DeadSteam: Interview with Editor Bryce Raffle


DeadSteam is a collection of steampunk short stories that explore the darker side of steampunk. Featuring ghosts, zombies and vampires, it has a Twilight Zone-meets-steampunk feel. DeadSteam is a very good addition to the steampunk universe and well worth reading.

Unlike the majority of steampunk anthologies, DeadSteam has a very consistent feel and all of the stories felt they were written specifically for this book.

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Steampunk Novels That Should Be Made into Movies

For whatever reason, steampunk novels don’t make good movies, or at least haven’t thus far. The best example of this would be the The Golden Compass (2007), which was a box-office flop.

The Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downy Jr. could be considered a moderate success, though the steampunk elements are really an afterthought and it really can’t be considered a steampunk movie.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) is the epitome of a steampunk book being made into a movie and having little commercial or critical success.

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Worst Steampunk Book Ever Written

All Men of Genius

Now this article’s aim is not to criticize but to give fair warning to potential steampunk book consumers. All Men of Genius is a terrible book. It’s written like a Shakespeare comedic play, which might not be terrible but it doesn’t belong on the science fiction/ fantasy shelf. It does itself and potential readers a great disservice by being put in the mix with other steampunk books.

The story is about a girl named Violet who doesn’t like her place in Victorian society, because she is the best scientist ever. So she dresses like a man and takes the identity of her brother Ashton. She enrolls in the best science college in all of London and does inventions and stuff. It would be hard to summarize the rest of the story as it is just a blur of boredom and nothing. Violet goes in the basement sometimes and sees some clockwork automatons, who are dangerous, and is in some kind of romance with the Duke in Charge of the School. He kisses her when he thinks she’s a boy or something.

The author, Lev A.C. Rosen, is dressed in steampunk attire on the book’s sleeve jacket, which should be a big red flag (he is a weirdo). Rosen is a New York author writing about a Victorian-era girl living in London. Rosen is not the only American author in the steampunk genre to write about the subject, but this story is by far the most character-driven, which makes it an unnatural read. The story starts out with the author telling the reader that all of the characters are completely mad, which is obnoxious.

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Is Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter Steampunk Fiction?

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

It has been several years since the release of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and its subsequent film. The book was a landmark historical fantasy novel that was original and fun. It is in the spirit of steampunk and belongs in the conversation despite lacking steampunk-style technology (airships and automaton). It is a brilliant period piece of alternate history. It contains a wonderful blend of fantasy and history that will give the reader an excellent understanding of the life of Abraham Lincoln.

The reader will learn about Abraham Lincoln’s life. It is historically accurate minus the vampire-slaying. Though it’s cliché to say the book is far superior to the movie because the ending is quite different.

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Uther Doul versus Silas Fennec

The Scar

The best steampunk book ever written China Miéville’s The Scar pits the wits of a spy scoundrel Silas Fennec, a.k.a. Simon Fench, against the strategic warrior Uther Doul.

While the protagonist of The Scar is Bellis Coldwin, the best conflict of the story is between Doul and Fennec. This even though they don’t meet face to face until the end of the story. Coldwin is used at times as an agent on behalf of these two characters’ wills.

Doul is a warrior driven by his need to serve the leaders of the Garwater riding of Armada, The Lovers, for better or worse. Though as the story progresses, we are less and less sure if it is The Lovers or Uther Doul himself who is pulling the strings in Armada.

Fennec’s motivations are mysterious and hidden while on the surface he is just a prisoner who wants to escape to save his homeland.

Coldwin is manipulated by both in an indirect war between the two.

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Why The Court of the Air Is Excellent Steampunk Fiction

The Court of the Air

It has been a decade since The Court of the Air first appeared. It has seemingly gone unnoticed except for a few hardcore fans. The first book in the Jackelian series, and arguably its best, it has a Star Wars meets The Wizard of Oz feel and borrows from China Miéville’s Bas-Lag series but still builds a very original world.

The Court of the Air‘s Kingdom of Jackals is one of the most elaborate worlds in all of steampunk fiction and a must-visit for steampunk fantasy fans. It includes magic, steam-powered men (steam-men), various humanoid races, airship navies and underground insect kingdoms.

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This Census-Taker

This Census-Taker

This Census-Taker could be considered, because of its relatively short length, as somewhere between a short story and novel. It tells the story of an unnamed boy and his family on a giant hill. The boy narrates the story of his murderous father and the strange census-taker who comes to take count of all that arrives from an unnamed country. It’s a strange tale and contains elements of China Miéville’s other works.

This Census-Taker might frustrate readers who are unfamiliar with Miéville. The ending will definitely leave you with more questions than answers. It incorporates the “dead-end information” style of Miéville’s earlier masterpiece, Perdido Street Station (2000, review here). A resolution the reader expects never materializes.

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Alternate History versus Steampunk Fantasy

Alternate-history steampunk is set in a historically-based world (usually Victorian London). The technology or historical events have for some reason veered from the real timeline. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (1990), considered the first work of steampunk, is an example of this. It assumes the creation of an analog computer in the 1800s.

Other examples include Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker (2009) and Mark Hodder’s The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack (2010). While not necessarily historically accurate, these books incorporate real history, places and figures.

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Infernal Devices

Infernal Devices

K.W. Jeter’s Infernal Devices is a classic steampunk novel worth reading. Having been published in the early 1980s, it is was on of the earliest works of steampunk and has a lot of the themes that would connect steampunk works.

The author, Jeter, is considered a founding father of steampunk. He is famously credited with coining the term steampunk in an interview. Almost as an afterthought he said you might call the new movement something like “steampunk”. The term ended up sticking even if Infernal Devices faded into relative obscurity.

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