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Gaslamp Fantasy
Where mad science and fairy tales meet.

Gaslamp fantasy, also called gaslight fantasy, is Steampunk's magical cousin. It's a subgenre of fantasy (and more specifically of Historical Fantasy) with a setting that is clearly recognizable as the real-world 19th or very early 20th century (or a reasonable analogue thereof). That's the Regency period and the Victorian and Edwardian eras, if the work's set in England, which it usually, though not necessarily, is. Victorian London is especially popular. It may be identical to the real world with a Masquerade, or it may be a full-on Alternate History where magic exists openly and has affected the course of events. Gaslamp fantasy often draws on gothic horror tropes, and is sometimes seen as a sort of Reconstruction or revival of the genre.

The key difference between gaslamp fantasy and Steampunk is that Steampunk focuses on alternate developments in technology (and need not have any magic at all), while gaslamp fantasy focuses on supernatural elements (and need not have any technology that didn't actually exist). Yet, the two can overlap, especially with Magitek.

The term was coined to describe the comic Girl Genius, but has since come into wider use, and is sometimes retroactively applied to the more fantastical works of Gothic Horror. Girl Genius was called that because its creators had never heard the term "Steampunk" before, but also because it was focused on more than just advanced steam power, was not a dystopian-type "Punk" work, despite having similar aesthetics, and is heavy on mad science.

For similar genres with more modern settings, see Urban Fantasy and Gothic Punk. Not to be confused with Gaslighting.

For tropes common to these works, check out the Steampunk Index.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is set in an alternative Victorian England where the supernatural forces of fairy tales and folklore exist, but have been pushed aside by advancing technology, though the governments of the setting try to hide the fact.

    Films — Animation 
  • Howl's Moving Castle is set in the fantasy equivalent of World War One and filled with both Steampunk-ish technology and magic, the latter of which sets the main plot in motion.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Van Helsing: Werewolves and vampires are real, and real problems, but are pitted against the technology used by the titular hero who's sent to take down Dracula

    Literature 
  • His Dark Materials By Phillip Pullman. A multi-universe spanning trilogy. The first book, "Northern Lights," is set in a alternate Victorian-era Northern Europe. Its most prominent features are the Gothic elements (innocence lost, evil churches) and the daemons (souls) that are part of every human's personality.
  • The Laws of Magic by Michael Pryor is set in a pseudo-British nation around the beginning of WWI where magic is a science and Snark abounds.
  • The Parasol Protectorate takes place in a Victorian Britain where werewolves and vampires have been an open part of high society since Elizabeth I's time. The Finishing School Series is set in the same universe 25 years earlier. The setting is an espionage/manners school located on a dirigible.
  • Sorcery and Cecelia and its sequels, by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, are epistolary novels set in a Regency England where magic is part of everyday life.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is about the last two practicing magicians in Georgian England (also, fairies).
  • The Native Star is fantasy set in America in the 1800s.
  • The Tales of Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card is America-based 1800s fantasy as well.
  • Shades of Milk and Honey: Set in an alternative Regency England, the only magic of the setting is the ability to create "folds" of illusion, which the heroine uses throughout the story to answer its challenges.
  • The Gemma Doyle trilogy centers around a group of young Victorian ladies who get caught up in a secret magical conspiracy.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series is about mages in Post-Victorian England. The stories are loosely based on Fairy Tales.
  • The Lord Darcy stories are technically set in the 1960s, but due to magic, society and technology seem to be closer to the Edwardian era.
  • Infernal Devices is set an alternate Victorian London that contains elements of a Masquerade: things such as magic, demons, werewolves, vampires, etc. wander around in the open - but only people with The Sight can see them.
  • Naomi Novik's Temeraire series follows the adventures of a British captain in His Majesty's Dragon Corps during the Napoleonic Wars.
  • The Strangely Beautiful Series is set in Victorian Britain and involves a magical backstory where Hades murders Persephone's lover, a phoenix.
  • The Old Kingdom series. The eponymous kingdom is more of a medieval fantasy culture, but their southern neighbor Ancelstierre has early 20th-century technology and culture along with the bits of magic that leak in from the Old Kingdom.
  • Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman has Steam Punk machines created by weaving magic with technology.
  • Doctrine of Labyrinths has elements ranging from Georgian to Edwardian, though much of the atmosphere of Mélusine proper is based in Dickensian London. Actual gas lighting shows up in the final book of the quadrilogy.
  • The ongoing novelizations of the Trope Namer, Girl Genius, would count as well, even expanding on some things not mentioned in the webcomic.
  • The Spiritwalker Trilogy depicts an alternate version of the Napoleonic Wars, just as gas lamps are being introduced across Europa. (Although said gas lamps are one of the major sources of tension between the general population and the mage aristocracy...)
  • Glory in the Thunder is set in a fantasy interpretation of the Silk Road, with some areas more technologically advanced than others. Hayr is stunned to witness a car ("mechanical carriage") but in Chald electric lighting, typewriters and guns can be seen right alongside the Physical Gods and magically-created Artificial Humans.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Castle Falkenstein. Set during the Victorian era. Has magicians, the Faerie, dwarves, dragons etc.
  • Unhallowed Metropolis, set in a future dystopian version of Victorian London.
  • Broken Gears (CURS Publishing) is post-apocalyptic Gaslamp Fantasy — "a game of animistic steampunk". It's about a Magitek Alternate Universe where Devil-possessed Difference Engine rebelled after WWII, was nuked, and all electrical appliances got bedeviled. Which makes mass production harder, so most folk fall back to zeppelins, salamander-powered muskets, crossbows and rapiers.
  • The Sons of Ether from Mage: The Ascension run on this trope, with their magic ranging from anything from steam powered machines that alter your genetic structure, to etherships made of brass which burn coal to fly amongst the stars.
  • GURPS Goblins: Victorian London as populated by stereotypical fantasy green-skinned goblins.
  • Rippers is about late Victorian monster hunters.
  • Masque Of The Red Death is a standalone expansion for Dungeons & Dragons' Ravenloft campaign setting, set in the "real" world circa 1890, but with Gothic horror underpinnings.

