Oct 21 2009 1:52pm

Steampunk Needs a Shot of—Wait for It—Romance

Absolute League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2I lurv me some steampunk when it’s properly polished and gleaming. I love it for all the usual suspects: the brass goggles, its retro-Victorianism, its nostalgia, the brass goggles, automatons, airships, steam powered rifles (and steam powered everything else), its socio-political themes—hang on, did I mention brass goggles?

Yet for all of its wonders, steampunk can feel awful dry at times. There are occasions when I crave a steampunk story solely for its Deep Thoughts, but if it can deliver the same punch with character-driven tales then sign me up! Mixing romance with steampunk is simply one way to add that particular ingredient.

Currently, there is no such subgenre as steampunk romance. Who knew?! I’ll admit, it feels a bit surreal to be discussing a subgenre that may or may not emerge, but steampunk romance is ripe for exploring.

While steampunk-as-rebellion generally explores many dark themes in speculative fiction, it’s the Edisonade roots of the genre that have the most potential to bear succulent fruit when paired with romance. Romance already has its share of action-packed science fiction romance stories. Plus, steampunk romance would appeal to the legions of historical romance fans.

Frankly, I can think of nothing more rebellious than pairing romance with steampunk. Despite many a marriage, SF and Romance still wrangle with each other now and then. What’s more rebellious than proving such a union can last?

Well, now, you might ask, isn’t adding steampunk to romance a blatant co-opt? Oh, indubitably, but what genre hasn’t co-opted steampunk?

*crickets chirping*


Variety is key, and I’d be a happy camper indeed if authors started writing steampunk-romance blends that would cut across genre lines. Even Whitechapel Gods (S.M. Peters), Mainspring (Jay Lake), and Mortal Engines (Philip Reeve) all had traces of a romance, albeit the equivalent of adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to a cake recipe. I wasn’t even looking for romantic elements while reading them, but there they were.

Specifically, I’d love to see:

• Steampunk with romantic elements

• Steampunk romance blends that are about a 50-50 mix

• Romances with a steampunk element or two, or with the steampunk aesthetics as background.

Yeah, I want it all. Number one with a bullet on my list of dying-to-read is a Western steampunk romance. Boo-yah!

But, wahh! I want to read one right now!

Clockwork HeartWell step right up, because you can read Clockwork Heart (Juno Books) by Dru Pagliassotti. And who isn’t a fan of Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the graphic novel, not that...shudder...cinematic fiasco)? Especially that one scene in volume two—you know the one I’m talking about, with Quatermain kindly leaving the lamp as it is and all. Moore squeezes more romance from that one subplot than many full-length novels.

From author Nathalie Gray we have Mechanical Rose, an erotic romance novella that features a sexy, eccentric inventor (is there any other kind?).

Other tangential contenders include Gail Dayton’s fantasy romance New Blood, which has steampunk elements, and Gail Carriger’s Soulless, a paranormal romance/gaslight fantasy.

SteamedThere are a few books on the horizon that will pair steampunk with romance (in varying degrees): Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke, Liz Maverick’s Crimson & Steam, Katie MacAlister’s Steamed, and Zoe Archer’s The Blades Of The Rose: Warrior.

We readers are an impatient lot, however, so if you’re an aspiring writer looking to submit your steampunk romance, Sasha Knight of Samhain Publishing is actively looking (word on the street is that Samhain will also announce plans soon for a steampunk romance anthology—the first of its kind as far as I know). Recently, Lyrical Press put out a call for steampunk (both romance and erotica).

Want to know more? Here are some links of interest:

Steampunk Romance Watch

The Case for Steampunk Romance

Thanks for reading, and if you’ve read a steampunk story with romantic elements or a true steampunk romance, hit me up in the comments.

Heather Massey is a blogger who travels the sea of stars searching for science fiction romance adventures aboard The Galaxy Express. Additionally, she pens a science fiction romance column for LoveLetter, Germany’s premier romance magazine.

Jaymee Goh
1. Jha
I had no idea Lyrical Press was calling for steampunk romance! Goes to show that I really ought to check these things more often.

Also? YES, THIS.

