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What Is Steampunk? 25 Defining Titles from This Singular Speculative Genre

4. Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter (1979)

Jeter was one of the first writers to actually use the term “steampunk” to describe his book — which, as you may gather from the title, was inspired by the events of The Time Machine. Morlock Night revolves around those brutish beasts sprung from H.G. Wells’ imagination, daring to address a question that Wells himself never did: what would happen if the Morlocks managed to get ahold of the time machine and transported themselves back to Victorian England? According to Jeter, the result would be nothing short of pandemonium, necessitating the involvement of King Arthur himself (yes, you read that right) to stop the Morlocks from carrying out their nefarious plans. Though it’s not a particularly “serious” sequel, Morlock Night remains a landmark of steampunk and a rollicking fun adventure, especially for those new to the genre. Read More.
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5. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (1983)

Powers puts an ancient Egyptian twist on steampunk in this mystical novel, which posits another alternate timeline stemming (albeit indirectly) from British imperialism. In a desperate attempt to repel their oppressors, a group of Egyptian magicians (say that ten times fast) summons the god Anubis. However, in the process, they rip a hole in the space-time continuum, creating the titular “Anubis Gates.” Decades later, Professor Brendan Doyle goes through the gates back to 1810 to attend a lecture by Samuel Coleridge… but the visit turns disastrous when Doyle is kidnapped and prevented from returning to his own time. Now he must determine his destiny in this new-old era, all the while evading the magical, murderous threats that seem to loom around every corner. Read More.
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6. Homunculus by James Blaylock (1986)

Like Morlock Night, Blaylock’s Homunculus is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek take on steampunk. It begins with an airship piloted by a skeleton, which has been orbiting Victorian London for several years, and which spurs a peculiar collection of characters — among them a scientist, an evangelist, and an evil millionaire — into trying to steal it. Their motivations are myriad and absurd, ranging from one character’s belief that his father is a tiny alien aboard the ship, to another’s conviction that this “homunculus” can raise the dead. The book culminates in an action-packed and completely ridiculous collision of characters in the hills of Hampstead Heath, where the airship finally comes down and sparks a riot. Read More.
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