Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories: A Book Review


Since I’ve been toying with writing a few steampunk stories of my own, I decided I should get a better feel for the genre. To that end, I searched my local library system for what would be considered a definitive collection of such tales. At the top of the list was Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant.

I didn’t know what to expect, so I dived in. Well, that’s not true. I did look up several definitions of “steampunk” online, but then while reading, I started wondering if I hadn’t gotten my wires crossed.

While the stories did seem to either take place in the late 19th century or otherwise use steam and gear related technology, most of the missives didn’t seem to capture “steampunkness.”

I normally don’t read reviews of books I’m planning to review, but I just had to know what I was missing. The most telling Amazon commentator confirmed my fears in that, for the most part, the book is mistitled, and the vast majority of short stories don’t fall within the boundaries of the steampunk definition.

Good news is that almost all of the stories are entertaining and held my interest. That said, the two comic strips included added nothing, and in fact, really didn’t “do it” for me.

Pet peeve alert. In Libba Bray’s short story “The Last Ride of the Glory Girls,” her main character was rapidly subdued by someone putting an ether-soaked cloth over her face. I had to look this one up before, and as it turns out, movies and TV shows aside, ether and chloroform take long, long minutes to render a person unconscious, not seconds, so Bray didn’t do her homework.

The flip side is that I adored the Dylan Horrocks story “Steam Girl,” which in my opinion, is worth the price of admission. True, it’s set in modern times, but if Shanaia isn’t a steampunk refuge stranded in our universe, she ought to be. Anyone who isn’t touched to the depth of their soul by this sad and wonderful tale needs to have their pulse checked, because they might already be dead.

Overall, the anthology is a fun ride and well worth reading, but is it steampunk? For the most part, no.

I’ll be publishing this review on Amazon as well.

10 thoughts on “Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories: A Book Review

  1. You got me looking into the topic… the general topic. Mainly because I got the impression you might have the timing wrong (which it seems you don’t), or whether cyberpunk was the original (or the other way around). I was surprised to find at least the terminology didn’t start until the latter eighties. But that actually does make sense. I think I was most intrigued with “nowpunk” as a category — an example of which I’d say is “Mr. Robot.”

    Probably, you haven’t written any stonepunk… as I don’t remember a dystopian approach.

    Liked by 1 person

      • It seems to be considered a defunct genre except for its derivatives (of which, clearly, steampunk is one); apparently generously spanning from 1975 to 1995 (with some guy, Sterling, trying to solidify it it 1986). I found this elucidating: About that time [meaning after 1983], William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer was published, delivering a glimpse of a future encompassed by what became an archetype of cyberpunk “virtual reality”, with the human mind being fed light-based worldscapes through a computer interface. Some, perhaps ironically including Bethke himself, argued at the time that the writers whose style Gibson’s books epitomized should be called “Neuromantics”, a pun on the name of the novel plus “New Romantics”, a term used for a New Wave pop music movement that had just occurred in Britain, but this term did not catch on. Bethke later paraphrased Michael Swanwick’s argument for the term: “the movement writers should properly be termed neuromantics, since so much of what they were doing was clearly Imitation Neuromancer”.


  2. I found these two sites somewhat and variously helpful.
    To Be or Not to Be (Science Fiction)
    January 24, 2012 – 1:39 pm
    Posted in Science Fiction
    Tagged discourse conventions, Nowpunk


    Nowpunk: Sociolinguistics, Technology, and Fiction
    January 11, 2012 – 10:45 am
    Posted in Uncategorized
    Tagged linguistics, Nowpunk, sociolinguistics

    COLUMN BY Daniel Hope FEBRUARY 17, 2014

    Liked by 2 people

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