Why Are Steampunk Novels so Popular?

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Steampunk is an intriguing hybrid genre blending the Victorian aesthetics of the late 1800s with the science fiction tropes of a borderline dystopian future.

 In many ways, it exists in its own paradoxical universe that takes a good dose of imagination to properly grasp.

 But in other ways, it mixes the best parts of two seemingly oppositional ideas, such as frilly hoop skirts paired with ray guns and mad-scientist goggles. And it’s glorious.

Visually, steampunk stories are often populated by gritty, rusty, and uncomfortably human-like robots with hidden agendas. 

Or, as seen in arguably one of the best steampunk books, The Perilous In-Between by Cortney Pearson, a terrifying mechanical carnivorous sea monster. 

The protagonist is a female fighter jet pilot trained to fend off said sea monster. Seriously, it’s wild, and it’s called. Highly recommended as a jumping-off point into the steampunk genre. 

It’s equal parts elegant and chilling, with shocking plot twists that will leave your jaw dropped.

So what is steampunk besides the quirky aesthetics and mish-mash of odd genres that makes steampunk so much fun to read? We at Inkitt have outlined the elements that make this such a popular genre below.

Subverted Expectations

Oh, you thought that robot was dead after you shot it through the fuse box with your pre-war rifle? That’s cute. Turns out, though, that it has an immortal heartbeat encased inside an unbreakable human skull. 

See? It’s incredibly weird in the best way, and you never know what to expect. 

Because it’s a hybrid sub-genre, it has a broader range of rules than other genres. This affords much more plot and concept flexibility, like questioning the cyborg vs. human debate, for example. 

Bonus points if there’s time travel thrown in there, too, just for the heck of it. So tap into what your reader might be expecting, and then take a sharp left turn. 

Your story will come off as thrilling and frightening in the best way. For more help with writing suspense, read this recent article to keep your readers hooked. Another book I really loved that did this well was Cogling by Jordan Elizabeth.

Uncanny Aesthetics

Elegant multi-layered petticoats paired with muskets, gears, and advanced technology? But, of course! Steampunk situates itself in a reality that is almost something we connect with by way of the 19th century but then deviates from that sense of familiarity. 

Freud put it best with his concept of “the uncanny,” suggesting that familiar things, which are just slightly off, are scary. 

Add in the contradiction of high-tech with more primitive, rusty gears, factories, cobblestone villages, and smoking pipes – and something totally new has been created.

Impossible Vacation Destinations

Steampunk comes with a baked-in sense of familiarity, leaving readers with the sense that these are places they have been. But they’re not. 

Steampunk produces a vivid image of a place you think you’ve been but haven’t. 

So, reading books in this genre brings about a unique brand of déjà vu and nostalgia for a memory never experienced. It’s a magical contradiction that floats off the page and into the subconscious.

We all want to escape somewhere, and since that isn’t always an option, books are an effective way to scratch that itch. 

Steampunk offers all of that and more. You can be a duchess in a castle, wearing a wig that always gets stuck on the low-hanging crystal chandelier of your summer mansion. 

But then you can battle mechanized sea monsters or robots with a blowtorch or machete when they invade your courtyard. 

It all sounds too crazy to even be a genre at all, but that’s the beauty of it and the core of steampunk’s refusal to fit into any one box.

So grab your hoop skirt, machete, and goggles – it’s time to stick it to the man. And in this case, “the man” refers to limitations imposed by genre snobs who can’t see the beauty in the bizarre.

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