I 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?
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!
Well 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?).
There 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:
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.