Then again, I like romance. Who doesn't? Great post!!
2. Iapetus999
I'm writing a Steampunk Romance for NaNoWriMo!

Woman must choose between devious Duke and hard-working Air Captain. Who will win her heart?
It's the Love Airboat. But not really.
3. Megan Frampton
I wrote a piece for Marie Claire about the steampunk romance trend. It should be in January's issue (edits/holds notwithstanding). A Western steampunk romance sounds like it'd be awesome! I hope someone takes up the challenge.
4. Leslie Dicken
I'm writing a romance with several steampunk elements. Think Jack the Ripper with flying machines.

I can't wait to read more Steampunk Romances! :-)

Joshua Pfeiffer
5. VernianProcess
I think Steampunk romance doesn't need to be a sub-genre, we just need more women (and men who are in touch with their feminine side) to write more Steampunk stories with romantic subplots.

I hate self promo crap, but we have a song we're working on called "Her Clockwork Heart" which is a totally bittersweet romantic Steampunk ballad.

I know other artists have done similar music as well.
6. galejohn
Does 'The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters' by Gordon Dahlquist fit in ? It worked for me - the heroine with surprisingly deep resources, haunting settings, weird tech, and an extremely unconventional romantic triangle.
7. Will012
I just wanted to let you know that I am unsubscribing from the TOR rss feed because of so many Steampunk posts.
Kristy Kalin
8. dreamingrain
I know there's a book that came out called Soulless, by Gail Carriger, including all fun things such as vampires, werewolves, and parasols. I haven't read it yet, but I'm waiting for it to come into my store.
Joshua Pfeiffer
9. VernianProcess
LOL @7:

Guess you missed the "Tor Steampunk Month" post right?
David Goldfarb
10. David_Goldfarb
What genre hasn't co-opted steampunk? Mainstream literary fiction springs instantly to mind.

The webcomic Girl Genius has some romance elements (their tagline is even, "Adventure, Romance, Mad Science") but it's nowhere near 50-50.
Calista Taylor
11. CalistaTaylor
I am currently writing a steampunk romance series, though we're still undergoing final edits before approaching publishers. I'm glad to hear there's such a demand.

And thank you, Tor, for steampunk month! It's been brilliant!
Jaymee Goh
12. Jha
VernianProcess: Dammit, I thought I'd finally gotten that song out of my head, but now you mention it I have to go listen to it AGAIN.
Heather Massey
13. sfrgalaxy
Thanks for commenting, everyone! So great to hear about the works in progress. I hope to read them in the future.

Speaking of, I have some exciting news to share: Samhain publishing just announced a call for steampunk romance novellas to be included in a future anthology. For complete submission information, check out the Web site:

The managing editor for the anthology is Sasha Knight, and you can follow her on Twitter:

Happy writing!
14. Shalako
Steampunk romance?
My good chum Jaqhama has romantic elements in his steampunk/gaslight thrillers that he writes for the good folk over at the BG forum.

Gaslight Fantasy: A Ripping Yarn.,9781.0.html

And he's doing a sequel to that first story now.
The Rise of the Bayloks!
Which features two strong willed and intelligent women as characters in the story. Damned thrilling it is too, as numerous other readers at BG have already pointed out.,17888.0.html

Someone really needs to get Jaqhama's steampunk novella's into print.
He's already been published by a couple of heroic fantasy and horror anthologies in the USA and the UK.
His blog page is here:

He's currently writing a dark crime noir thriller for the UK market.
16. Nathan Nagel
I have just met a wonderful Steam Punk lady, Lila, and we are starting an international romance. Steampunk romance is ailive and well !
17. Regina Riley
Want more steampunk erotica?

I have a new novella coming soon with Lyrical Press. "Clockworks and Corsets" is an old fashioned steampunk adventure, full of hot encounters and wild inventions!

No release date yet, so keep an eye on for more information.
18. Maeve Alpin
I answered Lyrical Press's Steampunk Open submission call and have a Steampunk/Romance novella, As Timeless As Stone which will be released spring or summer of 2010.
19. elysabeth williams
I just finished a steampunk romance, I'm working on edits, but hope I don't miss the bus on this call for submissions.

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