Magic and Mad Science: All You Need to Know About the Gaslamp Fantasy Genre

Gaslamp fantasy, a subgenre that includes an alternate Victorian realm, falls under the umbrella of steampunk fantasy. However, unlike the steampunk fantasy genre, which featured mad scientists and gadgets in the 19th century, gaslamp fantasy incorporates elements of magic and the supernatural. Set sometime between the 1800s and the early 1900s, the gaslamp subgenre promotes stories that are filled with romance, witches, fairies, dark magic, supernatural beings, ghosts, and very little science.

The term was first coined by Caja Foglio, a webcomic artist who wanted to differentiate his creation, Girl Genius, from other steampunk fiction. Lying on the same shelf would have created confusion, and to avoid such a scenario, Foglio set it apart by giving it the title of Gaslamp Fantasy. If it’s a genre that attracted you to its setting, here are some works of literature and cinema that draw on this subgenre of historical and fictional fiction.

Courtship and Curse (2012) by Marissa Doyle

Lady Sophie and her friend Parthenop set out on a path to track down criminals who spoil the lives of people in society, including important members of parliament such as their father, with magical attacks. The premise is set in 1815 and concocted with a well-balanced portion of liveliness, tight suspense and fun characterization.

Spectral City by Lena Renee Hiber (2018)

Set in vintage New York, the book revolves around an off-the-books department of the police dealing with spiritual criminals and criminals. Eve Whitby, the protagonist and a policeman in The Ghost Precinct, accompanied by her partner-in-profession, Lieutenant Horowitz, embarks on an adventure that involves destroying the premises she is working in.

Irregular: Netflix (2021)

A gaslamp fiction hidden beneath the wonders of motion pictures, The Irregulars is an eight-episode-long cinematic delight involving a group of misfits in Victorian London who work for Dr. John Watson and his formidable colleague living on Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes. We do. The show is based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Crimson Peak (2015)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, Crimson Peak is a 2015 film starring Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and Jim Weaver, among other Polish actors. The film is set in Edwardian-era England and involves a Gothic mansion filled with ghosts and other mysteries. The gothic characteristic is infused with the tone of romance the film brings to the shelf including the likes of works such as The Shining, The Haunting, among others.

Girl Genius (2006 – present)

The work that started it all, Girl Genius is an ongoing webcomic series in which the protagonist, Agatha Clay, is a student and apprentice at Transylvania Polygnostic University. The tagline of the comic read, “Adventure, Romance, Mad Science!” and included a base set in the alternative Victorian era.

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