Setting is half of a plot. Certain stories can only happen in certain places. You can’t exactly have daring knights fight a dragon in the middle of New York City. In an enchanted wood, or in a towering fortress, maybe.
Because of this, setting is crucial in every story. Not only the place, but time as well. But the big problem: writers are running out of unique settings.
Think about it. With J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, the idea of a medieval world of fantasy and knights began. Writers and wordsmiths all over the world started crafting manuscripts with lands of daring and wonder, swords and dragons. There MCs fight evil lords, save the kingdom, and battle evil. There are probably myriads of made up worlds now. Allyra, Narnia, Dionia to name a few. This setting, well, let’s call it Setting #1, is one of the most popular ones.
Another one is simply on other planets, usually in the future. This is the Sci-Fi Setting, Setting #2. I’ve done a lot less reading in this, but I know it’s out there. C. S. Lewis experimented in it, and we’ve all heard of War of the Worlds famous author, H. G. Wells. I don’t know if he played with extraterrestrial lands or not, but he created settings like them in his books, e.g. The Time Machine when the MC went into the far future.
Another setting, Setting #3, is a fairly new one. I think a large reason it was used so much, so quickly is because lots of the other good settings, like #1 and #2 were already taken, not by one but thousands of authors. This setting is the Dystopian Setting. Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games came first, then others like The Maze Runner and Divergent. It’s growing quickly among writers, even among Christian ones (Bryan Davis’ Reapers). I predict this setting will too be full, and that quickly.
What’s left? What’s an author to do? Well, I’m not saying you can’t pursue any of these settings. After all, many others are, and are still being quite successful. But if you want unique? What’s the answer?
I believe the jackpot lies in Setting #4, Steampunk.
Believe it or not, I’ve only read one steampunk book, and that’s Christopher Hopper’s amazing work The Sky Riders. I love it so much. His characters, his thick mysterious plot, and most of all his vibrant world.
I liked it so much I’m already writing my own steampunk series.
Now, many people may argue that steampunk is immoral. That’s not always the case. In the times that it is, I’d stay away from it. But it is possible to cut the “punk” from “steampunk.” Call it steamcraft if you prefer. The mohawks and madness can be pushed aside if you drive into the theme of the prefix instead of the suffix.
People may argue that steamcraft is too, oh, how should I say it, inversatile. (I had to make up the word since the right one isn’t coming to me.) It can’t be changed. It’s the same each time. Airships, wacky flying boats…that’s what comes to people’s minds. But I don’t see it that way. I see steampower. I think of all the possibilities of it. What if a boiler propelled a motorcycle instead of a train? What if pressure could project a bullet instead of a piston? You don’t like the steamcraft metals, bronze, brass, and copper? Make them gold, steel, and titanium. Pop the airships’ balloons and raise up fighter jets instead! If you look at Setting #1, medieval fantasy, there are thousands of made up creatures authors design all of the time. There’s also new weapons, new races, new everything. You can do the same thing with steamcraft if you just be bold! I am.
In the beginning of this post, I said you can’t have knights battle a dragon in the Big Apple. Well, actually you can. Maybe the dragon knows how to travel through time and space, and the knights hung on and went with. Or maybe the knights originally were from New York, and the dragon brought the fight back there. As long as you have a reason, you can make it happen.
But steamcraft is so untouched that not only can you have all your own steampowered robotics, but you can have dragons and knights too.
I don’t like the wild side of steampunk, the one with the wacky flying boats I mentioned earlier. I like the tamed side of it, where life is normal inside of it. You can still let that be with knights and dragons, though you may have to play around with that a little to make it work. I have griffins and phoenixes and motorbikes in my world of Bayonet. As long as you like what you have, likely your readers will too.
So that’s what I have to say about steampunk, or steamcraft, every writer’s opportunity. You should buy your ticket to it while there are still seats left. Thanks for reading my thoughts on it, and I’ll see you next time in Aria-Prime!