Who Would Have Thought?

In 1984, I took the second of about five creative writing classes during my college career. The instructor was an author named James P. Blaylock. If you haven’t heard the name, then you’re not a fan of Steampunk fiction. What is Steampunk, you ask?

Steampunk stories tank place during Victorian times, often but not necessarily in London, and features technology that are advanced, steam-powered equivalents of modern devices. That’s it: Victorian society, semi-modern steam-powered tech. Within those parameters, it’s a pretty big sand box.

So this Blaylock character writes Steampunk, right? Is that all? Oh, no. It’s better than that.

The guest lecturer that semester was another author named Tim Powers. If you’ve heard of Jim, then you’ve heard of Tim. Back in the 70s and 80s, they were hanging out with another writer named K.W. Jeter, sharing ideas and drinking beer (not necessarily in that order). They didn’t know at the time they were inventing a new genre. No one knew until about 1988 when Jeter coined the term “Steampunk,” riffing on the term “cyberpunk” (I don’t have time to explain that one. Google it).

I guess all I’m saying is I had no idea I was learning writing from a guy who help give birth to a new genre of fiction. If I had known, I swear I would have been even more impressed than I was. I just thought they were really, really good writers.

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