Scalded by Steampunk

15 Dec

So I dropped into my blog reader today, and the number one topic of conversation seemed to be that steampunk sucks, is boring, is shallow, is revisionism(fictional revisionism, the horror!), is a commercial sell-out, is crap, is shit, is tiresome, is over-hyped, is racist, is colonialist, is adventurist, has not one really powerful story to its name, etc.

And then I saw that one of the people saying this was Charlie Stross, and I almost cried.  Because I love the books Charlie Stross writes.

And then I stopped and thought:  “People are getting worked up over a fucking sub-genre of fiction.”  Why?  What’s the point?  You don’t like steampunk?  Great.  Enjoy whatever it is you enjoy, but why attack a genre that’s never done anything to you?  Either write something better or move on.  Isn’t there some new Tolkien clone somewhere to bash?  Horrendous glorification of the middle ages and all that?

If speculative fiction was a house, steampunk would be the leaky boiler pipe in the basement.  Don’t stand in front of it and you won’t get burned.  Maybe you find it annoying.  Well, I find it annoying when people turn down the high while wearing a jacket indoors.  Tolkienesque fantasy could fit that metaphor very well.  But there are four other people in the house who agree, so I suck it up and move on with my day.  I don’t accuse them of oppressing the working class.

I’ve read some great steampunk, some good steampunk, and some shitty steampunk.  The latter category is much larger than I would prefer, but 90% of every genre is crap, so why the need to jump on one poor little sub-genre over having a few shity books, or books that disagreed with your politics by having a few noblemen protrayed in a positive light?  Nobody is making you read this, and I don’t know very many other readers or writers who would prefer to live in the 19th century because they loved the last steampunk story they read.


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2 responses to “Scalded by Steampunk

  1. bigwords88

    December 16, 2010 at 12:44 AM

    A fair majority of the backlash can be landed at the feet of LXG, which took every single lame element and crushed them together in one stinking heap of crap. That film, more than any steampunk novel, comic, movie or photograph, has managed to set people against the sub-genre. Maybe the mood whiplash is a passing thing, and we can get back to the interesting stories in unusual places, though the insistence that any steampunk story must be set in London (a minority view, but growing) has to be shrugged off before the full possibilities are realized.

    Yeah, I’ve read the same posts, and the argument has started going around in big circles already. There is so many specific points being rehashed that the bigger picture is becoming rather obscured.

  2. weaselgal

    December 16, 2010 at 1:28 AM

    You know, I haven’t really had the chance to read much steampunk fiction, to be honest. Most of it is in e-book format, and my stupid computer doesn’t like it. I’m more into the fashion/jewelry angle.
    When I read your comments I have often felt the same way. SOme of these people who pooh-pooh the genre as trite and stale are acting like ‘well, if I can’t have it, then NO ONE will!’ They make it their business to be as hateful and vindictive towards the author of said steampunk work so as to spoil it for everyone. It just strikes me as the person throwing the tantrum is jealous of the author’s ability.
    It’s a tricky genre, because I think one needs to have an understanding of the initial time period, the culture and lifestyle, then add the hardware into the mix. It’s not simply writing about funky technology thrown into a 19th-early 20th century world, it’s people too, and history. Some writers seem to miss out on that bit. Nice blog, enjoyed it.


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