Hi.

I’ve decided, on a whim … call me capricious, if you will … I’ve been called worse … including other words beginning with ‘c’ … but … for once in my life … I’m of a mood to respond facetiously.

Having said that, I can’t decide how to reply to the above — remarks about not being so would be tediously adolescent and riffs on “When I say ‘jmp’, you ask how himem” nerdishly obscure (no-one has learned assembly language for a good twenty years, I don’t think).

So, I’m just going to have to let that one go and move on.

Thank you for showing interest in my work-in-progress novel.

You’re writing a novel?

the accounting firm I work.

Hmmmm … that might explain a few things.

Although not the appalling grammar. You work at something, if the action is intransitive (e.g. at an accounting firm). Like walking the dog, you work the fields, because the action is transitive. You’re not an American, you’re (technically) a European … so you ought to have a grasp of correct grammar — you know … things like “If only I had known” instead of “If only I would have known she was illiterate”.

Then the Covid-19 crisis hit.

And I realized about half my book was just wrong.

See, my protagonist grew up in a society that was supposed to be culturally scarred by a plague. The way I imagined such a thing to work turned out to be incredibly naive and ignorant. After the insights I gained from living through an actual global pandemic,

A number of years ago, after the SARS epidemic … when we saw people wearing masks everywhere, what struck me was how, even after it was over … long over … a not entirely insubstantial number of people didn’t stop wearing them.

Given the part of the World in which it had occurred, my mind wandered to the cultures in that part of it, noting that they already had (in Japan, for instance) a tradition of not being overly close/familiar … of not being ‘contact-friendly’ … even amongst friends — compare the French habit of shaking hands with (or even kissing) all and sundry with the Japanese one of bowing (or nodding to friends).

And I wondered what an extrapolated future might look like … one in which the original reasons for avoiding contact had long since been forgotten in the same manner that the Japanese today do not avoid physical contact because they’re wary of being within sword’s reach of a stranger but simply because it is the cultural norm.

At the time, Facebook wasn’t yet the behemoth it is, nor social media per se as all-pervasive, so that didn’t factor into my musings. Today, of course, the generational drift is such that being obnoxious to someone to their face, not having the courtesy to respond at all to their communications, behaving thoughtlessly and selfishly in public spaces is not deemed anywhere near as much of a faux pas as not responding to their social media presence or doing so aggressively/rudely ¹ and, albeit for entirely different reasons, I can’t help but wonder if I’m not seeing an aspect of how that very future might look — people have been social distancing for going to two decades now even without a pandemic.

When you stop and consider the socioeconomic ramifications … less high street footfall, more online shopping … and even when we do go to an outlet, not even using a card and PIN but contactless payment rather than risk touching a number-pad on a card-reader… my observation here, that borrowing money from family/friends would entail charging V.A.T. … that there’d be no transaction of any kind without a record of it … you couldn’t even lend a friend down on their luck some money without the government knowing about it (so, if you don’t want the government to know who your friends are … don’t have any) … might not be too wide of the mark. Just imagine a future of people sitting, isolated, at home, with thousands of online ‘friends’, transacting their relationships as business-to-business operations.

To which you can add recent explorations of what Covid-immune status might have on employment prospects — although I’m cynically inclined to wonder if, rather than a utopian future of white-collar opportunities, there might not be a tendency to put them to work in risky situations that ‘the right kind of people’ would not be expected to (I’m not sure how much of an advantage my ‘type O’ blood group really is when a 14% less likely to contract/19% less likely to die calculation means I’m in a 99% likely to be at risk environment).

I decided to scrap what I had so far, and rewrite the whole novel. The plot is still the same it’s just going to be set in a completely different world.

And because I am going to rebuild my world anyway, it’s going to be more steampunk. Because steampunk is awesome.

No … steampunk is tedious.

I refer you to the linked article about cyberpunk here …

Steampunk came and went a long time ago … and, appropriately presaging its own demise right from the outset, ‘old hat’.

It’s not only just as past its sell-by-date as cyberpunk but it had an even shorter shelf-life.

If you want to do a *punk genre but don’t want to break the mould … or stray too far into the fantastical … then consider dieselpunk instead. Rather handily as well, there’s a good example of a dieselpunk ‘plagueworld’ environment available in the Dishonored games as a point of reference for how such a story could <ahem> play out.

Or you could look at the more extreme form of societal impact in the (I would argue) decopunk of Bioshock.

The atompunk of the Fallout games could also be an interesting setting — you don’t have to take the post-apocalyptic element, just ask yourself what a plagueworld version might be like.

I would posit that just about any of the genres listed here would make a more interesting setting than a steampunk one.

Christ, even a cyberprep environment … in which a new plague (please, not out-of-control nanotech) is beyond the ken of previously omnipotent Science … would be less hackneyed than steampunk.

I’m dubious about mythpunk, but Douglas Adams showed what might be done with The Long Dark Teatime of The Soul … and there are American Gods, Anansi Boys and Preacher … so … whilst I won’t hold my breath … I’m prepared to be shown that it can be done *punk stylee.

However …

Whilst it might be the case that, if anyone could pull it off, it’d have to be you doing it in the style of your ‘one of those shops’ stories … nevertheless, if you go anywhere near elfpunk, I shall be obliged to cross the oceans and snap your keyboard in two myself Shadowrun was an idea that should’ve been aborted ² … we don’t need a latterday Mary Shelley reanimating its stillborn corpse.

If you absolutely must go with steampunk because it moistens your gusset like nothing else can then give The Seventy-Seven Clocks, by Christopher Fowler, a read first — it’ll help with building a world that doesn’t read like a Victorian era version of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The Mummy films are, believe it or not, a better model than Indiana Jones in the same way the understated seediness of the original (sung by Randy Newman himself) beats Joe Cocker’s bombastic cover of You Can leave Your Hat On — low key … less is more … you get my drift.

Watch Zulu (starring Michael Caine) for that turn-of-the-century feel and insight into what Victoriana evolved into … The Wrong Box (also starring Caine) for an insight into how … even in the swinging, rebellious 1960s … it left its indelible mark upon the national psyche (it’s set during an earlier era but the fact that it even could be about, never mind relevant in, the ’60s says a lot).

That way at least … even if you choose a different cultural setting (Space: 1899 and Jules Verne, anyone?) from the urculture of Victorian Britain that is at the heart of steampunk … you’ll have a feel for how to evolve a less hackneyed Hollywood take on it.

But, please, don’t — steampunk’s grave has been robbed so many times that digging up its corpse now just results in a nasty smell of foetid air, not an overlooked gem or pocketwatch.

Seriously … just no.

I hope you will enjoy the rewrites.

Not as much as I do.


¹ But for people who are aware that their in/actions will be noted … and, more pertinently, judged … in a public arena, that may be more about saving ‘face’ than about being a decent human being who actually gives a shit.

² I’m surprised it didn’t miscarry actually — Nature does abhor an abomination after all.

There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live and too rare to die.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store