Just in case anyone was wondering what readers from outside the SFF community are thinking about the currently Steampunk boom, romance reviewer Mrs Giggles is wondering what generic Steampunk romance will look like. The comments are well worth reading, too.
At the moment, Steampunk romance hybrids are still a comparatively small pool. There are perhaps ten or so Steampunk romances around, depending on what you consider Steampunk (and the romance definition of the term “Steampunk” is rather loser than the SFF definition), plus a couple of e-book only titles from the various romance e-presses. Yet Steampunk romance appears to be a growing trend, as evidenced by the fact that there are “What the hell is Steampunk?” discussions going on at all major romance sites at the moment. This interview about Steampunk with Meljean Brook from the Dear Author site is a particularly good example.
Is it coincidence that the current Steampunk backlash in the SFF community occurs at just the time that Steampunk is beginning the transcend the genre boundaries. Legitimate criticisms about Steampunk’s unquestioning acceptance of Imperialism and other less than savoury aspects of the Victorian era aside (and Steampunk did not have more of a social conscience, when it was just a mini subgenre), what really pisses off many genre bloggers is that Steampunk is getting recognition by the dreaded mainstream and that it is beginning to mix with other genres, including – gasp – romance. After all, nobody complained about urban fantasy either, when it was just a small subgenre about rock ‘n roll elves and magical homeless people in major North American cities. It’s only when urban fantasy started to transcend the fantasy genre and began incorporating elements of other genres, namely crime fiction and romance, and got popular that the backlash began. It’s speculative fiction’s version of the old indie band dilemma: Once an indie band starts getting popular beyond a very narrow cutting edge fanbase, the original fans start accusing the band of “selling out” and move on to the next obscure band, rinse and repeat. There is a sizeable number of people (and I don’t completely exclude myself here either) who simply cannot handle anything they like being discovered by others and gaining popularity.
Though of course, not every SFF writer is opposed to hybridisation and even to incorporating romantic elements in a speculative fiction tale. For a perspective from the other side of the genre fence, here is Tobias Buckell on writing a steampunk romance short story.
At any rate, it will be very interesting to watch where all this will go.