Joseph Michael Owens got me to read The Difference Engine the other day. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but that isn’t really important right now. What is important is that it got me thinking about a new possible steampunk subgenre. I’m calling it seempunk.
Mind you, I don’t really read a lot of steampunk and I might be missing what it really is entirely. What I’ve gotten so far is that you place technology in a time period that didn’t have such technology, but frequently give a time period appropriate feel to the tech. Like a steam-driven sewing machine in the 1800s. Of course, all that is combined with a craftsman sort of love the tech hate the impersonal factorization of society sort of thing. I’ve probably got steampunk wrong, but this is the impression I’ve gotten.
Anyway, back to seempunk. As I was reading, I got the idea that it would be funny to write stories in time periods featuring technology that wasn’t invented until later but modern people don’t understand wasn’t invented until later. After all, do you know when the steam engine was invented? How about the cotton gin? This is the seem punk part of the equation. The tech is mislaid in time, but modern readers have to work to figure that out.
For example, eyeglasses. I posted a photo on facebook the other day of me down in the Paris catacombs and the topic somehow got onto whether or not they had glasses when the catacombs were built. The answer was yes, the Paris catacombs dating back to the 1800s and eyeglasses dating back to somewhere around 1200.
But, you see how this would work. For example, write a story about a monk in the middle ages, somewhere around 1100. give the monk eyeglasses. Did they have them then? No. Would someone now realize it? Some might, but most likely wouldn’t. Thus, we would have a seempunk story.
Mind you, I have no intention of actually writing this story. I think inventing the subgenre was enough. I’ll leave it to others to follow up on it. Whether or not the idea is worth a damn, I’m calling this one a victory. I can’t be bogged down with details.