I’ve been off here for a while, so I thought it’s high time to let you know what I’m working on. As the title suggests, I’m writing a steampunk movie.
A bit over 10 years ago, my friend Mike and I were staying up way too late talking about the movies we wanted to make when we grew up (despite the fact that we were both grown adults) and he laid this on me:
“Where is the steampunk epic? Cyberpunk has The Matrix, but what does steampunk have?”
We paced through the films we thought of from the top of our head. There are certainly some very good steampunk films – City of Lost Children, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, about 100 anime films like Castle in the Sky and Steamboy, arguably The Mummy franchise – but there wasn’t that one quintessential steampunk epic, that perfect symbiosis between a story and its world where the seams disappear and the fantastic becomes real – where the film needs steampunk, and makes you need it too.
For a long time, I assumed the problem was the genre itself. While cyberpunk is dark and gritty and, frankly, much more imitative of life (or a much worse version of life), steampunk, at least what I’ve been exposed to, is largely escapist fantasy. At it’s best, it’s an exhilerating diversion that makes us long for a simpler time before we were all permanently accessible 24/7. At it’s worst, it’s hacky put-upon gimmicks on a story that doesn’t need them – the trope of slapping on a few cogs and calling it “steampunk” is there for a reason.
In the intervening decade since my chat with Mike, that gap has stuck in the back of my brain like the world’s most annoying shoe pebble. Then, slowly over the course of a few years, I had had an epiphany. Like most writers, I often come up with ideas about this storyline I wanted to write, or this character who I loved, or that scene that would be so cool, but this time it turns out that the constellation of a half-dozen or so of those ideas happening at once makes absolutely perfect sense in a steampunk world – and can only happen in a steampunk world.
So that’s what I’m working on. I have the same troubles with writer’s block as anyone else, so I’m partly putting this out there to hold myself accountable to actually write. It’s amazing how easy it is to procrastinate about your career goals, especially if you have that millstone of impostor syndrome dragging you under.