- Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
It is about time that steampunk short stories really got a focused and creative exploration in YA lit, and this anthology of fourteen pieces (all original to this volume) is an excellent start. A brief introduction references the murky beginnings of the term itself, the key themes that make it what it is, and the one intentional common thread here: none of the stories is set in the well-worn venue of Victorian London. It’s a brilliant idea, and it has clearly led to some intriguing approaches, as readers will encounter steampunk elements woven into the old Wild West, as in “The Last Ride of the Glory Girls” by Libba Bray, all the way to ancient (perhaps) Rome in M. T. Anderson’s “The Oracle Engine.” Wistful efforts at trying to will clockwork and gears to somehow improve one’s dreary life are explored in pieces that inspire pathos even as they are gorgeously rendered to be more than their tragic parts, such as Shawn Cheng’s short graphic piece “Seven Days Beset by Demons” and the modern “Steam Girl” by Dylan Horrocks. The variety of storytelling styles and lengths and the inclusion of two graphic stories enhance the value of this collection and ensure that the common themes avoid samey repetition. While there are plenty of YA novels dipping into this area, this impeccable anthology can serve as either an introduction to much of what makes steampunk what it is or a creative take for established fans who will be intrigued by the authorial tinkering. And since tampering and tinkering is not only how steampunk evolved into a subgenre but also is very much part of each of these stories, that is a nice point of intersection indeed. Author biographies generally go beyond the requisite booklists to hint at contributors’ connections to or specific interests in the theme.