Why Steampunk?

When I approached Austin with the original proposal that we write Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel, the conversation went something like this.

Me: Okay, so I have an idea.

Austin: What’s that?

Me: We should write a steampunk novel together.

Austin: Eww. No.

Because here’s the thing: neither of us really liked steampunk all that much.

Well, that’s not entirely fair.

Neither of us really understood steampunk because what began as a kind of genre-within-a-genre of speculative fiction has become so much more than that, and neither of us is immersed in the full-on subculture that has sprung up around cogs, goggles, and steam-powered tech.

But the more we talked, my original idea of a world defined by “airships and demon possession” took hold. We had some meetings, made some plans, and eventually, the world of Nimbus began to take shape.

And once that happened, we realized that we wanted to do something completely new with the genre. We wanted to redefine what steampunk meant. We wanted to write steampunk that we would walk through the bookstore, pick up, and want to read.


But what exactly does that mean?

I asked on Twitter last night, why other people love steampunk and the answers I got back really solidified our choices for Nimbus.

@Hirvox said that it was the “juxtaposing of: Victorian facades with hard machinery. Power and clumsiness. Pomp and cruel ideals. Idealism and dystopia,” while @ericakchase likes “the creative aesthetic around the genre. You pick the bits of history you like, and make up the rest.”

For Austin and me, we chose steampunk because of a combination of these factors. We saw the opportunity for Hirvox’s kind of juxtaposition–through both character development as well as worldbuilding–as well as more than a few places to experiment with the genre’s already-superb creative aesthetic.


Cogs, Airships, and Demons. Oh, My!

After all, there’s no denying that a world based around steam power could create a fantastic storytelling platform, and while both Austin and I really like the feel of the technology and saw the potential in the worlds that could spring from it, neither of us wanted to write a Victorian novel.

So after a bit of worldbuilding, we realized that Nimbus would be a fantasy novel rather than alternate history. We would keep the speculative fiction aspect, but base it in a world entirely different from our own. In other words, this ain’t your momma’s steampunk; don’t expect parasols, corsets, top hats, or Oliver Twist-style Dickensian orphans.

If that’s your thing, though, I suggest keeping eye out for a character named Edward Prescott. He’s a lot of fun. He wears a top hat, wears goggles, even walks around in a tattered suit with coattails. Prescott is how Austin and I decided to have a little fun with traditional steampunk genre conventions.

Because the world of Nimbus is based around steam power, we figured that water would be an extremely valuable resource, even moreso than petroleum is for uspetrol doesn’t also have the dual purpose of keeping us alive, after all. And in a world where people live either in the skies or below-ground, getting clean water becomes quite an issue.

So really, we chose steampunk for the same reason you guys chose steampunk: because we couldn’t resist a genre that gave us so much to play with. We hope you guys have as much fun as we do with it.

Want more steampunk? Of course you do! Head on over to our Nimbus Release Giveaway page to find out how you can enter to win a free copy of Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel or a $25 Amazon.com gift card. 

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. I’m excited to read this… as I’ve been saying, the idea of “airships and demon possession” has always been intriguing to me.

    Also, I appreciate the non-Victorian right now… considering that I just finished a class in such… 🙂

  2. This pretty much covers the same reasons why I’m toying with the steampunk ethos in my writing. I’m not really toeing the party line either, but there’s a lot of room for wild experimentation between the alternate history/alternate worlds aspect and the weird intersections that happen between tech and magic. Nice synopsis!

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