The genres of fantasy and science fiction are often lumped together as one huge genre, and with good reason. These two genres have many similarities, and they overlap quite often when it comes to storylines, technology, and characters. We know that both science fiction and fantasy have many different sub-genres, and it is common for these subgenres to overlap as well.
Steampunk is a genre that can easily cross between science fiction and fantasy, especially when it is steampunk featuring magic. Keep reading to find out more about this unique genre and all that it has to offer. Read up on some of the recommended novels and series within the genre and decide for yourself if it is something worth pursuing.
What is Steampunk?
Steampunk is a term that is thrown around quite often, but many people do not actually understand what it is. In short, it is the hypothesize science-fiction future inspired by the Victorian era and the industrial revolution. It gets its name in part from the fact that steam was used for many different technologies during this time.
Steampunk as a movement incorporates many elements of the Victorian Era, including fashion, art, and architecture. The technology and inventions of the time are also heavily featured. The term “steampunk” originated in the 1980s as a play on the word “cyberpunk.”
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, but it can cross over into other genres, both fiction and nonfiction, as well. It is considered a hybrid genre due to the fact that it can so easily coexist with other genres. Horror, historical fiction, and fantasy are common genres to see intermixed with steampunk.
It is common to see steampunk literature take place in alternate historical settings. These stories may not be historical fiction, but they often use real settings to ground the world. The Wild West and the Victorian Era are common settings and time periods for steampunk literature. Steampunk can, however, be historical fiction. It all depends on the direction that the author wants to take it in.
Steampunk Featuring Magic
Steampunk featuring magic is just that; a steampunk novel that features magic. This is where the crossover between science fiction and fantasy really begins. We know that the steampunk genre can be anything from horror to historical fiction, but it can also become fantasy quite easily.
This is a genre that is open to interpretation in many ways. It must contain elements of the steampunk genre and it must contain magic, but it otherwise has very few limitations. The magic in this genre can take any form. It can be wizards waving magic wands, or it could be something more discreet like psychic powers. Whatever the case may be, magic must play a role in the story.
Steampunk is typically categorized as science fiction, and that can still be true even if it contains magic. There is no rule to say that sci-fi cannot have magic in it. Steampunk featuring magic can be both fantasy and science fiction at the same time. These two genres do not always have to be separate; they work very well side by side.
Examples of Steampunk Featuring Magic
Though steampunk featuring magic seems like a great genre to get into, there are actually very few novels that fall into the genre. The ones that do exist, however, are full of excitement and interesting adventures. Below are some suggestions for steampunk fantasy novels or series to get you started in the genre.
Tales of the Ketty Jay is a series of four novels by Chris Wooding. This series contains elements of many different genres, the most prominent of which are steampunk, swashbuckler, and fantasy. The setting and the time period are most definitely steampunk, but the adventures and the magic within push the novel more into the fantasy genre. It is a great choice if you’re interested in steampunk featuring magic.
In this series, there is a group of people who are down on their luck. Nothing is going right, and it seems that nothing ever will. This group of misfits come together and form a group called the Ketty Jay. The leader of this group is named Frey, and he gets framed for a crime he may or may not have committed, and he must deal with the repercussions of this crime.
Readers who enjoy steampunk featuring magic, science fiction, or swashbuckler fantasy will get a kick out of this series. It contains pages and pages of adventures, romance, and crime, all within a unique steampunk setting. This is a series worth picking up, even if you aren’t sure steampunk is for you. It fits into so many genres that it is something that just about anyone can enjoy.
The Rithmatist is a series of novels by Brandon Sanderson. While there is currently only one novel in the series, there is at least one more in the works. The setting of this novel is fictional, but it has clear steampunk influences that make appearances throughout the story. There are depictions of steampunk technology and fashion, and the time period seems to be a similar era to that of the Victorian Era.
This novel follows a young boy named Joel who is training to be a Rithmatist. Only a few children get chosen for this training, so it is an honor to be one of them. Rithmatists are warriors, and they perform magic with their training. This magic is not a skill they are born with, it is something they learn from a young age and use as they get older. The majority of this story takes place at the school that trains the children. But it also ventures out into the city. The city and the time period of this novel use steampunk technology, as well as magic, to give the world a fully fleshed-out setting.
This novel is a great choice for someone looking to find out what steampunk is all about, while still getting the fun elements of fantasy and magic. The magic system in this novel is unique and the challenges and obstacles that Joel faces will leave you turning pages as fast as you can. Don’t sleep on this novel; I bet it only gets more interesting in the sequel!
I hope this article has helped clarify what this genre is all about and given you some ideas of books to read in this subgenre.
And if you want to read more about unique fantasy subgenres on this blog, check out:
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another fiction-literature-related topic!