PK Interview: Rebecca Levene (Part 2)
Flowerpunk Reading List

Steampunk x Flowerpunk

Steampunk ElfA new genre idea hits the shelf and - within a few best-selling years - the vampires and elves sneak in. This seems to happen during the life cycle of almost every geeky sub-genre. 

For steampunk, this is particularly insidious - and confusing.

Fantastic alternate histories have existed for a while, but the core premise of steampunk isn't a mystical one - it is a technological one. Steam technology is the backbone of steampunk - the revolutionary, imaginative resource that shakes up the system. Steampunk is an exaggerated analogue of the real world upheaval that came with the industrial era.

Once a single elf raises his pointy-eared head, everything starts to get muddy. Adding magic adds another resource - in fact, it adds another system of resources. For the sake of clarity, this isn't steampunk. It is something else entirely.

Jonathan Stroud's Bartimeaus Trilogy, Ian MacLeod's Light Ages, Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mister Norrell, Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter - all take place in pseudo-Victorian settings with underlying societal tension, but the fuel isn't steam, it is magic. More than that, these books (and many others) depict a worlds in which power comes from the consumption of magic or magical creatures

Steampunk Vampire"Consumption" is an important word, as most examples of this genre depicts magic as a non-renewable resource - something stripped from the earth with every use. Williams and Stroud go a step further and have magic stem directly from the use & misuse of magical creatures. Juice a fairy to power a radio. (Thus the cleverly-coined "flowerpunk" working title).

If anything, flowerpunk is more pessimistic than steampunk. While steampunk is about the dawn of a new era - flowerpunk is about the dying of an old one. Flowerpunk is about wanton and careless consumption - selfish destruction used to prop up stratified societies (Clarke, Swanwick) and stagnant empires (Stroud).

Flowerpunk is a legitimate subgenre - as legitimate as steampunk - but the two are not the same.