Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How not to write Dystopian Steampunk

I went to a very strict high school. It wasn’t quite as bad as boarding school (the non-Hogwarts kind, I mean), but it was pretty intense. Our school uniform included a tie (this is a big deal when you’re twelve). The teachers would give you detention for having your shirt un-tucked. We had to wear knee-high socks held up with little elastic garters (stop laughing dammit), because, again, get caught with your socks down? Detention. One time, I got sentenced to hand writing the phrase “I will not be a disruptive influence to my fellow students” two thousand times by a particularly annoyed English teacher. Two THOUSAND. Took me all weekend.

Kinda amazing I became a writer after that…

But anyway, the point being, by the time high school ended, I had developed a certain… disdain for authority. I grew my hair down to my ass, joined a band, and made it my business to be as “disruptive" an influence as possible for a few years. And while I’ve since chopped the hair off and turned semi-respectable (el-oh-el), I still have an inherent dislike for rules. The way things “should be done”. Which might explain why my novel turned out the way it did. (Ooooh, segueway – see what he did there?)

STORMDANCER doesn’t really look the way a dystopian novel should. And I imagine the other Steampunk novels will look at it strangely on the playground when it gets let out for recess next year.

Dystopian fiction is usually set in a dark future. But STORMDANCER is set in a dark past.

Dystopian fiction is usually set in a post-collapse world, where newer, scarier world has risen in place of the one we know. But in STORMDANCER, the collapse is happening before the reader’s eyes.

Steampunk novels are usually set in Victorian England. Or possibly Colonial America during Victorian times. But STORMDANCER is set in feudal Japan.

Steampunk usually lacks the nihilistic/anarchic elements of its cousin Cyberpunk, and hearkens back to a utopian age of wonderful technology. But STORMDANCER is set in a dystopia, verging on complete environmental ruin. And the technology is the enemy.

And not many dystopias or Steampunk works I can think of have griffins in them either :P

But you know what? You’ll probably have the most fun you’ll ever have when you’re breaking the rules. It confounds me when people try to codify and calcify genres of fiction. When they tell us what “does” and “does not” count as Steampunk, or Dystopian or Interracial Lesbian Erotica (ok, that one is pretty self-explanatory) Some of the most successful books take those golden rules and toss them out the window. Can’t talk about suicide in a YA book? Jay Asher says you can. Girls can’t be action heroes? Suzanne Collins says otherwise. Nerdy little boys with tape holding their spectacles together can’t save the world? Talk to J.K Rowling.

Frack the rules.

If you fit in, you will never stand out.


  1. STORMDANCER sounds amazing! Japanese Steampunk? Sign me up!

  2. "If you fit in, you will never stand out."

    Duuuuude, love this. So true. Also, you had me at knee-high socks. I'm not laughing, I swear!

  3. @Elizabeth - Thanks! :)

    @Jennifer - It's ok if you laughed. Knee high socks on boys are kinda hilarious :P

  4. Lol, love your smooth segueways :) And breaking the rules. It makes for the best fiction, and sometimes, the best Real Life too!