What is Steampunk?

What is steampunk? I’ve been asked this question a lot lately since my latest novel, Tainted, released last month. To make it easy, I condensed the definition down to this: steampunk is a fusion of our history (usually Victorian or western) and science fiction/fantasy with advance technology that runs on steam. For example:


  • London set in an alternate universe where magic exists.
  • A western city with sophisticated technology that runs on steam.
  • A Goth English setting with a character who hunts monsters with high-tech weapons.


What I love about steampunk is the possibilities. Steampunk isn’t just science fiction or Victorian. It can have magic if you want. Or you can borrow from the time period of your choice without being confined to it or to the technology that existed. So if you want to invent some kind of steam-powered cell phone, go for it!

The thing that sets steampunk apart from other genres (both visually and in story) is the feel. Steampunk has a feel of fantastical inventions, adventure, and science/discovery. Usually cogs, clocks, corsets, goggles, airships, and alchemy are associated with steampunk stories. But you don’t have to have any of those if you don’t want to. Have fun and create your own technology, weapons, and culture.

My own steampunk series borrows heavily from the Victorian era and science. I also had fun inventing things such as mechanical animals, an airship that runs on solar panels, a sniper rifle hidden within a walking cane, and a prosthetic arm that functions as an electric cannon.

Tainted -- Morgan L. Busse

But like any other genre, the story cannot stand on just the genre underpinnings. What connects the reader to the story is the story itself, with characters the reader can relate to. So while you’re having fun inventing your steampunk world, remember to tell a story, one that will grip your readers by the heart and mind.

How about you? Have you ever heard of steampunk before? What do you like about this sub-genre?

Find out more about Tainted here: www.enclavepublishing.com/books/tainted


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