YA 101: Steampunk

Hi folks.  Sorry I’ve been away from my normal every day posts.  I’ve been in editing hell for the past few weeks and was trying to focus on that.  I still am not out of the dungeon but at least I’ve clawed my way through the bricks and mortar and can see the light seeping through the hazy windows.

I am going to wrap up my YA 101 series today and tomorrow as well as give you the results of a survey I did among readers ages 13 – 20.

I was going to devote a whole post to speculative fiction but decided not to because really, all speculative fiction is is an umbrella that covers fantastical fiction such as horror, dystopian, fantasy, weird fiction, supernatural, paranormal, etc.  So, if you write anything like that, your story will fall under the ‘speculative fiction’ category.  One of the newer and upcoming sub-categories of speculative fiction is Steampunk.  I didn’t think I’d like this genre, but let me tell you, it’s becoming one of my favorites.

What is steampunk?  First, it’s a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy.  Settings almost always include Victorian fashions, 1900 technology (think gears, rivets, steam-power machines), and social issues.  And like most YA novels possess, there must be a level of rebellion.  Great thing about this is steampunk can take place on earth or on another planet.  Cool, huh?

Steampunk is a fashion statement.  Take Victorian clothing and add gadgets and goggles (always, always have the goggles!), you’ve got the style.  For women, throw on a corset and a Victorian hat with some functioning robotic gizmos and gadgets and walk your four-legged, gear-driven pet, you’re on your way to some steampunk seriousness.  I have to admit, I find steampunk hot, edgy, thrilling and super futuristic.

I think to write good steampunk, there have to be certain elements involved:

  • Research the Victorian era.  Know your time period.
  • Know your machines.  As machinery and technology are huge components of steampunk, you’ll need an understanding of the technology of the early 1900’s and invent your own gadgets to hold your reader’s interest and be relevant to your plot.
  • After reading a lot of interviews with steampunk authors, planning and devising a plot ahead of time is very important.  If you’re plotter, this genre might be up your ally.  Many authors suggest coming up with the plot first and then figure out how to incorporate the technology aspect.
  • Don’t have your characters speak like Charles Dickens.  In fact, move to the opposite extreme.  Steampunk is futuristic with a Victorian flare.  In other words, know your era, know the clothing, know the social norms…and then rebel against it, taking the best of the time and putting a huge twist on it.  Keep your characters, and their mannerisms original to your time.

What are some of my favorite Steampunk YA novels?


Have you read any steampunk?  If so, what are your favorites?

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18 thoughts on “YA 101: Steampunk

  1. I love Cassandra Clare. Also Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series is great and has wonderful illustrations included in the books. A very interesting genre. You can find all kinds of clothing and accessories to wear too.


    1. I didn’t think I’d like it either until I read Cinder. I was hooked. Then I found Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork series and fell in love. You should really try to give it a whirl. It might just surprise you.


  2. One of my publishing sister’s writes Steampunk and her book has been doing well . . . Nefertiti’s Heart by AW Exley . . . not sure if it’s YA though as it’s still sitting on my Kindle in my mile long TBR pile!!


  3. Great post 🙂 Infernal Devices are a fantastic series. I have to question Cinder, though … I just read it, and it’s set in the future, so wouldn’t that make it a bit more cyberpunk than steampunk?


    1. I think Cinder should be classified as cyberpunk but it’s on so many lists as steampunk. I think because it has that Cinderella flare to it as well as the old car and all her gears and ‘cyber’ workings.


  4. I love Cassandra Clair. I’ve read almost all the Clockwork books. I want to read Cinder also, just haven’t gotten time.


      1. Oh wow, I can’t believe I spelt her name wrong! Geesh, I’ve read almost all the books and I get her name wrong. Sighh. I will have to read Cinder and Scarlet.


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