I entered the field of the Steampunk Universe in an odd way. It came via two threads of activity in my life, and not the usual way.
The first thread goes back a few decades. When I was young (up to my twenties) I was a massive Moorcock fan and read all of his works, and also, I enjoyed reading (and viewing, in terms of movies etc) Wells and Verne stories. In other words, I was immersed in the stuff that pre-dated Steampunk, and which were some of the critical sources of the subgenre. To add to that, in my middling roleplaying days, I was introduced to an absolutely fantastic roleplaying game called Space: 1899. If anything was pure Steampunk, but predating the subgenre, this would have been it (I am guessing there are no small number of Steampunkers who actually play it to this day).
The second thread is my current writing effort, reflecting my early influences (thread 1), and actually writing the stuff. I have written 3 steampunk stories (as I define them), and two have been accepted to date.
The reason why I am writing this journal piece is because I am reading Anthology of Steampunk (Sonar4 Publications), which is, obviously, a rich collection of steampunk stories. This is the first time I am actually reading ‘mainstream’ steampunk stories (one of which is mine), and assessing what I may have missed in my journey in the subgenre. In other words, what was thread 3 like, since until now, I missed it?
I have two, almost conflicting opinions. Firstly, I believe my stories are consistent with the representation of the subgenre, and for that, I am happy. In a way, by not being heavily read in the current literature, I was able to find my own voice, and for that I am eternally grateful. However, I can also kick myself for not reading more. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, including in this anthology. I have read about a third of the stories, and the standout for me, is Tonia Brown’s short, Excellent Service, which isn’t just awash in Victoriana and steampunkery, but it also was strong in social commentary and the plot was, quite simply, highly original. Well done, Tonia (I don’t want to give away the story – heck, buy it!)
I have grown as a writer, and particularly in the short story craft, and I don’t normally write pure plot-driven stories anymore. I want to grab the reader by the testicles (or equivalent) and make them think. I want them to feel delighted (in a dark, light, or whatever way) when reading my stories through to the last word. The beauty of steampunk is that it, among many other subgenres, can, and will be, a rich medium for excellent writing.
These are some of my observations, today.