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Yeah, I Made Up My Steampunk, too.

My squishy science

Steamrolled Project Enterprise 4 by Pauline Baird JonesRecently I blogged about my “squishy science” in a post called My Fiction is Totally Made Up. Expectations play a huge part in how a book is perceived/received by a reviewer or a reader.
This was brought home to me again when a reviewer’s expectations ran into one of my steampunk stories. I get that some people don’t like romance in their anything. And I totally defend anyone’s right to like or not like something I wrote. Reading is essentially a personal experience shaped by our likes, our dislikes and our perceptions. There are some really famous, best-selling authors that I don’t get. It happens.
What prompted this blog was the reviewer’s assertion that the story wasn’t steampunk because it didn’t meet his expectations. (Excuse me, but who died and made you the Ruler of all things steampunk?)
Let’s take a look at what steampunk is and where it came from.
Steampunk is fiction based on fictional science set loosely in Victorian times about events and technology that never happened.
And it comes from authors’ imaginations. 
It’s even more made up than a mystery or a historical novel or a romance novel or a politician’s campaign speech. Those are at least loosely based on things that could, conceivably happen. In the real world, people do get murdered and elected to office and some politicians do what they said they would, or they think they did. Maybe. People even fall in love.
But steampunk never happened. Unless someone travels back in time and changes history by boosting technological inventions in Victorian times, in which case it will have happened, but it won’t be steampunk any more if it actually happened. Then it would be history and we would know nothing about steampunk because it wouldn’t have happened. (Feel free to pause for an eye twitch here.)
What I particularly like about steampunk (besides playing with goggles and automatons and airships and hosing my characters) is that it is a genre that didn’t come out of New York publishing. It came from the grassroots of readers and artists and cosplayers. It is, for the most part, a genre without boundaries and rules, one fueled by the grassroots.
Which makes it particularly ironic when anyone states that a piece of made up fiction broke the rules or isn’t steampunk because it did or didn’t have this or that.
A more definitive (and true) statement would be that “it did not meet my expectations of what I believe steampunk is.”
Because there is no one in charge of steampunk. It just is.

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