What is Magepunk?

by , on
June 19, 2019

About two years ago, while planning my current project, I had to accept the idea that my fantasy setting wasn’t very unique. Of course I had a unique map, names, cultures, deities, and so on but there wasn’t much to separate it from countless other cookie-cutter, Tolkienesque worlds already in the market. I’d just finished one of the writer’s classes at Gen Con, and realized I needed something more, something to set it apart.

So, I got to thinking. I liked steampunk, and it is becoming more popular in fantasy literature. But, everyone was starting to do it. Then I thought, why would a world full of magic develop steam technology or gunpowder anyway? Technology is developed when people wonder how to do something no one else can do, but in a world full of people who can manipulate energy, matter, and time, why would anyone look anywhere else. So the idea of magic-powered technology took hold and I thought magepunk would be a great name for it.

I remember thinking, there’s no way I came up with this first, so I headed to Google. I didn’t find anything at the time, but recently I have. Magepunk is mentioned on a couple of websites out there, but it’s poorly defined, and usually linked to steampunk as an alternative theme of the same genre. So, what does magepunk mean to me, my writing, and the world of Thelos? I figured I should answer that question before I put out many more stories related to it. Currently, the only one of my stories that I can say is fully magepunk would be the last tale in When Heroes Rise called Relic Hunter: A Wasteland Tale.

In it, Jules is a relic hunter, someone who searches the Wasteland for ancient magical artifacts once used as power sources before the world ended. For her they are a source of income for her family’s business, used to power small devices like lanterns, weapons, and even her small skiff. Before the world ended in the great cataclysm the entire power grid was fed by magic, while smaller devices and remote locations were run by items imbued with magic. That’s magepunk to me, a world that has harnessed the most powerful natural resource, magic, to advance technology.

In my current project, tentatively titled The Moondancer Saga, the world of Thelos is just beginning to explore the possibilities of this new technology. A typical fantasy world of elves, magic, and dragons is starting to see firearms, sky ships, and small machines, all powered by magic. While it appears I did not coin the term, or create the genre, I do look forward to adding to this underrepresented theme in fantasy, and I hope you enjoy what’s coming.