One of the reasons I enjoy writing in the Steampunk tradition is its focus on social and economic disparity. I have tried in my writing to emphasize what I believe to be the ‘Punk’ part of Steampunk. That part that focuses on the disenfranchised, the fringes, oppressed, and under represented classes and conditions.
I wrote many of these stories several years ago and they reflected my opinions and feelings at the time, probably no different than the classical writers like Verne and Wells did in their time. As I review these stories getting them ready to be published, I am struck by how relevant, if not more so, that they are now.
Conflict, either direct or indirect and sometimes inadvertent, is the key to writing. I have heard and read that many times and it rings true for me. There are many forms of conflict, of course, ranging from character conflict with the setting to character vs character, and character conflict within themselves.
My favorite, as is my desire to write character driven stories, are the latter two.
Character vs. character in my steampunk western world is represented by the rich and elite oppressing the lower class to maintain their lifestyle all the while still being entirely dependent them. Economic oppression, exploitation of workers, etc. is not a new theme by any stretch. I like to toy around the edges with the interdependencies. Are the privileged dependent on those they oppress? Would they cease to exist if they could not oppress? Do we create our own elite? Do we need these elite we create?
If oppression is integral to the Punk part of steampunk, it clearly is not new either. Captain Nemo was funding rebellion and hated imperialistic nations (Steampunk v1.0?). Moorcock brings forward the same theme of oppression, that of colonists, in The Warlord of the Air (Steampunk v2.0?). Yes, finally getting around to reading what many consider the inventor of Steampunk (v2.0). No spoilers, Land Leviathan and Steel Tsar are queued up! Can I really add anything new to the oppression theme?
My favorite is internal conflict – Character vs Self. Self doubt, self esteem, anxiety, depression, maintaining control. These themes are also as relevant now as they were when I first started writing in my world. Weaving these themes into my stories and creating the flawed characters will, hopefully, let me put the grim reality into what I feel is my version of steampunk – what my publisher coined “Grimpunk.”
Anyways, heavy thinky post behind me, I would invite you to checkout www.brymlight.com for more information an upcoming Kickstarter to fund a small anthology of my short “Grimpunk” stories. There is a place to sign up if you are interested in receiving updates on the KS campaign.