And I was prompted to revisit this subject just the other day. Whilst talking to another writer, I tried to describe the novel I currently have in the works. I said: “It’s basically a Victorian thriller, with bits of science fiction and a twist of horror. I suppose you’d call it Victorian science fiction, like H. G. Wells.” And he said: “Oh, you mean steampunk?”
This in itself didn’t bother me, because I really like steampunk (although I’ve always kind of disliked the fact that the steampunk movement has fully subsumed VSF in the niche genre consciousness). In fact, I’d normally have just shrugged and said: “Yeah. Kinda.” No, what bothered me was that the fellow sort of rolled his eyes, and derided my work by association. Because steampunk itself isn’t ‘respected’ outside of its own niche, and therefore he was implying that if I was a steampunk author, my work must be hackneyed and amateurish.
None of the above reflects my own opinion, I’d hasten to add. Good fiction, steampunk or not, is still good fiction. There is no room in this game for genre snobbery, despite what some professionals may have you believe. I own steampunk comics and graphic novels, games, object d’art and bits of fashion. It fits my obsession with the Victorian era like a glove. In short, I like steampunk, and I like VSF; I just don’t believe they’re the same. Let me explain.