Elements of Steampunk

This week I’m excited to bring you a guest post from steampunk writer Katherine McIntyre. Kathryn recently released the third book in her adventure-filled Take to the Skies series, and is stopping by to give a glimpse into the world of steampunk and its historical roots:


When checking out a novel, movie, or some form of art termed ‘steampunk,’ certain elements have surfaced enough times to have become hallmarks of the genre.  Even folks who aren’t savvy with the trend have come to recognize the assortment of gears, the Victorian style gowns, and the many pairs of goggles as steampunk.

Where did these elements come from? Well, to figure that out, we have to delve into the source of a lot of the genre, which is Victorian imaginings of the future, whether it’s Jules Verne, or H.G. Wells, whose science fiction has now morphed into some of the roots of steampunk.

Image: Captain Nemo Viewing Giant Squid 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Engraving of Captain Nemo viewing giant squid from 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1870.

These old stories from the Victorian era are where a lot of the style comes from, bringing in a historical element that appeals to a large group of people. As for things like welding goggles and gears, those are romanticized working class emblems that infiltrate into the aesthetic. Absinthe, which was popularized during the Victorian era, is also featured in many a steampunk soiree, as well as the tea rituals of the time. Even things like octopus motifs crop up often in steampunk items, but when you look to stories like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, those integrations aren’t as surprising.

As the genre has grown, so have the parameters as artisans and authors alike have added their own takes, whether the stories are grounded in Victorian London or set in futuristic or fantasy worlds filled with airships. The meld of historical elements, odd, clockwork or steam-driven technology, and the imaginative reaches of new worlds draws fans from a wide range of other genres to fall in love with steampunk.

When I was tackling my own steampunk universe, I married my love of pirate adventure with airships. Instead of those swashbuckling escapades taking place on the sea, they took to the skies instead—which actually led to my Take to the Skies title. What evolved out of it was a meld of science fiction and old-timey Western gunslinging, combined with airships and steampunk flair from the autocarts in the streets to the intrepid heroine’s corsets and cameos.

Since steampunk is constantly evolving, the elements that define it continue to expand. As more and more creators make their mark, they add more to the wild and wonderful world of steampunk.


Book Cover: The Airship Also Rises“The crew of the Desire returns for one final, thrilling adventure.

Ever since Bea and the crew stole that box from the British Merchant ship, they’ve been drowning under enemies. The Brits, the Morlocks, and the man who started it all—their ex-employer.

However, Bea finally tracks him down and prepares for one final fight against the man who made their life hell. He’s got superior numbers and more weapons and wealth than she could dream up, while she’s got a threadbare crew running on grit and dreams alone. The crew of the Desire doesn’t stand a chance.

But Bea’s spent a lifetime defying the odds, and she and the crew will risk it all—their livelihood, their ship, and their lives, for the chance to fly the skies free once more.

Secrets will unravel and loyalties will be tested in the smoking conclusion of the Take to the Skies series.” 

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8 thoughts on “Elements of Steampunk

  1. I think I’ve always focused on the ‘steam’ in steampunk and thought of it as being about Victorian-inspired technology – but this made me realise there are a lot more elements from the period and writing of the period (like the absinthe, the tea rituals, the soirees etc) that add to the overall Victorian feel. I love that the octopus motifs show up too (I’m fascinated by octopuses, especially the mythical ship-destroying kind). I love airships as well – in fact they’re probably one of my favourite steampunk elements, and I especially like the one on your book cover!
    Anyway, thanks so much for sharing this post, I enjoyed having my steampunk horizons broadened 🙂


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  3. I absolutely love steampunk, be it in written form or cosplay or film-wise. I just love the aesthetic SO much and find it one of the most appealing ones ever! I have unfortunately not read many steampunky books yet but I’m always on the look out for good ones so I will certainly try and check Katherine’s sometime in the future 🙂 That cover is lovely.

    I really enjoyed reading about the origins of Steampunk and its elements and how they actually came to be, the inspiration behind them and the entire thing really. Some of it I already knew, some of it was new to me but that’s what I love about blog posts like this: the sharing of knowledge.

    Brilliant addition to your already wonderful blog, Nicola! I hope to see more of these (either guest posts or your own) soon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sophie!! I also haven’t read many steampunk books but would like to read more, so I’ll be checking out the first in this series at some point too (as per usual I have too many books on my plate right now, but I get to new things eventually 🙂 ). And I definitely agree about sharing knowledge – I love it when I get to host a guest post and also learn something in the process.
      I will definitely keep adding posts, as well as guest posts when I get the opportunity to!

      Liked by 1 person

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