Why steampunk? (or whatever you want to call it)
by Cindy Spencer Pape, author of The Gaslight Chronicles (Carina Press)
I’ve always been drawn to other worlds, be they past or future or simply different. I read historical romance, fantasy, and science fiction in pretty much equal quantities during my teens and once paranormal romance came on the scene, I was instantly hooked.
Now my husband and lots of our friends are big SF geeks, so I’ve known about Gibson’s The Difference Engine, pretty much forever. I soaked up episodes of Wild Wild West as a kid, and yes, I even loved League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I quite simply love the possibilities you create by mixing history, SF and fantasy all in one big pot. I even like the clothes and the gadgets and the jewelry. So when steampunk started edging into the romance world, I wanted to sit down and write one. Now.
Unfortunately, at that time, I was writing almost exclusively for a couple of erotic romance houses. The book I’d started quickly informed me that it wasn’t meant to be an erotic romance. Not with five streetwise, mystically gifted children as the major secondary characters. I’d been calling it “Mary Poppins meets Van Helsing” in my head until one of my critique partners came up with a better name. Then I signed with Carina Press, and I knew Steam & Sorcery had found a good home.
While S&S was in edits, I was approached by Angela James and asked if I’d be willing to write a tie-in novella as a free download, to be given away during Steampunk week. Believe me, I was over the moon. I didn’t want it to be so far into the future that one of the children was the hero or heroine, so I came up with another hero—another member of the Order of the Round Table, the group of mystical Knights who protect Queen and Country from threats both supernatural and human. Since a Knight needs a strong heroine, I came up with the idea of a lady photographer—a career woman who doesn’t need a man to protect her or control her life. Except she doesn’t have the training to deal with murderous ghosts. And so Photographs & Phantoms came to be.
Now a good friend, a steampunk purists, insists my Gaslight Chronicles aren’t really steampunk. The characters fight ghosts, vampyres, and other magic. It’s not all about the steam-powered gadgets, though zeppelins and welding goggles certainly make their appearance. Also, the 1850s England of my books isn’t as dystopian as some steampunk purists want. It has its Dickensian aspects—rich upper class and devastating poverty in the lower, and then there are the vampyres that hunt the night. Isn’t that grim enough? Mostly, I don’t focus on that aspect, because to my characters, their world is just that—their world. They don’t waste time marveling over what to them is just the way things are. They live their lives, they fight for what they believe in, and yes, they fall in love.
So whether you call it steampunk, gaslight fantasy, or historical paranormal romance, I hope you enjoy my take on alternate history. I know I had a great deal of fun writing it, and I sincerely hope there will be more Gaslight Chronicles coming through Carina Press.
ABOUT CINDY SPENCER PAPE:
Cindy Spencer Pape is an avid reader of romance, fantasy, mystery, and even more romance who firmly believes in happily-ever-after. Married for more than twenty-five years to her own, sometimes-kilted hero, she lives in southern Michigan with him and two grown sons, along with an ever-changing menagerie of pets. Cindy has been, among other things, a banker, a teacher, and an elected politician, but mostly an environmental educator, though now she is lucky enough to write full-time. Her degrees in zoology and animal behavior almost help her comprehend the three male humans who share her household.
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