, not just think of things as a scientist might.
In my mind such a joining leads to a Renaissance in the countries that comprise the world of these stories. Natural evolution, for great invention brings great accelerated change, and the steam engine as it develops leads to factories, and the transformation of agrarian economies to industrial ones. I had a fascination with Steam and thanks to Burke’s Connections saw that this could be worked with
I found another few blogs that have thought to label this melding Medievalpunk, Clockpunk, Castlepunk or Candlepunk. Some of them wanting to label everything in sight with the suffix Punk. Why does it have to be Punk? Because Steampunk has become part of the vernacular and describes one type of literature does not mean it applies to all genres that brings technology together with an era that did not have it.
This is not right to my mind.
The Steam Era in our true timeline and history is that of the Victorian Era. Though steam engines had come from the Georgian Era, and during the Regency Era, men had begun to make locomotives. Such as George Stephenson and Richard Trevithick . It was in 1830 that the Liverpool to Manchester Railway opened, the first commercial railway, drought with drama, but surely an action that all those attached to the project knew it was going to change the world and which I have previously blogged about. This great change was in the reign of William IV
Thus Steam was coming long before the Victorian Age. Should the movement have really equated itself to the earlier time? People in Regency Clothes with all the fantastical attributions. Perhaps we owe this to the literature of HG Wells and Jules Verne? Authors who did not seek a special genre for their fictional works.
I think it is clear that I find the uniting of Technology to an age when such inventions did not exist an intriguing one.
Several other authors have done this in two ways, I find. One is the creation of an entire world where the technology is part of it, and the other where time travel or time displacement occurs.
In time displacement we have such works as:
Mark Twain-A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court(Mythological) (Arhtur’s court though is portrayed as Middle Ages)
L Spraggue de Camp-Lest Darkness Fall (Historical) (End of Roman, leading to Dark Ages)
H. Beam Piper-Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (Fantasy-SciFi) (Hos-Hostigos is Pike and Musket-Thus end of Renaissance)
Eric Flint-1632 (and all that has come after) (Historical)
(As an additional note, I wrote a short story for this series, and it was selected on the short list for inclusion in the first Grantville Gazette. The editors then ‘lost’ it as I document here. You can read the story here.)
I recall one novel, where our time traveller returns to the age of Napoleon and his largest concern is to build the indoor flush toilet long before Thomas Crapper comes up with the better invention for it. Think how useful this would be to all. Think of the one thing that you really would want to take back with you to a premodern time and have to use.
Then in the actual marriage of a technology that is from something further downstream in the river of time married to a period that is upstream, that will give us an entire new fictitious and even fantastical universe we have:
C J Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey series The Sword of Knowledge
Goblin Moon and Gnome’s Engine by Teresa Edgerton
There are doubtless others and i will add to the lists those that my readers let me know of that I have missed.
For such tales as this we also have useful websites for research now such as wikipedia.
In the stream of our true timeline, we have Nikola Tesla and Charles Babbage whose inventions could be used to build entire worlds of divergent technologies that we use today. And several in the genre are doing so.
The New Term
Before I delved into my own chutzpah and decided we need a new word, I did a search on the genre names the others who have written in the field had come up with.
Candlepunk had nothing come up, except Steampunk stories
Medievalpunk nothing came up
Clockpunk 12 entries with most on the american west.
Castlepunk Nothing came up
It is fine to label something that exists. But to create a label where nothing exists? That I question. And wondered why the ‘Punk’ community had to so quickly label so many genre’s when there was no story for them to do so.
We focused on Steam (and to me I think much of this occurs by placing the initial stories in the later part of Victoria’s reign, where the locomotive now had taken over much of the symbol for the change of the times.)
So instead of making things Victorianpunk we took the invention that makes the change and added Punk to it. Well, I can’t just copy that, since you would have Steampunk for every period where the invention of the steam engine is the catalyst.
And then once these changes begin to occur you are no longer in the era that you started at.
I think that the term RenTech, or RenaTech is apropos for those time periods that start before our own Renaissance, that are Feudal and Medieval, and are changed to something accelerated.
Yet you will point out that my choice based on Renaissance is an Era. I prefer to think of this
(as noun a renaissance) a revival of or renewed interest in something:
So here with the invention of a steam engine, about 300 to 500 years before it was invented, in my fictitious world, leads to a change in society, and culture, much akin to the Renaissance.
The world of Steam and Thunder, the country of Hornik, and the city of Firtoskin, is something that is not Steampunk, and not Punky. The clothing and the culture is still the Feudal world being changed by the invention of the Steam engine a few years before. Of an agrarian culture meeting a rising industrial one. Of this country having these new inventions and the rest of the world playing catch-up. RenTech.
Though, commenters, please let me know if you think it is worthwhile to coin a new term, or to be the first “Castlepunk” novel that comes up in a search at Amazon.
Starting Today (AGAIN-Once more into the Breach…)
I will begin to serialize Steam and Thunder. One new edited chapter. My goal is to get your feedback on this endeavor. To see how those who follow my work like this new piece. To bring you a story that you want to read every week. Much as Dickens and Conan Doyle saw their work serialized at first. Wish us luck and come back tomorrow for the first installment.
It is still available, those chapters I have previously put up over at the website.
But also now at Wattpad where they have given me a cover for it, that will change.
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