Agatha H and the Airship City introduced me to the term “gaslamp fantasy” last year, and now I’m fascinated with it. It was invented by the Agatha H folks, and has apparently been co-opted by the public to refer to “steampunk that isn’t focused on the technology.” The problem is–and this makes perfect sense, really–that it’s really, really vague.

The Wikipedia article describes it as fantasy set in Victorian settings. That can mean a lot of things. Too many things. Their list of movies includes some extremely fantasy-oriented stuff, like Stardust, but the novel list is all alternative history. You know, “It’s 1870 in [a real location], except [something supernatural is happening.]”

But how broadly could it be used? It does seem to be mostly used for alternative, supernatural histories. But then there’s this interesting post, that describes it more broadly:

Gaslamp or Steampunk? | Dru Pagliassotti.

I’m asking all these questions because I referred to Sigils as a gaslamp fantasy back when I started it. Heck, my “About” page still uses that term! But now that I’ve had time to think about it, I wonder if it isn’t the term I’m looking for.

The story I’m working on right now is essentially a fantasy. It was written with an alternative-history Europe in mind, but that is completely unmentioned in the story. Unless I write a sequel, all the reader see is a unique world with a heavy dash of magic, in a country where people just happen to wear corsets and large hats and travel by train. The technology doesn’t matter. Really. At all. The magic does.

Does the presence of Victorian-era technology in the background make something a gaslamp? Or does the technology have to be central to the plot?

Considering how broad the term is? I might be able to use it. According to that blog post? Definitely. But I wish it was more clearly defined. Where’s the line between “gaslamp” and “fantasy with trains”?

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