Editor’s Note by Guest Editor Megan O’Keefe:
I am a genre slattern. My fantasy stories embrace the trappings of science, my science fiction stories wink at the mythic nature of that-which-we-don’t-understand. When my first trilogy, The Scorched Continent, was released I was baffled to hear people categorize it as anything from steampunk to science fiction. Hadn’t I written a secondary world fantasy? It didn’t have any actual steam in it, after all. Surely it didn’t count.
Surely, it did.
As genres descend into granularity we, for some reason, have a tendency to add -punk as a suffix. I’d blame cyberpunk for this, but as it is the forerunner of the trend I have a difficult time finding fault with it. Much like -core denotes sub-genres of music and -gate denotes scandals of various types, -punk has become little more than a literary dividing line. Scratch off the -punk, and we’re left with just the steam. Yet, many stories in the steampunk genre are completely lacking in that particular gas (and I’m not talking about dieselpunk or gaspunk – the fuel of the moment doesn’t make the genre).
So what the heck?
It is my opinion that the real engine of steampunk resides in the -punk. Much like its cybernetic cousin, steampunk espouses an inherent DIY ethos that stems from the original cultural movement of punk. Despite the shiny brass and well-laced corsets, there’s a grittiness around the edges that hints that these worlds are worlds in which the characters must not just survive, but create and explore.
Steampunk exists always on the edge of discovery. There’s a deep-seated spirit of exploration, possibility, and a sense that those who society forgot will be able to carve a space for themselves. It’s a hopeful genre, a fuck-you-I’ll-do-as-I-please genre. A genre that takes its own reins and makes its own rules, stealing gratuitously from other genres to shape something outside the lines.
Genre is not aesthetic alone, it is ethos, and these three stories do a beautiful, charming, and ultimately surprising job of delving into the heart of the machine.
I hope you will enjoy them as I have.
Red Maiden and Gold Falcon by Virginia M. Mohlere
The Scribbling Windhund by L. J. Longo
The Thief’s Darling by Lauren Butcher