A Steampunk History of a World at War

Director's Statement

chris.payne's picture
Saturday, 24 February 1912
Table of Contents 


The foundation of the Voidships universe is "what if Tesla invented anti-gravity"? Everything else follows from that - this is a world without magic, and all the anachronistic technology is extrapolated from this one invention. As far as I know, I've coined the phrase "Hard Steampunk" to describe this and differentiate us from other steampunk worlds.

That said, we are using a few other fantasy elements - sparingly - just because they are FAR TOO COOL not to. But these are the exceptions, and the principle above makes them all the more fantastic when they do appear.


The key themes running through Voidships are:

  • Brave new world - Tesla's technology has made the world a smaller place, and although Britain is the leader in the field, it's a simple technology to copy. All countries are suddenly competing over the new frontier and struggling to cope with the dramatic paradigm shift. This echoes the effect of internet communications on the modern world. Previously closed cultures are forced to open up to change, and the upheaval it brings.
  • Extreme measures - the world is teetering on the brink of chaos as countries vie for supremacy in the Void. Espionage is everywhere. The stakes are incredibly high, leading to incredible risk-taking. Soon the world will be plunged into a terrible war, not just across the trenches of Europe, but throughout the world and eventually to other planets.
  • Individual freedom - the changed world primarily affects the poltical landscape, but the ramifications for individual people are significant. Their countries demand more of them. Their future is uncertain. People suffering racism or misogyny are even more desperate to regain some control of their lives, bringing women's suffrage, class and racial tensions to the fore. Everyone has something to fight for. What lengths will they go to to win it?


Voidships stories are primarily drama, but with elements of tragedy, comedy and even horror all mixed together - similar to Buffy or Firefly. The setting is a rich one for stories, and there's room for anything.
Note that although humanity is spiralling into war, this is not a dystopic setting, rather a period of upheaval. There is always hope that the humanity that emerges from the chaos will be wiser.


Voidships features the classic steampunk tropes of steam-powered dirigibles, spacecraft, even giant mechs. But in keeping with the "Hard Steampunk" ethos, these are all derived from the root technology of Tesla sails. Voidships technology is beautiful Victorian engineering, but practical rather than fanciful. Where possible, voidships have panelled walls and baroque furniture, but in the greasy engine rooms and shipyards decoration gives way to grime and ugly practicality.

Fashion is true to the period, but with the world's attention turning to the space race, technological acoutrements have become the mode. Every character does not wear goggles with cogs glued on, but the lower classes will often wear the tools of their trade as a badge of pride, and the upper classes parrot this, affecting all manner of decorative scientific instruments and the necessary accessories to carry it all. Fabrics mimicking the texture or look of Tesla's antigravity sails are also popular.


Steve and I can't possibly populate an entire world ourselves. We welcome anyone with ideas about what might happen in a world like this to contribute "historical" notes, music, prose fiction, poetry, concept art, functioning voidship blueprints, sculpture or interpretive dance.

We reserve the right to tweak your suggestions if they conflict with some other part of the canon, don't fit the tone or themes of the storyworld, or are just TOO edgy! Any contributions you make remain yours under the terms of the Creative Commons license. [Bad Link: Plugin Not Found]

We look forward to creating the world of Voidships together!