Gratuitous Violence: A Steampunk Perspective

Steampunk pendants: Weapons of Ganesha by azazel-is-burning

Weapons of Ganesha by azazel-is-burning on DeviantArt.

Violence is often conflated with action, when they are two very different forces. When a movie is marketed as an action movie, you expect explosions and car chases and gunfights. But this isn’t what action is, as action happens whenever somebody does something. It is amazing how many actions take place that don’t involve explosions.

Violence has the expectation of intense, rough, injurious outcomes, whereas action doesn’t. Violence is forceful. Violence is often untamed. Violence can be used a threat. Action creates reaction; violence creates consequences.

When writing, particularly in the Steampunk genre, violence should only be used to push a plot along. It should never be gratuitous violence, as that goes against the grain of the genre markers. This doesn’t mean you can’t write the Steampunk version of ‘A Clockwork Orange’, because the violence in that book was part of the plot and setting, and a love of violence was ingrained in the personality of the main character, leading up to his rejection of violence. (For any Americans reading this article, the book is meant to have 21 chapters, and in the final chapter Alex undergoes a change of heart. The American publishers weren’t up for a nearly happy ending.) However, Steampunk is about SCIENCE, rationality and the glorification of intellectual pursuits. Few scientists work from a need to inflict intense pain – though, of course, there are exceptions, like Josef Mengele.

Violence used simply to create shock or disgust has no place in the Steampunk genre, for it is lazy writing.


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Filed under Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, Writing Style

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