Steampunk: Sci-Fi or Fantasy?

I’ve posted two steampunk reviews in the past couple weeks, and both times in the “genre” section I’ve had to put Sci-Fi/Fantasy, which REALLY grates my cheese. Science Fiction and Fantasy are NOT the same thing (except when, occasionally, they are…) and even though the get lumped together at bookstores and libraries, it’s usually pretty easy to spot the difference.

But not with Steampunk.

I think this is largely due to the fact that Steampunk has often adopted supernatural creatures, such as vampires or werewolves, which make them crossover more to fantasy. However, Steampunk works without those creatures have little or no fantastical elements. In those cases they function more as alternate histories featuring crazy technological advancements which, while scientifically possible, we never made. Hence, science fiction.

Really, it’s unfair to attempt to throw the whole sub-genre into one genre. Which makes absolutely no sense.

So what do I do in my book reviews, and, more importantly, on my bookshelf? I COULD differentiate. Boneshaker is more of a fantasy, what with the zombies and all. The Difference Engine, however, is more science fiction. But I don’t know, that seems like a lot of responsibility, and I’m a little afraid of pissing off the hard-core science fiction lovers. Also, it seems like they should be on the same place on my bookshelf… I could permanently combine Science Fiction and Fantasy, like they do at bookstores, but as I mentioned, that bugs me. THEY AREN’T THE SAME!!!! I could just not include the “primary” genre in my reviews, and give steampunk its own shelf on my bookshelf, I guess… But as I mentioned many moons ago, I’m running out of bookshelf space, and it doesn’t make sense to create a whole shelf for like, three books. (I gave most of my steampunk to Half Price Books. Still looking for a steampunk novel to fall in love with!)


17 thoughts on “Steampunk: Sci-Fi or Fantasy?

  1. If you want, you can just create a shelf for the whole Steampunk subgenre. If not, I don’t see any problem with putting them in fantasy if they have fantastical elements and in sci-fi if they don’t 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think I agree with Naty. There are so many sub-genres (paranormal fantasy, dystopian fantasy, gothic fantasy etc.) and sometimes it’s unclear which book relates to which genre. The exact same thing happens with scifi as well.
      So, I think you should just create a shelf solely for the steampunk sub-genre.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I understand how complicated that it. I think maybe have your sci-fi section then the steampunk section, and then fantasy. That way steampunk is near both but also it’s own little bubble of space.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. I can understand that issue. It can be problematic if you don’t remember the author’s name, but thankfully it is not usually that time consuming to pop on Goodreads and search the title to find the author.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I completely arbitrarily classify as Hard or Soft steampunk.

    Hard steampunk contains no supernatural elements or weird science, and Soft does.

    So I write hard steampunk, Gail Carriger writes soft steampunk. Easy.

    Of course even the hardest steampunk is soft SF because it contains something that isn’t possible 🙂

    You an’t necessarily call any steampunk alt history, because it isn’t necessarily historical (Patricia Loofburrow’s future noir steampunk, or Robert Harkess’s contemporary urban steampunk).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As long as there’s no wizards or elves or unicorns it’s all Science Fiction but that drags a thought from the dark recesses of my mind, what about wizards in spaceships or elves riding clockwork unicorns in Victorian London? Oh damn I’d still read it!

    Liked by 1 person

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