|From "The Steam House" by Jules Verne|
You've got your steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, and cattle punk. How about photovoltaic punk or solar punk? That is, a story set in olden times (say, Victorian 1837-1901) or the old west (about 1849-1920ish), which are basically within the same time period, but solar energy running everything from gold mining equipment to horseless carriages. Hmm, maybe, maybe not.
The photovoltaic effect was discovered in 1839. In 1883 the first solar cell was built. Check out the Wiki article for the history of the solar cell.
I'm playing around with solar power in my time-spliced fantasy, Twelve Keys. I've got clockwork guns, steam powered engines, but a few solar powered things make sense in the world I'm building. Just can't figure how they will make photovoltaic cells without silicon. Maybe gold-coated selenium? I think I need more research.
Whether you're writing about a steam powered society or a solar powered society, it's helpful to know something about that technology. Sure, you may be writing fantasy, but that doesn't mean your air pirates' flying machine can't be believable. I've blogged before about my passion for steam power, particularly steambikes. Here are two posts you might find helpful.
Believability with Regard to Science and Technology and Sound Effects in Writing, Plus some Nifty Steam Powered Motorcycles.
Now I'd like to share this article I found. How to DrawSteampunk Machines. This artist actually builds steam powered gizmos, so he knows how they work and how to design convincing pictures of them. For us writers, it's a convenient explanation of how steam power works. We are designing with words instead of drawings, but what he has to say and show you is a marvelously help. It's nearly a tutorial on how to write steampunk- at least the gadget portion.