The Crossroads of the Aether
As a newcomer to both this message board and the world of steampunk fiction, and as an aspiring author hopefully of the steampunk genre myself, I would like to posit a question to those far more knowledgeable than me:
What is that special something that makes steampunk fiction, steampunk? Is it just the technology, the era, all of the practical aspects or is there more to it?
And while I'm here, I may as well ask the perpetual question: What fiction recommendations do you have for someone whose only reading materials so far have consisted of Girl Genius? Webcomic and fanfiction recommendations are more than welcome!
There's already a thread for SP lit. As for the elements, you have most of it down: tech, era, and so forth. There's further subdivisions (clockpunk, etc), but they aren't as important.
In my personal opinion, modern Steampunk fiction should take its stylistic and thematic cues from Victorian fiction but have a modern sensibility. Which is a definition so broad as to be useless.
I usually recommend starting with Verne and Wells to learn an appreciation for the roots of Steampunk. Then read the stuff published in the 1970s and 1980s (starting with Harrison's 'A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!') to see what I mean. A number of Sherlock Homes pastiches are also excellent Steampunk. I cordially dislike 'The Difference Engine' because it is just a cyberpunk novel with all the tech terms crossed out and overwritten with red crayon. But some folks really like that.
But, as a disclaimer, I have found very little modern Steampunk fiction to be worth the electrons it took to download. Back in my day, when Powers, Jeter and Blaylock were inventing the sub-genre, we had real stories. Not this derivative, cog-encrusted zombies-and-zeppelins cr*p the kids are reading today. But you tell them this and they don't believe you....
I have heard the "Difference Engine" title thrown around quite a bit, but I appreciate dissenting opinions as much as the recommendations.
Out of curiosity, what is it about the more recent stuff that you find so distasteful?
Because I am a cantankerous old fart and nothing being written today is close in quality and inventiveness to what they wrote back when I was a teenager.
Or, it could be that I do not have the patience or proper mind-set any more to read and enjoy Young Adult fiction (which is what most of the popular new Steampunk seems to be).
Specifics would require me to remember the titles of some of the works I have tried to read, so don't expect any details.
Those are as good reasons as any I've heard, and at least you're honest. I, myself, have only been a fan of the occasional YA novel, so I certainly can see where you're coming from; even if I haven't quite reached the Cantankerous Old Fart stage of life just yet.
Though there's one thing to potentially look forward to: As the genre gains more and more popularity, it should, in theory, bring in more talented authors (note: I don't presume to count myself among them, I only aspire to be).