One of the frequent foundations in steampunk fiction—whether fantasy is included or not—is elements from the Victorian Era to go with the awesome gadgets and steam power and fashion. That’s generally from 1820 from 1914 here on Earth, which is roughly during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901).
Of course there are exceptions, including in the Fantasy Steampunk StoryBundle! Dean Wesley Smith’s Cardsharp Silver visits the peculiar town of Cave Creek, Nevada, where the strange is everyday. And Michael Warren Lucas’s Prohibition Orcs inhabits Prohibition Era Detroit with an amazing cast of orcs continually puzzled by the unreasonable ways of humans.
My included novel The Dream Thief is set in an alternate world, with no Queen Victoria or any other sort of monarch. But there are quite a few of those fascinating Victorian Era elements.
The clothing, especially for the women, tends toward gowns and elaborate hairstyles (unless a less cumbersome option is in order). You’ll also find a fascinating language overlaid onto frequent letter writing, in that the color of the wax seal on the envelope has a lot to say. Often used to make a point all by itself.
And of course, the glorious houses, which I love in real life just as much as in fiction. Complex color schemes, wonderful details in woodwork and windows, and lovely turret rooms.
But one of my favorite things about the Victorian Era is how very strange it was.
Nowhere near as prim and proper as it seems on the surface.
I couldn’t resist playing with the odd and sometimes macabre collections folks had during that time. Many Victorians went far beyond pinned insects or enough pocket watches and parasols to populate a museum.
Some had the sorts of collections you only showed to trusted friends. The kind who wouldn’t judge you for what you kept in a special secret room, though they might be satisfyingly jealous.
Wreaths and jewelry made of hair. Truly bizarre (and creepy) clockwork baby dolls. Human bones, the stranger the better.
Another often disturbing aspect of the Victorian Era was the way people suffering from mental illness were treated. Thankfully we’ve come a long way in the real world, and the dreadful asylums are no longer considered state-of-the-art treatment.
In The Dream Thief’s case, one way the world of Alterra goes round is citizens use their minds to build things. To bring objects into reality simply by willing it so.
Sadly this talent has a tendency to break the minds involved.
Especially if that talent is overused.
Madness isn’t the only side effect, but I’ll leave that to your reading discovery!
You’ll find plenty of other adventurous takes on steampunk, fantasy, and our fascinating inheritance from the Victorians in this StoryBundle.
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