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indie publishing, writing

Genre: What even is ‘gaslamp fantasy?’

When I finished the first draft of The Lord of Stariel, my friends and family asked, not unnaturally, what it was about.

“Well,” I said. “It’s a fantasy novel.”

This was and remains 100% true. It is a fantasy novel. There is magic. Excellent – genre nailed down.

However, fantasy is a giant genre, so I tried to be a little more specific. The attempt to pin down my subgenre quickly became a depressing exercise in things my novel lacks. It isn’t medieval, grimdark, epic, urban, or steampunk. It’s historicalish but it’s set in its own world. It isn’t about sword fights or going on a quest. There are fae, but it isn’t a fairytale retelling.

For a while I called it ‘fantasy romance’ because those are two things it definitely contains – even though the romance isn’t exactly the main plotline.

Eventually I did find a weird niche subgenre label for it in addition to fantasy romance: gaslamp fantasy. This is a subgenre that (a) most people have never heard of and (b) is basically defined entirely by what it’s not. Hoorah!

Wikipedia defines gaslamp fantasy as:

‘a subgenre of both fantasy and historical fiction. Generally speaking, this particular realm of fantasy employs either a Victorian or Edwardian setting. The gaslamp fantasy genre is not to be confused with steampunk…’

The way I see it, gaslamp fantasy is the magical cousin of steampunk. Steampunk I think draws more from science fiction than fantasy, and has a big focus on machines, cogs, corsets, goggles, Victorian-aesthetic, and, er, steam. Gaslamp is less about the technology and more about fantastical elements in a late nineteenth/early twentieth century setting.

Today I found out that Amazon recently created a category for gaslamp fantasy books, which heartened me until I glanced through the books listed and found that most of them appeared to be steampunk. Oh well. It’s only a little baby subgenre at the moment – maybe it will grow into something big and popular! After all, a few decades ago most people had never heard of urban fantasy either.

Bring on the gaslamp fantasy revolution!

7 thoughts on “Genre: What even is ‘gaslamp fantasy?’”

  1. I really wish I could figure out HOW to choose this category when publishing. I have an upcoming series that (like yours) fits literally nowhere else. I could also argue fantasy romance, but it’s not really a romance. It is somewhat steampunk because there are gadgets and steam, and there is political commentary. However, the main focus is the magic, ergo “gaslamp” or “gaslight” (I prefer the term gaslamp as gaslight has some rather negative connotations lol!). I know there are ways to use keywords to get into categories that aren’t listed when you publish, but this one isn’t being discussed and is new, so I can only guess at how one gets onto this list. Will simply using “gaslamp” work? That would be too simple, though, wouldn’t it? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I too prefer gaslamp over gaslight for the same reasons!

      I have yet to wrestle with the Amazon-beast, but since gaslamp is a book rather than ebook category, it’s not in the list of ebook category-keywords – hopefully that will change by the time I’m ready to publish (

      In theory you should be able to select Gaslamp for a print book using the BISAC code, but Createspace doesn’t seem to recognise the gaslamp code (FIC009130 FICTION / Fantasy / Gaslamp). Maybe that’s just because it’s new? If it’s not possible to choose or keyword into it by the time I publish, I guess my plan is to ask Amazon to add it manually. I’d love to know if you find a better way, though!


      1. I have done numerous searches on BISAC codes looking for this and other categories. The only thing I’ve found is info on keywords for Kindle categories, but nothing for books beyond the handful of Fiction-Fantasy- genres (my published book is under paranormal). The new series definitely didn’t fit anything I could find other than general fantasy, which is obviously too huge to even consider. Now that you seem to have found the golden ticket (AKA the elusive book code), I will keep it in my notes and cross my fingers when I need to use it. Thanks for the information, and good luck with your book!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So I was watching steampunk vid on not so steamy movies and none felt like the thing I was writing I intended for it to be early steampunk with magic and “gaslamps” unironically but less machine and more fantasy realms someone said these films are gaslamp fantasy and it sounded interesting
    how would we describe an age with sodium lamps let up streets electric pillars but no tv or radio instead there is a crystal and magic? does this still inlist under the gas lamp fantasy?


    1. Hi Random Guy! Gaslamp fantasy worlds usually feel Edwardian/Victorian ish, but that ish is quite loose – I don’t think there’s any requirement for strict historical accuracy or what technology you do or don’t include. That’s certainly how I have interpreted the label, but that’s only my 2c – other writers and readers may define it differently. I think it’s up to you if you think it describes your work or not!


  3. Frustrates me to no end when people mix up Gaslamp and Steampunk. They may both take place in the Victorian era, but they have an entirely different feel. Gaslamp IMHO seems to be quite gothic, but also – theres none of the fantastical technology, just paranormal.


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