9/17/14

Steampunk Summer: Award-Winning Author Ginn Hale on Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Steam-Powered Imagination

2 1/2 years ago, when I got my first ideas for Steampunk Carnival, I had to admit I knew next to nothing about steampunk.  I knew it relied on steam power and the Victorian era, but that was about it.  So I searched the internet to find books that could teach me about the genre.  A list of steampunk books on Wikipedia led me to Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale.  The premise and characters intrigued me, so I bought the paperback and sat back to set off on my new adventure.


“Hooked” explains how I felt by the end of the first page, but “spellbound” is closer.  I fell in love with the main character, demon Belimai Sykes, and his gritty, grimy world.  I’ve never been so invested in a literary love triangle as I tried to figure out which man (yes, Belimai’s gay, only adding to his allure) he belonged with:  the man who’s his polar opposite or the being Belimai once gave up everything to save.

I started the book pacing myself, treating myself to one delicious chapter a night.  Somewhere near the middle, though, this wasn’t enough, and I devoured the rest of it.  The fast but natural pace of the plot inspired the way Steampunk Carnival flows - no stops until we get to the final destination of that last, haunting page.

So it's my greatest honor and pleasure to introduce this guest post Ginn Hale wrote to cap off Steampunk Summer:

Ginn Hale in some seriously inspired goggles.

In a time before steampunk.

Sometimes it’s easy to think of steampunk as little more then a feisty heroine in a leather corset, sporting a pair of goggles while she tinkers with some clockwork device. However I believe that steampunk has had a far greater effect on speculative fiction than just promoting pocket watches and dirigibles.

Not so long ago both science fiction and fantasy were realms of rather rigid definitions— at least as far as publishers were concerned. Science fiction took place largely in space or on alien worlds of the far future. Fantasy novels more often than not were expected to fit a mold cast by JRR Tolkien decades before: wizards, elves, and dwarves battling some terrible—often painfully generic—evil.

Ginn Hale's favorite goggles.
Despite the limitations good books came out of those decades and there were authors who broke the definitions and pushed limits, but the overarching idea of what both genres could be remained largely stagnant.

But then came cyberpunk and steampunk. Between them they expanded not just the cosplay options for us all but also dissolved the line between science fiction and fantasy and reset what speculative fiction could be. While cyberpunk redefined much of the attitude of science fiction, I think steampunk in particular expanded both genres immensely.

Where once science fiction had been defined as stories of our modern age projected forward, now suddenly it could also encompass the futuristic imaginings of ages past. Steam-age space races took off and clockwork robots rumbled to life.  At the same time in the realms of fantasy, mechanical dragons took flight and the arcane magics and spiritualism, which fascinated the Victorians, gave rise to new embodiments of the fantastical.

But beyond that steampunk opened a floodgate for alternate definitions of science fiction and fantasy. If steam powered computers could get folk to the moon then why couldn’t Song Dynasty rockets soar through the skies? If Spring-heeled Jack can return to us from the yellowed pages of Victorian true crime then why shouldn’t the semi-mythic Detective Dee reclaim his mantle as near mystic judge? 

It’s no longer a given that if you’re penning a fantasy novel you’ll be kitting yourself out with forty pounds of elf-chow for the long quest your characters will doubtless undertake. Nor are you bound by the definition of science fiction to set your story in the year 2525 on some desolate moon colony. Breaking the narrow parameters that defined both genres has made room not just for cogs and clockwork but also for countless alternative stories to be heard.

Heck you might even be able to get a book about a drug-addicted, gay demon and his tangled relationship with a corrupt inquisitor published. ;)     



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(Thank goodness, too, because it makes for one of my favorite books of all time.)  Ginn also has several other series and books available, and they all look as good as Wicked Gentlemen.  You can also check out Ginn's website for fan art and other cool stuff.

A huge thanks to Ginn Hale for this brilliant post and to all of my guests and readers.  This is the last official post of Steampunk Summer, but the vintage, alternate history adventures will continue through the fall.  Steampunk Carnival will be on tour in the blogosphere in mid-October, so sign up for my newsletter to get updates on that.  Hint:  There will be a giveaway!

Enjoy the last days of your summer!

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