I’ve been researching popular trends in steampunk books lately to better help my own writing, and in doing so I’ve uncovered some I really like, and a few I can’t stand. These are some of them:
I once heard someone say that magic has no place in steampunk since technology usually fills the same role. But steampunk often straddles the thin like between fantasy and science fiction, so why can’t we have both? Technical devices powered by magic are both fascinating and unique, and allow us to experience the best of both fantasy and sci-fi.
2. Steam-powered dictatorship
The popularity of the dystopian genre seems to have bled into steampunk in franchises such as Mortal Engines. It is a nice subversion for the standard steampunk setting where technology improves everyone’s lives and society lives in harmony. I especially love the setting in Kathryn Ann Kingsley’s Cardinal Wings series where a communist-style society has essentially taken over all of Europe.
3. Murder mystery
Perhaps it’s because of Sherlock Holmes, but there seem to be quite a few mystery series with a steampunk twist. My particular favourites are The Daemoniac by Kat Ross about a gender-flipped Sherlock Holmes and the Arcane Casebook series by Dan Willis which takes a more dieselpunk tone.
4. Art nouveau
While we mostly associate steampunk with Victorian aesthetics, it seems more common lately to include inspiration from the early 20th century and the art nouveau and art deco styles. As much as I like the Victorian era, I like these looks much better and find the simplistic lines much more pleasing. They can be used both to make a setting look cool or to make it appear imposing and threatening.
The role which propaganda plays in our public perception has been more of a hot-button issue in recent years. As sinister as it is, there is something oddly fascinating about how words and images can sway huge groups of people into a particular way of thinking, and how virtually every society has attempted it at some point in history. Steampunk is a particularly interesting genre to explore this, especially when combined with the dystopian elements I mentioned above.
6. Enemies to lovers
Readers have been going crazy over this trope lately, especially since we’ve started deconstructing classic villain archtypes. There’s something incredibly thrilling about reading two people from opposing sides realising they actually have a lot in common and going from one emotional extreme to the other. Once again, this works perfectly in steampunk fiction which loves both a good villain and a good romance.
And one trend I hate:
Everyone loves the hero
I enjoy romantic drama as much as the next reader or fanfiction writer, but something I notice a lot in the steampunk books I’ve read lately is protagonists with several love interests, or at least people who are interested in them. Sometimes it seems as if the entire world is falling at the main character’s feet within moments of meeting them. It runs the risk of portraying the character as unrealistic and there isn’t going to be much of a character arc unless somebody hates their guts.
What are your favourite and least favourite steampunk trends? Let me know in the comments below!
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