When setting forth to write a story, there are a multitude of factors to take into account – one of the more important factors to take into account is the genre in which the story is based, which may (or may not) dictate where and when the story is to occur. Literary genres are elusive things to figure out – sure, there are the general categories: mystery, science fiction, horror, romance, fantasy, etc., but there are quite possibly an infinite number of ways to blend the known (and universally accepted) genres to create interesting sub-genres (or even a new genre).
The Steampunk genre is probably among the best examples (or rather the one that I can think of off the top of my head) of this blending of genres – start with a bit of historical fiction (usually set in the mid to late 19th Century), mix in a dose of science fiction then add perhaps a dash of horror, fantasy, romance and mystery. Amid the blending, more times than not, one of the components stands out more than the rest – perhaps the story is a romance that happens to be set in a futuristic world where angels and demons exist. I’m not quite sure if such a story exists (though I’m sure someone, somewhere has thought of it).
Interestingly enough, when I started writing my own stories, they tended to be mysteries, more or less emulating the books I grew up reading, which were mainly in the “Golden Age” mystery genre. However over the course of time (and as my reading habits expanded to science fiction, fantasy and suspense novels), I’ve found that gradually and quite unexpectedly, the genre in which I was writing began to change. The short story that sparked my current writing odyssey, which essentially a ghost story with elements of detective fiction, had grown and evolved (if it’s possible to use this term in this sense) into a detective fiction saga with elements of Steampunk, fantasy and horror (though not the bloody, violent kind of horror – more the psychological, what-the-heck-is-going-on-get-me-out-of-here kind of horror, which sometimes is often times the scarier of the two).
As the genre quasi dictates (at least to me) the overall structure of the story, and the characters that inhabit the story, it’s truly fascinating to see how blending them can open up a seemingly infinite number of possibilities in which the overall arc of a story (or in my case an Epic Saga) can take. Of course if time travel is thrown into the mix, then that presents other interesting and puzzling possibilities.
[Disclaimer: I’ve recently been Doctor Who, albeit mainly the episodes in the past few years – so mostly the adventures of the 11th Doctor, and I must say the story arcs that have been presented are quite inspiring – the brilliance of placing seemingly innocuous clues in plain sight, and the use the multiple meanings of certain words.]
Thus far I have consciously avoided using time travel in my stories (I have enough trouble keeping track of the linear historical timeline, and as the MASC Chronicles is to span several centuries and include multiple generations of a core group of families), the possibility of time travel is tempting. The Steampunk, fantasy and horror aspects are welcome additions, though the mixing of the three may yield something quite new.
Only time will tell.