Supporting diversity in steampunk

As a blogger(I also blog about writing and occasionally review blogs on my own website) I think it’s incredibly important for me to support diversity in the arts. Other bloggers spend a lot of time talking about why we need diverse characters but still end up reviewing almost entirely books about straight white people, often because those are the books that have the marketing dollars and review copies.

Meeting hundreds of authors on Twitter has led me to believe that our issue isn’t necessarily a lack of diverse books. Yes, we do need more diverse characters in books and TV and movies, but there are thousands of diverse stories nobody knows about. Hell, Steampunk Cavaliers has only been open three months and we’ve already featured a novel centered around a relationship between two women, a novella about a mulatto heiress and a novel about a trans woman. The real problem is that mainstream media is ignoring the diverse series we DO have.

There are a few reasons for this. One is that these books are almost exclusively published by small publishers or self published and the mainstream media actively ignores small press/self published books unless they sell 100,000 copies in six months or do something equally impressive. Another is that the mainstream media is made up mostly of straight white folks who naturally gravitate to stories they identify more closely with.

Unfortunately I don’t have the power to make the mainstream media focus on these books, but there is something I can do: deliberately spotlight them on my blog and share them all over social media. I might not have a massive following but I know every voice helps, especially for authors who are just starting out. Even if nobody follows the buy link from my interview or review, the simple fact that I cared about these books can keep the authors going. Writing is a hard business fraught with emotional peril and every single kind word helps.

I think steampunk is a particularly great genre for diverse stories because of the combination of the severe conservatism of the Victorian era with steam technology. New technology often brings with it new ethical questions and even new morals. Introducing these to the Victorian era is a lot of fun.

The Victorian era was also a fascinating historical period no matter where you were in the world. Most of the steampunk I’ve encountered is set in the UK or a quite similar original world, but there are interesting historical stories to explore everywhere–and countries where steam technology would have made an even bigger impact. Frankly, I’m tired of reading repackaged England. Give me some European stories, some Japanese stories, some Indian stories, stories from places I haven’t even heard of.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been debating a change to my review policy both here and on my main blog(where I usually only take requests from authors whose work I’ve enjoyed before). Accepting books for review is a nerve wracking endeavor because I’ve made a commitment to only review books I love but finding the authors who most need reviews on my own isn’t easy. So I’ve decided to create a new review policy:

I will ONLY accept review requests for books with people of colour or LGBTQ+ protagonists. If your steampunk novella/novel has a POC or LGBTQ+ protagonist please email diannalgunn@gmail.com a review request with the title of your book and a blurb.

I’ve already got my first diverse novel and I’m looking forward to reading more. Tell me about the diverse books you love!

3 thoughts on “Supporting diversity in steampunk”

  1. A narrow view of diversity is not diversity at all. If I understand this correctly, to promote diversity, this blog is ignoring books that feature elderly characters, disabled characters, mentally ill characters, impoverished characters, and any other forms of diversity. If this blog wishes to review books that feature only LGBTQ+ and non-white characters, then that is find, it is the editor’s decision, and I can still support a blog that takes a super-niche view of an already small subculture, but please do not call this diversity. Diversity is promoting the many, and not just a select few.

  2. If I may offer a different view… I agree with you that diversity should include everyone – and that’s a fine view. But I feel that you may be missing the point of the blog post. (Respectfully)

    Yours is a similar argument to the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement itself receives criticism and backlash because people like to argue, “But all lives matter!”. They aren’t wrong, but the protest highlights the fact that black males are being murdered by police officers at an alarming rate. This is obviously a huge problem and all we’re saying is that our lives matter too. This statement SHOULD be obvious but until black people are safe from Police brutality, this matter needs attention.

    I’m a Steampunk Nouveau illustrator that focuses on diversity in my art and my wife is the author for our world called Ashelon. Being a person of color, it’s very important for me to be able to see a variety of colors represented in the steampunk genre. Unfortunately most steampunk novels and art are set in Victorian England where everyone was Caucasian. Nothing wrong with that at all other than the fact that the 1800s happened everywhere. By focusing on just ONE single culture, fans miss out on the richness that the genre has to offer.

    So we want to highlight different cultures and a variety of skin colors in our quest for diversity. We’re not saying that other kinds of diversity isn’t legitimate, but this is just OUR focus. It’s still diversity because we’re bringing something that’s been lacking to the Steampunk genre. Steampunk Cavaliers brings attention to the LGBTQ component of diversity while other authors and artists may focus on the other aspects that you’ve mentioned in your comments above.

    In my mind – it’s ALL about highlighting diversity and showing beauty in the “other” and the different. It’s about resisting the standard Steampunk trope of showing straight white males in positions of power who are all agents of the Queen. After all, resisting the standard is where the “punk” in Steampunk is all about. 🙂

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