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Gaslamp Fantasy

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Where mad science and fairy tales meet.

Gaslamp fantasy, also called gaslight fantasy, is Steampunk's more magically-inclined 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 and in Phlebotinum-Induced Steampunk.

The term was coined to describe the comic Girl Genius (although the 1997 Encyclopedia of Fantasy had previously coined the term "Gaslight Romance" to describe something very similar), 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 wanted to avoid confusion with a comic named "Steampunk", 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.

Compare Science Fantasy, of which Gaslamp Fantasy is pretty much a subtrope. For similar genres with more modern settings, see Urban Fantasy, Dungeon Punk and Gothic Punk. For older settings based on the 15th-18th centuries, see Gunpowder Fantasy. Not to be confused with Gaslighting.

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


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

    Comic Books 
  • Mike Mignola's Baltimore is about an alternate history WWI where the war ended early due to a plague, and now vampires and other assorted evils roam over Europe.
  • The Hellboy prequel series Witchfinder. The title character is an occult investigator who works for Queen Victoria, but some of his adventures take him to the wild west as well.
  • Iron West is set in The Wild West where mechanical men have taken over the railroad and are mutating the train into a giant demonic iron monster.
  • 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.
  • Monstress is an Asia-themed setting where the human faction has both steam-powered airships and psychic "witches." They are at war with godlike ancient beings with animal traits, and their half-human offspring.
  • The Elf With No Name takes place in a fantasy version of The Wild West called Zodiaz, currently inhabited by fairies.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a super hero film set in Victorian England, featuring famous characters from literature of the time period, some of whom have supernatural abilities.
  • Stardust features the Victorian town of Wall where, directly across the... uh... wall, is an entire world of magic. Naturally, these two worlds mix in interesting ways.
  • 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.

