Small and I had numerous discussions during the planning period of the Historical Fantasy Jubilee (although we got off topic more often than we stayed on it), and one of the things that came up was: Is Steampunk Historical Fantasy? Before Small and I talked about it, I would have said no. I tend to think of Steampunk as more Science Fiction than Fantasy, but as our discussion went on, I began to change my mind a little. And here are my thoughts.
First, there’s straight Steampunk. Take Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. The setting is inspired by the 1930′s and 40′s, so it’s definitely got that historical flavor. The only fantasy here, however, is the magic of a different kind of science. In Oppel’s world, giant dirigibles fly with the help of a special kind of gas called “hydrium,” which is lighter than air. There’s no magic involved, no werewolves, no vampires or other magical creatures. Therefore, we can’t count it as Historical Fantasy.
Other examples include:
- The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
- The Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook
- The Iron Codex books by Caitlin Kittredge
- Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
- The Native Star books by M.K. Hobson
- The Steampunk Chronicles by Kady Cross (I haven’t read these, but my understanding is that there’s a magical element.)
So, what do you think? Am I way off base? Do you think my categories are bunk? Did I classify something incorrectly? Or maybe you have some examples to suggest? Feel free to share!
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