When I think of steampunk, the first thing that comes to mind are all the neat contraptions people have built that I've seen pop up across the internet - the copper and brass computers, modern technology with a historical/Victorian flare. I haven't had much experience with the steampunk genre otherwise (aside from a neat episode of Castle a few months ago) before reading Boneshaker (at least I didn't think I had until after my research!).
Steampunk.com covers the definition of steampunk well in their article "What Is Steampunk?" They touch on all of the aspects of what it represents, starting with the literature. Here were the general bullet points copied directly from the website:
"* Take place in the Victorian era but include advanced machines based on 19th century technology (e.g. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling);
* Include the supernatural as well (e.g. The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger);
* Include the supernatural and forego the technology (e.g. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, one of the works that inspired the term ‘steampunk’);
* Include the advanced machines, but take place later than the Victorian period, thereby assuming that the predomination by electricity and petroleum never happens (e.g. The Peshawar Lancers by S. M. Stirling); or
* Take place in an another world altogether, but featuring Victorian-like technology (e.g. Mainspring by Jay Lake)."
It was great to see some examples for each of the types of steampunk. The movie Sherlock Holmes was also mentioned in the article. I never thought of that movie as steampunk, but it clicked and made perfect sense when I saw it listed here.
Near the end of the article, they say, "Another criticism has been that steampunk focuses on the best of the past and quietly sweeps the bad (i.e. slavery, child labor, widespread disease, etc.)." I found this statement interesting, since Boneshaker doesn't fit this at all - it's very much a book that shows the bad side of things. This observation was paired with a link, though, to "The Future of Steampunk" by Paul Jessup.
In Jessup's article he talks about how steampunk needs to veer away from focusing on the good of the era. "But I do see a disturbing trend towards Empire worship and a hidden undercurrent of racism." He also includes Boneshaker as an example of one of the novels that goes against this current trend.
So, like many other sub-genres, steampunk is also one that is still growing and being defined. Jessup insists that it needs to take a new direction, to look at the bad in the era, like in Boneshaker: "And for it to thrive without hate or tyranny, it is a road we need to follow."
Some links I came across in my searches that I thought were fun:
Steampunk Magazine - Yes, the sub-genre has its own magazine! Did you write a steampunk story? This is probably a good place to submit to.
Steampunk: 20 Core Titles - Yup, Boneshaker is on this list.
Top 25 Novels for Steampunk Aficianados - I never would have thought of The Golden Compass as steampunk (great book), but it does make sense! And yes, Boneshaker is on this list too.
12 Classic Steampunk Books - Can never have enough book lists.
Steampunk: A List of Themes - Great list to see the particular things that tend to crop up in steampunk literature.
Clockwork Couture - Fun corsets in the steampunk style. I know, not literature based, but I had to include one of the awesome clothing sites in my links.
NEXT UP: A look at the novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.