I’m really excited for what comes after the War of Chaos and Order. When Ji-Wei has gone through their tribulation, I get to explore Mercer and Yilinski. Both will be in a steampunk setting, with Yilinski having a Russian flavor and Mercer a Victorian flavor.
History: Interchangeable Parts
A short run down on where Steampunk comes from.
Back in the 1700s the world went through the Industrial Revolution. Mass production saw to it that people would repetitively do one small part of the work on an item, and machines would move the process along. However, there was still a good amount of individuality with the pieces, making them difficult to replace.
Eli Whitney changed this with interchangeable parts. Parts became uniform and people needed less skill. Instead of someone making every piece by hand, some guy just needed to push the button (okay, it wasn’t that simple, but that was the gist). As time went, that uniformity increased. People were relegated to making the same small portion over and over again, missing out on the pride which came with craftsmanship.
Now you need one engineer, one visionary, to create a horseless buggy, and suddenly hundreds of people are working to create that same horseless buggy a hundred times a day, with no variation. Variation is a flaw, and in the world of mass production, flaws are not suffered.
Before I continue to bash mass production, let me point out the miracles of mass production. Skill level required to make goods greatly decreased, cost dropped so more items were affordable to more people, specialization expanded (imagine if you had to make your own TV, computer, coffee grinder, etc.), among other incredible benefits.
The era is around the birth of an industrial revolution. Steam and clock work are the major power providers. There are guns, though often inaccurate. Gears and mainsprings create lovely devices, whether it is a singing bird or giant clocks.
Electricity is still a little out of reach, though a few scientists use the power in the same vein as a romanticized Nikola Tesla.
Trains are the main way of getting around, and horse and carriage is the mainstay on the road. The wealthy can afford horseless buggies, which are steam powered.
Now throw out mass production. Inventors are a dime a dozen, they all make their own things, and every creation is a new one. The creations are unique, clever, and often emphasize form over function.
The state and the man might be into mass production. They want you to get in line and do as they tell you, work in the grimy factory, and come home covered in soot.
The inventor bucks this. The inventor gives hope, wonder, and a purpose to live for beyond simply providing for the family and dying young due to faulty factory equipment.
Where most punk fights the system through anger and screaming, steampunk does it through wonder and creation.
Get bent, Eli Whitney, we are creating a brass bird which can fly and sing if you wind it up. Quite life like. Throw some stained glass wings on her. There you go. I could make a thousand of them and make good money, but I believe I will make this one. And give it to my niece to show my affection.
Need some good steampunk inspiration? Check out Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, along with any of the other books in Priest’s universe. The Civil War didn’t end, and there are air pirates. And zombies.
For a good holiday steampunk movie, check out Jingle Jangle on Netflix.
Amazon and Etsy both sport an assortment of steampunk goods.
I hope you can find some inspiration in this dreary time. To fight the dour, don’t get sour, but make an invention to wow the people!