Jon Klement of Dragontalk Media interviewed me some time back concerning my first professionally published story, Babies' Breath, which appeared in parABnormal Digest #1 in 201l.  Among the questions he asked was, "What makes a good paranormal story?".  I hadn't thought of my story as being "paranormal" when I wrote it and, indeed, had only been introduced to the genre after I wrote it.  I also had been prevented by other obligations from preparing as much for the interview as I would have liked.  My answer was a dodge.  I tried to be vague, accurate, if you will, but imprecise.  I said something to the effect of, "The same thing that makes any story, of any genre, good, timeless themes well told for the audience reading them."  I might have just as well said, "Beats me, Jon."  
     But it's the sort of question that arises often in genre fiction, and it's one for which an author should be prepared.  Paranormal stories, of course, have something about them which makes them a unique genre.  They involve humanity's encounters with that which their current knowledge is unable to explain.  Paranormal, in point of fact, is a sub-theme under the broad, classic literary them of "man versus nature" as I was taught it in grade school.  Some would argue that it falls under "man versus the supernatural," of course, but the paranormal and the supernatural are not the same thing according the the buffs that I know, and I'll stick with their definition.  
     So, I'm currently published in the genre of Steampunk and people might ask me, "Mr. Krog, you have stories in a couple of Steampunk themed anthologies.  What makes a good Steampunk story?"  They would ask me as if I were an expert as opposed to the novice that I am, but what's a fellow to do?  

In the first place, Steampunk isn't strictly even a theme in the classic literary sense.  It's a setting.  Paranormal is more of a theme, as I have noted above.  Steampunk is a setting, much as Western is a setting.  It has a certain popular flavor, of course.  Adventure stories abound in the genre, but there is a lot of variety.  There are also Steampunk romances, for instance. 
Now, my dodgy answer to Jon Klement's question applies to any genre, indeed to any piece of work.  Tell a story with a timeless theme, attempting to illustrate a timeless truth, to ask or answer a timeless question, and if you tell it in a manner to which the audience can relate, it will probably go over well, but that is an insufficiently vague answer to a rather specific question.  So, no dodging here, Mr .Krog.  A good Steampunk story needs to evoke the atmosphere which appeals to the audience, because it is the atmosphere that attracts them in the first place.  If they are expecting a good Steampunk story, and the author writes a story with no knowledge of the pertinent technology and Victorian fashions typical of the genre, it is not, however well told otherwise, a good Steampunk story.  
When I was writing, Discombobulation, my short story published in Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells, I took pains to research clocks and safes, so as not to be a complete dolt in the process of writing the story.  It's remarkable how little of the research ended up in the story in the end, alas.  For the rest, the Victorian fashions, I left the description safely vague so as to let the audience's expectations fill in the blanks.  I put in vague references and newspapers and such, but that was all.  The story was well-received so I must believe that the tactic was successful.  So far as I can tell, what makes a Steampunk story enjoyable is getting the setting right while telling a good tale.  I wouldn't say there's nothing to it, or even that it's all that easy, but the explanation seems simple enough. It's good fun, regardless.

Robert J. Krog