VICTORIAN RPG TERM GLOSSARY
Ab-natural: see Supernatural
Alternative History: involving theoretically possible world changing events that never happened in reality. ie: a world where the American colonies never revolted or a communist revolution has swept France and Spain. The difference between Historical and Alternative History is really one of scope. Harry Harrison's "A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!" and Robert Sobel's "For Want of a Nail" are Alternative Histories.
Babbage Engine: an Analytical Engine. Named after Charles Babbage, the man who originated the idea of a programable computer.
Clacker: an Analytical Engine operator. (From the novel "The Difference Engine" by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling)
Dime Novel: cheap, usually lurid, American periodicals from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The forerunners to the "Pulps". See also Penny Dreadful
Drawing Room Mystery: most properly referring to the sub-genre of mystery where a group of people is gathered together at a remote location (usually a mansion) resulting in the murder of one or more of the guests. At the climax of the story a detective (often amateur) assembles everyone involved and solves the mystery by revealing secrets that he has deduced ending with the revelation of the killer's identity (see the works of Agatha Christie and the spoof film "Clue"). Often used to refer to any "polite" or genteel crime detection fiction, including the adventures of Sherlock Holmes or Sexton Blake. Also called a "Cozy".
Drawing Room Romance: involving Victorian/Edwardian historical (Queen Elizabeth, Jack the Ripper) or period fictional (Sherlock Holmes, Harry Flashman) characters but lacking Supernatural or science fiction elements. These are frequently pastiches which generally feature no substantial changes to history and have a nostalgic feel. "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" (which features Sigmund Freud attending Sherlock Holmes) is an example of Drawing Room Romance.
Edisonade: a story based around a brilliant young inventor, his amazing creations and his adventures. Named for American inventor Thomas Edison who "starred" in Garrett P Serviss' "Edison's Conquest of Mars". The "Frank Reade" and "Tom Swift" series are the best know examples of Edisonades. See also Scientific Romance
Edwardian: of or pertaining to the British monarch King Edward VII or the period of his reign (January 22nd 1901 - May 6th 1910). See also The Long Reign
Ether: a hypothetical medium filling all of space that carries light (and other electromagnetic) waves. Now discredited and (currently) replaced by the concept of wave-partical duality. Often used in Steampunk to simply mean Outer Space.
Fantasy: involving imaginative, fanciful or supernatural elements that are either wondrous or mundane. JRR Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and Edith Nesbit's "Five Children and It" are Fantasies. The term Fantasy was not generally used in the Victorian Era, you may wish to use Romance instead. See also Supernatural
Gaslamp Fantasy: specifically referring to the comic "Girl Genius" by Phil & Kaja Foglio. It has ben applied to any fiction with a Neo-Victorian setting and steamtech that behaves more like magic than science. Many examples of manga/anime could be described as Gaslamp Fantasy.
Gaslight Romance: involving Victorian/Edwardian era fictional and historical personalities (Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper). The emphasis is on the supernatural and fantastic, but not unlikely, science. Generally considered under the umbrella of Steampunk. Kim Newman's "Anno Dracula" is an example of Gaslight Romance.
The Great Game: most properly used in reference to the rivalry between the British and Russian Empires for control of central Asia (from around 1813 to 1907). Occasionally applied to any political jockeying and gamesmanship in the 1800s and early 1900s, if this use is accepted than the Great Game ends in failure with the eruption of World War One.
Historical: involving only actual historical events and personages and no fantastic or science fiction elements. If the actions of the characters change history too much then it becomes Alternative History. For example a story where Queen Victoria's physician is revealed to be Jack the Ripper would be Historical if the facts were covered up and kept secret, but it would be Alternative History if the facts were made public leading to downfall of the British monarchy. Caleb Carr's "The Alienist" and most of Moore and Campbell's "From Hell" would be considered Historical.
Horror: involving elements intended to terrify or shock. Frequently involving the Supernatural
The Long Reign: the definition of the "Victorian Era" in popular imagination. Roughly from 1800 to the start of the World War One (1914). Thus including the late Georgian, Regency, Victorian and Edwardian Eras. This also includes the American Old West and is the rough timeframe explored by Victorian Adventure Enthusiast (though two of our favorite games, "Forgotten Futures" and "Terra Incognita: The NAGS Society Handbook" provide information up to start of WWII, thus allowing us to take a look at the pulps, early science fiction and the first comic books.)