  • The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison featuring expys of Sherlock Holmes as a not quite fallen angel and a gender flipped Dr. John Watson who is a "hellhound". Werewolves, vampires and psychics also exist and are integrated into society.
  • Apparatus Infernum features steam-era technology (such as trains), but inserts elemental-based magic to provide a lot of the power (with magic based on fire elementals taking the place of coal, for example).
  • Baltimore: or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire is about an alternate history WWI where the war ended early due to a plague, and now vampires and other assorted evils roam over Europe.
  • Bannon & Clare is set in an alternate Victorian Britain with sorcerers, people with Super-Intelligence, magical Artificial Limbs, dragons and gryphons, among other things. Steampunk elements are very much present, but the supernatural edges it out somewhat. And every European nation has a ruling spirit that's housed in the body of their monarch, but which can be temporarily put down through the violent death of their host.
  • The later Discworld novels are set in a world that used to be an Affectionate Parody of generic Medieval European Fantasy settings, but has since gone on to have an industrial revolution.
  • 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.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series is about mages in Post-Victorian England. The stories are loosely based on Fairy Tales.
  • The Gemma Doyle trilogy centers around a group of young Victorian ladies who get caught up in a secret magical conspiracy.
  • Gentleman Bastard: The setting is fantasy, but mostly set in large urban metropolises with a high technology level due to the abundance of alchemical and Clock Punk inventions. The fact that so many characters wear spectacles is an early indication of the setting's flavor.
  • The ongoing novelizations of the Trope Namer, Girl Genius, would count as well, even expanding on some things not mentioned in the webcomic.
  • 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.
  • Though the Green Rider series is set in a classic Sword and Sorcery universe, the fifth book Mirror Sight whisks its heroine Karigan away into a Victorianesque Gaslamp Fantasy evolution of that universe a couple centuries into the future, powered by hydraulics instead of steam. Complete with magical wristwatches.
  • In Grimoire's Soul, Kesterline is on a roughly late 19th Century tech level, with electric lamps being a new novel invention when the story takes place. This turns out to be the result of Kesterline's isolation from the rest of the world, as the Atrium where part 2 takes place is roughly on par with 21st Century Earth, and the rest of the world is implied to be similar.
  • In Guns of the Dawn, the technology level is about that of the Napoleonic Wars, but it exists alongside fantasy elements — most prominently, warlocks empowered by kings.
  • His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. A multi-universe spanning trilogy. The first book, Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, is set in a alternate Edwardian-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 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.
  • The Invisible Detective: In the 1937 scenes, Art Drake is a member of the Cannoniers, a group of Baker Street Regulars for reclusive detective Brandon Lake. However, Lake is an Invented Individual, and the kids solve the cases themselves while getting involved in some increasingly bizarre and dangerous adventures. For example, Dr. Bessemer, a Bavarian puppeteer from the first book, is a Nazi agent out to kill the Duke of York and replace him with a robot before the Duke of York becomes king once his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicates.
  • The Jackelian Series blends steampunk, fantasy, and pulp-era adventure stories, and is set in either an alternate Earth or an extremely far-future version of this one, that happens to have (re-)evolved a culture reminiscent of Victorian Britain.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is about the last two practicing magicians in Georgian England (also, fairies).
  • 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.
  • Legends & Lattes is about an orc Barbarian Hero who wants to open a coffee shop. The locals are confused by the weird steam machines she uses as well as the invention of refrigeration.
  • 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.
  • A Memoir by Lady Trent takes place in a world very much like the Victorian era, save that all the geography is different and none of the countries or religions have the same names - oh, and dragons exist.
  • Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman has steampunk machines created by weaving magic with technology.
  • The Native Star is fantasy set in America in the 1800s.
  • Elizabeth Bear's New Amsterdam takes place in the alternate history New York of the title in the early 1900s, the main characters being a vampire and his alchemist sidekick.
  • The Old Kingdom series, albeit as a minor aspect in an otherwise High Fantasy 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown and its sequel, The True Queen, are set in an Alternate Universe where English magic is overseen by the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers.
  • 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.
  • 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...)
  • The Strangely Beautiful Series is set in Victorian Britain and involves a magical backstory where Hades murders Persephone's lover, a phoenix.
  • Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald is a Sherlock Holmes story set in an alternate version of Victorian Britain where the Great Old Ones long ago conquered mankind.
  • The Tales of Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card is America-based 1800s fantasy.
  • Naomi Novik's Temeraire series follows the adventures of a British captain in His Majesty's Dragon Corps during the Napoleonic Wars.
  • To Shape a Dragon's Breath takes place in an Alternate History North America where the dominant colonizers there and worldwide are of Norse descent. Also there's dragons.
  • Wax and Wayne takes place in such a setting, though it borrows a touch more from the wild west.
  • P. Djèlí Clark's "With a Golden Risha" is a mostly Middle Eastern and African-inspired example, with Efrit and revolutionary leftist Sky Pirates.
  • Wraith Knight: The series is unusual example as it takes place in a High Fantasy setting but which has combined technology with magic after the last war between the Dark Lord and The Alliance. While the protagonist is effectively a Ringwraith, he has to deal with an enormous clockwork spider and the flying airship navy of the Empress.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Carnival Row: The series takes place in a fictional world heavily based on Victorian England, which is populated by humans as well as a number of fae races. Magic exists, but it is very rare and not widely known.
  • Penny Dreadful is set in The Gay '90s where a band of Public Domain Characters and series-specific protagonists fight the forces of Satan.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blades in the Dark is set in Duskwall, a fictional city that is quite consciously half-Victorian London, half-Venice. The genre would be steampunk—except steam engines have only minor impact, and everything instead runs on "electroplasm" (spirit energy that ghosts, among other things, are made of), from electric trains to alchemy and even vampirism. The game also makes use of a large number of classic Gothic Horror tropes, thanks to its largey setting being mostly overrun by ghosts and other creepy creatures.
  • 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 first Call of Cthulhu supplement set in a different time period than the 1920s-'30s, Cthulhu by Gaslight, was set in the 1880s, and has since become one of the 3 main time periods for the game (the third being our own time period, from the '90s onwards). It's identical to our own world at that time except for, well... try to guess.
  • Castle Falkenstein is set in a parallel version of Earth during the Victorian era, where the arrival of great armies of The Fair Folk and other magical creatures has resulted in a fantastical world in which Steampunk Magitek and sorcery rub shoulders, dragons and faerie-lords hobnob with the European aristocracy, and figures of famous Victorian novels such as Sherlock Holmes are as real as the authors who wrote them. The abundance of magic has had many major changes to the world, such as the heavily Divided States of America.
  • Deadlands is set in America during the Wild West, but otherwise fits the bill of a Gaslamp Fantasy/Steampunk hybrid. Evil spirits seek to terrorize humanity to psychically remake the world more to their own liking, Mad Scientists dream up what they think is the future of technology because of demons whispering schematics into their brains and run them by burning a super-fuel that is essentially "coal made from the souls of the damned", hucksters gamble (usually via poker) with slivers of their souls to hustle demons into casting spells for them, and gunslingers do battle with shapeshifting cannibals, giant animals, and other horrors in the frontier regions.
  • GURPS brushes the idea on occasion:
    • GURPS Goblins depicts a version of Georgian London populated by fantastical goblins, with some hints of magic.
    • GURPS Steampunk 1: Settings and Style classes “gaslamp fantasy” as an alternative term for “gaslight romance”, which it defined similarly to this trope... and treats such things as a possible style for game settings.
    • GURPS would also become the system of choice for the official TTRPG adaptation of the Trope Namer, Girl Genius.
  • The Sons (later Society) 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.
  • Masque of the Red Death is a standalone expansion for the Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft campaign setting, set in the "real" world circa 1890, but with Gothic horror underpinnings.
  • Rippers is a setting for the Savage Worlds roleplaying game system about late Victorian monster hunters.
  • Unhallowed Metropolis, set in a future dystopian version of Victorian London.
  • Victoriana RPG is this with a side of steampunk in an alternate 1867 (1856 in the 3rd edition). Many of the standard fantasy races are present (albeit with unique twists), and magic is still a prevalent force even with technology overtaking it.

