2013 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event: Heather Massey on Lesbian Steampunk


One of my favorite book discoveries of the past year is “SteamPowered” from Torquere Press: Steampunk Lesbian Stories (2011, JoSelle Vanderhooft, editor). As a fan of Steampunk and Steampunk romance, I was looking forward to finally discovering this anthology. And fortunately, I did it just in time for a lesbian fantasy evaluation event!


Before I share my experience with SteamPowered, here is an advertisement for you:

Fifteen tempting, exciting and ingenious fairy tales in SteamPowered have brought a new twist to steampunk, placing women where they should be – in the captain’s chair, the lab and each other. Here you will meet inventors, diamond thieves, lonely pawn brokers, empresses with clockwork, brilliant prisoners and capers in the service of the San Francisco Empire of Eccentrics. Although they come from different corners of the globe and distant universes, each character strives to follow his own path to independence and romance. The women on the steamer push the steampunk to their limits and beyond.

I knew about SteamPowered for a while and mostly did not want to buy it for budget reasons. Many months later, in the mood once in a steampunk anthology, I looked into the “Book of Steampunk Mammoth” (2012, Sean Wallace, editor) from the local library. Few things I knew about what was waiting for me in this anthology.

The anthology contained “The Sewage Engine” by N.K. Jemizin, and I liked it very much. (You can read it for free here.). An alternative story from the 1800s in New Orleans and the protagonist of Haiti? Sold!

At the end of the tale, I did some research. I learned that the Wastewater Engine was originally released in SteamPowered. Then I finally realized how much fun awaited me. What was I waiting for?

I immediately downloaded SteamPowered. The improved budget was a factor, but my decision really came down to the strength of Jamisin’s story as well as my craving for variety in Steampunk and Steampunk romance. But yes, since all the authors were new to me, it also helped me to try the story for free. Hurray for the libraries!

SteamPowered surpassed my expectations. One of the reasons (among many) that this is a great collection is diversity. You will encounter wildly different settings, characters, genre elements and themes. One of my personal favorite movies is “Suffer Water” by Beth Wodzinski. In this story there is a steampunk cyborg shooter! I don’t meet them in my reading as often as I would like – not only women’s – so it was a terrific surprise.
I’m a fan of Western movies (and we all know how diverse the Western film genre is – no!), so it was really refreshing to read about a fearless woman shooter who decided to fulfill her mission, even when her parts of the steampunk almost fall apart before her eyes. Take this, Django!
Don’t you care about Western conditions? No problem!

teamPowereddelivers all kinds of steampunk fragrances. Some of the settings are more technologically/equipped with steam, while others tilt towards fantasy and the clockwork. Action-adventure, mystery, political elements and intrigue to varying degrees add to many stories.

For example, “Steel Rider” Rachel Mania Brown combines steampunk with giant transformer robots in a breathtaking border setting. I know! A precondition is a pure stunning sauce. In “Brilliant” Georgina Bruce you will meet two main characters traveling by train through a fantastic landscape of glass cities and silver blimps. Their relationship is bizarre, stupid, and sometimes surprisingly, painfully young.

In many stories, there are romantic or romantic elements. Some of them follow the conventions of the romantic genre and end with “Happy Forever” or “Goodbye”. Others have bitter-sweet or, in some cases, tragic endings for the couple.

This anthology presents a delightful range of smart, strong and brilliant female characters. Based on my reading experience, SteamPowered is easily combined with other Steampunk anthologies in terms of overall quality and creativity. In fact, as a reader, I think it makes them better. It’s based on the idea of empowerment and limitless possibilities of what women can achieve.

I want to know more about SteamPowered: Stories about lesbians in Steampunk Visit Torquere Press to read the contents. A review of the anthology has been published outside Victoria, as well as interviews with JoSell Vanderhoft and some authors. In fact, I will finish with one of the excerpts from the review because it poetically summarizes the anthology:

More than romance, this anthology is devoted to relationships: dangerous and touching, furious, complex, thoughtful and conflict. These women’s novels in the stories show characters who discover what beautiful relationships can be or how they can be something to mourn, how they can blossom in unexpected places or just fall apart.
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science-fiction romance. She is looking for science fiction romance adventures on board her blog The Galaxy Express.

Author: KT Grant

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