Why Steampunk?

When Greg and I embarked on this electronic adventure, why did we choose the Steampunk genre as the vessel to hold our story? We weren’t known for our work in the genre. In fact, we had never even done any work in the genre. So, why?

When I was in college I took a Philosophy class. The final was to be one essay question on a subject to be revealed to us on the day of the exam. Hard to prepare for a test like that. The big day came and the question was projected on a board at the front of the lecture hall. It read:

Why (“Because” and “Why Not?” are not acceptable answers)?

The room filled with noises of confusion and discomfort. No one more confused than I. Then, someone turned on a light in my muddled cerebrum, I wrote for about 30 seconds, turned my paper in, and left the room. I found out later that I had received an “A”.

Greg mentioned Steampunk fairly early in the proceedings and it clicked with me immediately. I’ve been a fan of the Victorian Era since I read my first Sherlock Holmes story when I was about seven. I was drawn to movies set in that period and remember reading the wonderful Holmes comics strips and books written by Edith Meiser and drawn by Frank Giacoia. I always felt that if I was ever afforded the opportunity I would love to work on a project set in the period.

But, what about Steampunk, the genre? Well, I’ve been a fan of Steampunk practically my entire life and didn’t know it. At least, not by that name.

When I was very young, I saw two films that had a huge impact on me. They changed the way I thought about things.  They helped develop my imagination. One was Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea from the novel by Jules Verne.  The other was George Pal’s film of H.G. Wells The Time Machine. Both science fiction films set during the Victorian era. There was just something about the juxtaposition of speculative fiction set against the austerity of the Victorian period that I found exciting. It was fascinating how these people used the tools at hand, primitive by the standards of my existence, and their ingenuity to accomplish wonderful things. I finally realized what it was: a sense of wonder.  Adventure on a grand scale set in a world much, much larger than the one I lived in. Plus, The Time Machine introduced me to the concept of scientist as action hero. Its protagonist, played by Rod Taylor, was not only a brilliant inventor, but wasn’t above busting a few knuckles on the monstrous Morlocks.

So, for years I had been hearing about this sub-genre of science fiction referred to as Steampunk and knew that it was gaining in popularity. When I finally discovered what it was, I was delighted. It was my old friend, the genre I had referred to as Victorian Science Fiction, and there were dozens of books and new authors just waiting to be discovered.

It was a confluence of elements that I didn’t want to pass up. I would be working with my favorite writer, exploring a genre I had a real affinity for, and, as an added bonus, the Westward Expansion of our country took place during the Victorian period and I might be able to introduce elements of my major love, the Western. As Wash Tubbs used to say, “I ain’t mad at nobody.”

So, for what it’s worth, that’s why we—what?

You want to know what I wrote on my Philosophy exam that took so little time and earned me an “A”?

Okay, but don’t try this at home.

Question: Why (“Because” and “Why not?” are not acceptable answers)?

Answer:  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Until next time…..

Rick