I got word this morning that the Baryon Review has just published an early (and very enthusiastic) review of Circlet Press’s Like Clockwork, a new e-anthology of erotic steampunk that follows on the heels of Like a Wisp of Steam. Read the review at: http://thebaryonreview.blogspot.com/2009/07/like-clockwork-review.html
The book has what looks to be a swell line-up of fiction & authors, and coincidentally features my story “Nightingale.” This is my second foray into out-and-out steampunk – actually, the first story I published with Circlet, “Day Journey, With Stories” had a definite steampunk/pseudo-Victorian feel, but it took Cecilia Tan to clue me into that fact. Back then (all the way back in the 90s), at least as I recall , attention to the genre was still focused on the big, seminal works: Gibson & Sterling’s The Difference Engine (still a huge favorite of mine), parts of Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age and Paul Filippo’s trilogy. These guys established the basics: an alternate nineteenth century where high technology took off early (Gibson/Sterling), or a future setting in which a Victorian-like setting spontaneously evolved or was revived (Stephenson). Either way, they took the basics laid down by old Jules and H.G. and knocked them headlong into a whole new age.
Since then, steampunk has grown – reading the blogs & stuff now, it seems all set to be the new hot flavor in sf, especially in e-romantica. Phaze is doing an anthology of M/M /ménage steampunk, for instance, and I doubt they’ll be alone. Part of this is undoubtedly the hunger for new tastes and sensations in a readership grown tired of the same-old same-old, but that’s not the whole story; the sf & fantasy readership has always been young and most of these durned kids today can’t remember the Age of Shannara, when everything seemed to be either elves-n-dwarves or military sf, so I doubt you can put it all down to jaded palates.
There’s something about Victoriana, and I think it’s primarily an aesthetic appeal – think steampunk tech, and you think old, handmade, brass and sepia and mahogany. It’s nothing like the clean, sterile image we normally have of technology; maybe that’s somehow reassuring to us, or exciting in an odd way. And then there’s the sartorial aspect…yeah, I’m talking about fashion, as in clothes. The ad copy for Circlet’s steampunk anthologies makes a point of the eroticism of Victorian clothes, and by gum, it makes sense. Remember all those “Victorian erotica” novels Grove Press published in the 80s? Corsets and starched linen, curled hair and buttoned-up boots; turns out clothing fetishists had the right idea; a woman so ferociously coiffed and clothed, so prim…is hot. Or maybe it’s just that after years of losing our shame about our bodies, exposed flesh is getting ho-hum.
Even Victorian men’s fashion was cool – and keep in mind, my dog probably has better fashion- sense than I do. But those long coats and top-hats and mutton-chops whiskers? I’ve always found that whole look very appealing, not that I’d look particularly good in it.
So it’s interesting stuff, this steampunk. I’m hoping to do more of it – “Nighingale” and “An Extemporaneous Romance” Like a Wisp of Steam share a common setting: an alternate nineteenth century in which