Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Appalachian Steampunk: Huh?

So, in my Twitter profile and a few other places, I've mentioned that one of the genres I like to write (when I'm not working on my magic nuns) is Appalachian Steampunk. Wait, what? Who's ever heard of that before? Nobody. Which is precisely why I'm writing it.

I really like the idea of steampunk as a genre, and it's one of the up-and-coming literary movements that I really go out of my way to support, even though it means I've bought a couple of real duds (don't worry, not naming names). I've been really fascinated, though, by the way that it's already divided itself into several sub-genres. There's your general London Fog type steampunk, which seems to be based on team detective stories in the Sherlock Homles vein, stuff like Newbury and Hobbes or Burton and Swinburne. Then there's American steampunk, which is either set in the colonial days with books like Mainspring or in the 1880s, either in the Wild West or in an alternate-history south where the Civil War hasn't yet ended. Cherie Priest is a pretty good representative of that style. The stuff that Stephen Hunt is writing could be considered steampunk as well, but I'm more interested in steampunk as alternate history here, so we'll leave him by the wayside for now.

Now, I'm pretty southern, for all that I grew up in a city without much southern flavor to it. I was born in the mountains of east Tennessee, and went back there for graduate school. I've always been fascinated by mountaineer culture, the way that Appalachian homesteaders made do or did without. And really, that seems to me to match the steampunk aesthetic fairly well. I'll admit that I prefer reading steampunk when the authors have clearly put thought into the gadgets and gizmos that their characters use, when they match the era and the feel of the story well, and when they serve as something fairly integral to society, rather than just window dressing. So, for example, in the couple of stories that I've written, the most dangerous critters in the Appalachian forests are rogue automated moonshine stills, which actually run on a combination of steam power and the very liquor that they produce.

I fully intend to keep writing Appalachian steampunk - not just short stories, I have plans for a novel whenever I get around to it (there's about three more in the queue ahead of it, at this point) - and fleshing out my little world. I sometimes wonder, with all the attention that's been paid to southern steampunk, especially with regards to the Civil War, why nobody's poked into this little niche yet. If they have, let me know, I'd love to be corrected, and to share notes.

In the meantime, although none of my work is published yet, I intend to release a collection of Appalachian steampunk short stories by sometime this fall. If you're curious about my take on the genre and would like to see an advance copy of one of the stories, about a steamboat race on the Tennessee River, just click on the Facebook "Like" button on the side of the page, and I'll send you a google docs link.

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