    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.
  • Bloodborne is set in the Victorian-Gothic city of Yharnam in the midst of a lycanthrope outbreak, and includes magical dreamlands, witches, spells, curses, and otherworldly beings to round out the supernatural elements of the world. Halfway through the game the genre makes a shift to Cosmic Horror Story, however.
  • Bungo to Alchemist: Draws heavily from Taishō roman aesthetics, Clock Punk abounds, but is set in a Magical Library, plays Alchemy Is Magic to a T and features a bizarre premise of using said "alchemy" to bring back dead late-modern writers and poets in order to send them into battle against evil influences in the literary realm.
  • Dishonored straddles the divide between this and Steampunk, with advanced technology based on whale oil on the latter side and supernatural elements like the Outsider and his "gifts" on the former.
  • Drakensang Online: A fantasy setting of knights, mages, archers, dragons, zombies, merfolk… and anachronistic steampunk dwarves.
  • Fallen London and its spinoff Sunless Sea are set in a Victorian London ruled by a shadowy cabal of nonhuman entities and full of things like devils, golems, and talking rats.
  • Final Fantasy VI introduces a world of steam-power and clockwork, a world where magic has been extinct for a millennium and human technology has advanced to supplant it. So what do you get when The Magic Comes Back and this industrial-age setting is infused with revived magical power? You get the Trope Namer for Magitek.
  • Final Fantasy IX could be considered Gaslamp Fantasy, especially considering the city of Lindblum and their airship fleet.
  • The Upper City region of Hidden City has a distinctly 18th-19th Century styled building that heavily features steam pipes, non-electric lights, and other antiquated tools and machinery. However, despite the less blatantly fantastical elements compared to the Lower region, it is all but stated that a lot of the technology used in the City is powered by magic crystals, and the fog that has so heavily engulfed the region is capable of producing magical effects.
  • Nostalgia (Red Entertainment) 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.
  • The Order: 1886 takes place in an Alternate History version of 1886 in which humanity has been at war with an ancient race of lycans called "half-breeds" for centuries, and the elite defenders of humanity are an extension of King Arthur's Knight of the Round Table who take up the honorific titles of the original knights, and remain ageless through a magical elixir called Blackwater. Vampires also figure into the mix. Of course, the setting also features a dosage of Steampunk, what with the Tesla guns, radios, and airships.
  • Despite the title, A Study in Steampunk. It does have Humongous Mecha and steam power, and the setting is heavily based on XIX century Europe (especially Victorian Britain) but magical Liquid Assets powers are a hugely important part of the worldbuilding.
  • Reverse: 1999 is an Alternate Universe of our world where a Mage Species, Arcanists, and magic was commonplace, but mages were eventually supplanted with industrial technology and science, and were always an oppressed, persecuted, and discriminated against minority. This allows a world that has modern firearms, electric grids, and combustion-engine cars, alongside literal alchemists, illegal "invisibility" enchantments, and some ScienceWizards who attempt to prove that the arcane an the technological aren't as mutually exclusive as thought.

  • Girl Genius is the Trope Namer, for being quasi-steampunk combined with fantasy (and also because the Foglios invented the term). Despite the focus on Mad Science (and adventure and romance), magic-like elements remain. The river Dyne is 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 temporarily become incandescently enlightened. "Constructs" made from corpses à 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 are all accepted. And then there's the fact that the Spark itself, while purportedly producing extremely advanced technology, is actually sufficiently analyzed Magic-Powered Pseudoscience.
    "In my experience, it takes a strong Heterodyne about two hours to truly warp the laws of nature."
  • The Glass Scientists: Dr. Jekyll runs The Society for Arcane Science, attempting to rehabilitate the reputation of Mad Scientists in post-Frankenstein London.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Visseria checks the boxes; Magic, steampunk technology, fantastic races. It does throw in a dash of colonialism, however.

    Western Animation 
  • The steampunk world of Arcane becomes this after the induction of Hextech.
  • Although most of the setting of Avatar: The Last Airbender doesn't qualify as Gaslamp Fantasy because it's too low-tech, the Fire Nation certainly does, with its battleships, airships, and giant drill. Its sequel, Legend of Korra, fits the trope even more, being set in the Avatar world's equivalent of the 1920s. It even adds Humongous Mecha to the mix!
  • The episode "Good Hunting" from the anthology series Love, Death & Robots takes place in a setting like this. It goes deep on Steampunk tech down to sophisticated automatons, but the primary focus of the story is how Magic Versus Technology weighs on a creature from Chinese myth — and how she gets her revenge.
  • One of the alternate realities in the Ultimate Spider-Man (2012) episode "Return to the Spider-Verse Part 1" is a 19th century New York overrun with vampires. The Spidey counterpart, Blood Spider, has a steampunky lab where he creates anti-vampire weapons, and the vampires' leader is a version of the Lizard in the remnants of a Victorian gentleman's suit.

Alternative Title(s): Gaslight Fantasy