Magic is an epic thing. I was so young when I got into high fantasy and kept coming back because of magic.
More than anything, levitation fascinated me. I didn’t want to be able to hurl fireballs or cast things in a foot of ice, I wanted to fly, just by thinking it. Still do.
Then, one fateful (read random) day, I was watching a video on YouTube about makeup (I used to be a makeup artist) and the background music was by a band I’d never heard of, in a genre I’d never heard of. Steampunk.
It was clinky-clunky and weird, and I loved it.
So I took to google. What the hell was steampunk?
steam·punk/ˈstēmˌpəNGk/nounnoun: steampunk; noun: steam-punk
- a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology. “if you like steampunk, this is a great book for you”
- a style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction. essence of steampunk is to vintage fashion with a modern, sassy twist”
And, just like that, I was hooked.
You see, magic is super cool, but so is science.
I didn’t know I liked science until adulthood. I was one of those students who just didn’t see the point in science. Maybe it was because I had a teacher who didn’t really speak to me, maybe it was because I was in that know-it-all phase of teendom, but science meant nothing to me.
Then I met the guy who’d become my husband, and he loved science and technology. He spoke about it in ways that got me excited about those things too, introduced me to gaming, and opened a whole world I didn’t know existed.
Maybe I was in love and trying to impress a guy, but I got into science and finally saw the magic in that.
History, on the other hand, is something that has always excited me. The Edwardian and Victorian eras have always been among my favourite times in history, and when I learned there was this entire sub-genre dedicated to Victorian times with added steam tech? I squeed.
Steampunk may not be a new thing. Not as new as many people think, anyway. But it’s a thing that makes my toes curl and my heart beat a little faster.
Because now the magic is science, science is fantasy. And that while the people are wearing corsets and top hats.
I desperately wanted to write something in this genre, so the Evangellion trilogy was born, in all its unedited glory. A Study of Ash & Smoke is steampunk too, but not as in-your-face as Evangellion. The idea that pseudo-science could work in novels is still one of my favourite things.
I’ve also learned about some of the other sub-genres that originate from cyberpunk. Leigh Bardugo’s Tsarpunk is the coolest thing ever. Teslapunk and dieselpunk are pretty awesome in their own right. Silkpunk? Yes please.
I think these sub-genres breathe new life into all our favourite old tropes. It takes the concept of magic to a whole new level.
Do I still love magic and high fantasy? Of course I do. Give me an elf with a bow, a dwarf with an axe, an uncrowned king with a sword, and a wizard clad in grey–for now–any day of the week.
But I think what I love more than anything about pseudo-science in fantasy is that it actually could be possible. Magic? Meh. But science could make a Mantle, or mechanical spiders, like the one Eva has in Evangellion.
Don’t you reckon that’s amazing?