I admit that until recently, if you had asked me what “steampunk” was I probably couldn’t have answered you. Â After a teeny bit of online exposure and research…well, I’m still not entirely certain. Â I know that it usually takes place in Victorian London and involves futuristic technology and gadgetry. Â That’s where my knowledge pool runs dry.
According to Wikipedia, steampunk is “a sub-genre ofÂ science fiction,Â alternate history, andÂ speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world whereÂ steam power is still widely usedâ??usually the 19th century and oftenÂ Victorian era Britainâ??that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often featureÂ anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may haveÂ envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective onÂ fashion,Â culture,Â architectural style,Â art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works ofÂ H. G. Wells andÂ Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.”
It’s a fascinating genre that seems to be (dare I say it?) gathering steam. My curiosity reached a tipping point when I saw a trending topic on Twitter for #steampunkshakespeare. Â Quoi? I thought to myself. Â I clicked this link and discovered that some steampunk writers are putting together a little submission request/contest for Shakespearean plays or sonnets that have been reworked as steampunk tales.
The idea is to create thoughtful new interpretations of Shakespeare’s universal stories through the steampunk genre. Â It is not intended to be a mash-up or just Shakespeare with some airships thrown in. Â The rules are basically:
1) Write 10,000 words or less on a scene, act, aspect of the story, or sonnet that turns Shakespeare into steampunk;
2) Make it recognizable and true to the original source material;
3) Use Shakespearean language if possible;
4) Keep violence and sexual situations within Shakespearean limits; and
5) Make the steampunk more than just “window dressing.”
The deadlines for submissions is May 30th. Â Considering my deep love for Shakespeare, I’m thinking about taking a stab at this project, even if it doesn’t end in a submission. Â It could be a fun exercise.
The glorious thing about Shakespeare is that his plays are so universal. Â They can be transported in time or place and still tell a story that touches the heart. Â His words still resonate with us today, and I’m always humbled by that fact. Â In college, I was blessed to play a number of Shakespearean roles. Â Some of the productions were more traditional, but some were experimental, like the gender-reversed Hamlet or the 1920s set A Comedy of Errors. You can play around with Shakespeare so much and yet still tell a powerful story, which is why this project is so great.
To rectify my steampunk knowledge deficiency, I’m declaring entry in another reading challenge. Â Bookish Ardour is hosting a “Get Steampunked!” challenge, and to start I’m going to declare my participation at Geared/Level 1 and read 5 steampunk books next year. Â That number may increase. Â I already have a list of books I’d like to read, which I’ll include below. Â Click the button to get more info on the challenge, and a number of others that BA is hosting.
My reading list (so far):
1. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
2. Soulless by Gail Carriger
3. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
4. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
5. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
What do you think of steampunk novels? Â Any other suggestions for books I should be reading in addition to or instead of those on my list?