Luminiferous Ether: see Ether
Near East: referring to geographical locations close to, but culturally distant from, Europe. Defined by the book "The Nearer East" (1902) as including: Albania, the Arabian Peninsula, southern Bulgaria and Sebia, Montenegro, Egypt, Greece, Iran and the Ottoman Empire. See also Far East and the Orient
Neo-Victorian: when aspects of Victorian culture are used out of their historical period. Much of "steampunk" culture is Neo-Victorian by nature. Neal Stephenson's novel "The Diamond Age" has a "phyle" of self-styled Neo-Victorians and the RPG "Unhallowed Metropolis" has a Neo-Victorian setting.
Occult: involving Supernatural elements that are hidden or secret from the majority of the population. Different from Horror in that the intent may be to mystify, not scare or that magical powers may not be limited to villians. May be considered a form of Fantasy.
Old West: referring to or involving elements from the history of the American frontier generally from the time of the American Civil War to the end of the 19th Century. Also known as the Wild West. See also Western and Weird West
Penny Dreadful: 19th century British fiction publications, frequently featuring lurid and sensational stories. Presented as serials with new parts released over consecutive weeks. Named, appropriately, for their cost. See also Dime Novel
Planetary Romance: fiction involving swashbuckling action in strange locales (like alien planets or the center of the Earth) with little or no regard to actual physics or science. The middle ground between the action/exploration stories of H. Rider Haggard and Space Opera and best described as "science fantasy". Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom" stories define Planetary Romance. Also known as "Swords & Planets" stories.
Regency Period: referring to the British historical era from 1811-1820, the period of Jane Austen and Lord Byron. In popular imagination it is frequently lumped in into the "Victorian Era". See also The Long Reign
Romance: in regards to Victorian and Edwardian writing used as the term Fiction is used now. Thus Scientific Romance for Science Fiction or Planetary Romance for "Swords & Planets" stories. Also a good replacement for the term Fantasy.
Scientific Romance: science fiction of the Victorian or Edwardian Eras, that is fiction based on scientific ideas of the time. Most properly referring only to British authors, the term is generally applied to any writers of scientifically based fiction of the period (like France's Jules Verne). Examples include H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" and Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea". See also Steampunk
Steampunk: contemporary speculative fiction using elements of Victorian science and technology but viewing them with a post-modern mindset. Steam technology may take on almost magical efficiency or cyberpunk concepts may be applied achronically. Such fiction might feature steam-tech mecha or linked Babbage Engines used to mirror the internet. Examples include Gibson & Sterling's "The Difference Engine" and Paul Di Filippo's "The Steampunk Trilogy". Steampunk is most broadly applied to any weird Victorian set fiction that mixes historical, fictional, pseudo-scientific and fantastic elements. See also Scientific Romance
Supernatural: involving magical or other unreal elements. If the Supernatural elements are used to inspire wonder (or are mundane to the setting) the story is best called a Fantasy. If the elements are hidden and mysterious then Occult is best applied. If the Supernatural is intended to terrify or shock then the story is Horror. For a term with a more Victorian flavor try Ab-natural (from William Hope Hodgson's "Carnacki the Ghost Finder" stories).
Weird West: involving a combination of the Old West with any non-historical, science fiction or Supernatural elements. "Weird West" most specifically refers to the "Deadlands" RPG (the term is trademarked by the Pinnacle Entertainment Group), but is applied vernacularly as the Western equivalent of Steampunk. Earlier examples include "The Horror of the Mound" by Robert E Howard (1932) and DC Comics' "Weird Western Tales" (1972).
Western: a story set in the Old West
Victorian: most properly, of or pertaining to the British monarch Queen Victoria or the period of her reign (May 24th 1819 - January 22nd 1901). Queen Victoria is the only person ever to have their named applied to a historical period while they wer still living. The definition of the Victorian Era is much longer in the popular imagination, see The Long Reign.
Voyages Extraordinaires: a publishing line applied to the works of Jules Verne. Many of his tales had science fiction or Scientific Romance elements, though some were Historical adventures ("Around the World in Eighty Days"). Occasionally affixed to any globe spanning period adventure story.