Friday, August 7, 2020

Things I Want to See More In Steampunk (Plus: Mechanical Heart Book Birthday!)

Hey'a, everyone! So, in a turn of events that I didn't actually realize until yesterday (mostly due to preparations for The Midnight Show's release), today marks the one-year anniversary of Mechanical Heart's publication! As I did for Blood in the Snow, I'm putting the ebook version up for free from today until the ninth — and, yes, I made sure I set the promotion on the right book this time. If you haven't read Mechanical Heart, or if you just don't have the ebook, I invite you to go pick it up and check it out!

Much as I love the steampunk genre, there are some things that I think could be done better and some things that I think authors haven't explored as much as they could or should. And since most of the main characters of Mechanical Heart are all about finding things that could be done better or explored more, I thought that I'd use today's post to spotlight some of those things.

Things I Want to See More in Steampunk

  1. Non-European locations. A lot of steampunk — I'd even say most steampunk — takes place in some kind of modified Europe, usually the United Kingdom, usually London. But focusing everything on one continent, one country, one city, limits things way more than it should. Why not expand? Steampunk is all about exploration, after all. What does it look like in a modified India, China, or Australia? Plus, the steampunk age overlaps nicely with America's Wild West era — why don't we see more books taking advantage of that? After all, the one book I know of that does (Shannon Hale's Calamity Jack) is pretty awesome. Let's get some more of that going on.
  2. Non-Earth locations. While we're expanding and exploring, why not take a page out of Jim Butcher's book and leave Earth behind altogether? Steampunk is most commonly thought of as a historical fantasy or historical sci-fi crossover genre, but there's no reason it has to be. What might steampunk look like in other worlds or other planets? Or if you're really set on having some Earth influence here, well, steampunk portal fantasy might not be a thing yet, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be.
  3. More actual adventures. I don't know if this one makes sense to anyone else, but: a lot of steampunk is very focused on political and social intrigue and spying and secrets and so forth. Which is great! I love that! But I do think there are other stories to be told, and I think that you can have proper adventures within the steampunk genre. I mean, Jim Butcher did it in The Aeronaut's Windlass. Heather Dixon more or less did it in Illusionarium. Brandon Sanderson did it in his second Mistborn trilogy, especially The Bands of Mourning. So other people should be able to do it in other stories. This one could possibly also be translated as "You keep telling me there are airships, but no one ever goes anywhere or does anything in them. Fix that." (Actually, it might already be fixed, but if it is, tell me where the books are, please and thank you very much.)
  4. Speaking of Jim Butcher and airships: more stories that properly take advantage of the existence of airships. Otherwise known as: more airship pirates, airship captains, and airship battles, please and thank you very much. Again, for all that steampunk keeps insisting on airships, I have found very few books that actually capitalize on the potential that you have with airships. That goes double for airship pirates. And, look. Maybe this is somewhat influenced by the fact that I've been binge-reading Schlock Mercenary in my spare time (and some not-so-spare time), and it's definitely influenced by the fact that The Aeronaut's Windlass is one of my favorite steampunk books ever, but please give me more books in which well-written, daring airship battles legitimately can be and are a thing. (Seriously. Please.)
  5. And on that note, more stories that really lean into the science part of steampunk's sci-fi origins. By which I mean, stories where the science and gadgets of the steampunk world are more than just set dressing. I'm looking for stories where the main characters are actually involved and interested in the innovation of the world and where the science is a major part of the plot. And, yes, I know some of these already exist — Mechanical Heart is, in many respects, one of them — but I don't think I've found nearly enough of them.

What do you want to see more of in steampunk? Any recommendations of steampunk books that fill some of these holes? Please tell me in the comments! And don't forget to pick up your free e-copy of Mechanical Heart, if you haven't already!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)


  1. I wish I could recommend you Haphazardly Implausible, because its airships are amazing (And I ship Darter so harrrrrd), but the author took it off the internet for (albeit, muchly-needed) edits and has never given it back. I am much upset.

    Though, maybe try Once Upon a Winter by Melyssa Williams. It's a Steampunk Nutcracker retelling that was pretty adventurous, as I remember. The ended seemed a bit fizzly, but it's one of my favorite Nutcracker retellings, regardless.

    1. That is tragic. If it ever reappears, let me know. And thanks for the rec! I may have it on my Kindle, but if not, I'll look it up!

  2. I'm surprised I don't see more steampunk books with western settings. It's already a world of steam trains and pocket watches.
    But what I'd love to see is steampunk in other eras. Imagine an industrialized 1st/2nd century Egypt, if Heron of Alexandria's contraptions took off.

    1. I know, right? And I have never heard of this Heron of Alexandria, but I definitely need to go look him up now. Steampunk Egypt would be super cool. :D


I'd love to hear your thoughts! But remember: it pays to be polite to dragons.