    Video Games 
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura plays on the contrast between Gaslamp Fantasy and Steampunk; the two aspects of reality fight against each other, to the point of steam technology breaking and refusing to work where there's magic present, and magic failing in similar ways in highly technological surroundings.
  • Final Fantasy VI, the Trope Namer for Magitek, takes many standard fantasy RPG elements and combines them with steampunk-ish technology.
  • Nostalgia is an alternate history role-playing game set in the 19th century. It involves a great deal of travel via airship and common steampunk character types like British adventures and sky pirates, but also uses fantasy themes like magic and dungeon crawling.
  • Sunless Sea, the spin off game of Fallen London (see Web Original below) is set in a version of Victorian London that was "stolen by devils"

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius is the Trope Namer, for being quasi-steampunk combined with fantasy (and also because the Foglios invented the term). Most of the weird stuff can be explained by weirdly advanced technology, but magic-like elements remain. The river Dyne (an apparently natural spring the waters of which make the drinker a mad genius, though in most cases it's instantly lethal, and can cause people of the right lineage to levitate and/or explode), "Constructs" made from corpses ā la-Frankenstein, Jägermonsters (human volunteers converted into colorful and near-immortal Super Soldier humanoids), multiple cases of Brain Uploading, and the castle Heterodyne's seemingly telekinetic ability to move chunks of itself. To say nothing of the Spark itself, which transforms an otherwise ordinary human into a genius who's most productive when acting like a total lunatic. And the most successful of which can pull of near-magical feats given even basic tools and materials.
    "In my experience, it takes a strong Heterodyne about two hours to truly warp the laws of nature."
  • The Phoenix Requiem is set in a fantastical analogue to Victorian England — one that worships spirits and is beset by omnicidal shades made of cremated ashes.
  • Next Town Over is a mix between this, Weird West, and Cattle Punk. The two main characters are a Bounty Hunter who is skilled in a type of cybernetics and the pyropathic outlaw she is hunting down.
  • Visseria checks the boxes; Magic, steampunk technology, fantastic races. It does throw in a dash of colonialism, however.

    Web Original 
  • Fallen London is set in a Victorian London ruled by a shadowy cabal of nonhuman entities and full of things like devils, golems, and talking rats.


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alternative title(s): Gaslight Fantasy
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