Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

#Clash Of The #Punk! ;-)

Hey Everyone!! :-)

As you may know, I'm in the process of writing a new cyberpunk series, Petri Dish Chronicles, which will start with the soon-to-be-released Rainbow Dreams.  One thing I've noticed when I tell people I'm writing this series is that they are confusing cyberpunk with steampunk and getting an inaccurate picture of what the story will be like.  So, to help sort things out, I thought I'd give a little explanation about the differences between the cyberpunk and steampunk subgenres of science fiction.

First, like I just said, both cyberpunk and steampunk are subgenres of the science fiction genre; though, on occasion, steampunk especially may cross into the fantasy genre.  Cyberpunk rarely delves into fantasy as it depends heavily on the idea that the line between the real world and the digital world is not as clear as we might have thought it is.  Which, as you might imagine, plants it rather firmly in sci-fi.

So, a little history.  Cyberpunk hit the sci-fi scene in the 1980s and was popularized by William Gibson's novel Neuromancer, which is still cited as the classic example of what a cyberpunk novel is.  Steampunk, on the other hand, arguably was invented in the latter part of the 19th century.  Novels like The Time Machine by H. G. Wells and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne might be considered early examples of steampunk literature.

Generally speaking, steampunk is characterized by modern technology and technology that hasn't even been invented yet being powered by steam and clockwork.  As I said, cyberpunk tends to focus more on the digital world, not analog.  Steampunk also tends to have a vaguely Victorian feel to it, with fashions and decorations paying homage to that era.  Cyberpunk tends to be futuristic in feel, with leather and clubwear being rather prominent.  Both cyberpunk and steampunk tend to feature urban environments, but steampunk tends towards an 1800s London atmosphere, and cyberpunk tends towards skyscrapers and hover cars, often on alien worlds.

Cyberpunk tends to be almost universally dystopian in nature, with a privileged elite class and an oppressed underclass.  This is achieved using different types of villains, totalitarian governments, corporations run amok, high-control religions, and the like.  But it is almost always a speculation into what might happen if we let it.  What a technologically sophisticated and dependent society would look like if we surrendered our freedom to the powers that be.  In order to survive in such societies, people have to conform and obey, and those that don't are suppressed ruthlessly.

Naturally, here enters the plucky hero or heroine, who often aren't terribly nice people but that's usually a product of their environment, who either can't or won't conform.  Or, through some hapless circumstance beyond their control, they end up drawing negative attention to themselves.  Cyberpunk stories can have happy endings, but they often don't.  And it's not unusual for them to be rather pessimistic in nature.

In cyberpunk, computers and computer technology are prominently featured and often blended with humans and other biological organisms.  Cyborgs and people with technological implants are common themes.  Microchips that can be inserted into people's brains, either to enhance mental abilities or to store information, are also common.  And, in general, technology tends to keep people disconnected from each other and foster an apathetic attitude towards the suffering of their fellow man.

Steampunk stories can vary quite a bit more.  And even some classic tales, like Sherlock Holmes, have been reimagined as steampunk versions.  But, again generally speaking, they tend to be a bit more optimistic than cyberpunk; though, they still lean towards a rather gritty depiction of humanity.  Often there is some kind of archvillain or archvillain nation that the hero or heroine has to overcome to save the world.  In some ways, it's often similar to superhero stories, and some superhero stories have been adapted to the steampunk subgenre.  But there are also many exceptions to this.

In steampunk, cyborgs are also pretty common, though they tend to be clunkier than cyberpunk cyborgs, depending, as they do, on clockwork technology and steam.  Technology is often a problem and used by the villains to harm or control people, but it's also usually the solution once the good guys manage to co-opt the villains' machines or build better ones of their own.  Again, this tends to go along with the slightly more optimistic feel of steampunk.

Are there exceptions to these rules?  Yes, of course there are.  Lots of them.  Also, this is just based on my own experience with both cyberpunk and steampunk stories.  And, as much as I love to read, I've not yet managed to read every book in the world, so I'm sure there are things that I've missed.  But, overall, that's how I would categorize a story as either cyberpunk or steampunk, and my Petri Dish Chronicles definitely falls into the former category.  Hope that helps clear things up! :-)


  1. When people ask me the difference between the two, I normally point to the show Wild, Wild West and the book Snow Crash.

    I just use those because of when they came into my life; childhood for the show and... Well whenever Snow Crash was published.

    1. Those are great examples! Thank you! :-)