Sunday, October 2, 2011
Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
I had a major problem with this anthology: most of the stories weren't Steampunk. This, of course, requires that I define Steampunk as a genre, which is harder then it should be. When I think of Steampunk, the sense of place is very strong. What makes a book Steampunk, rather then science fiction, is that it takes place in a place where there shouldn't be advanced technology. I often link Steampunk with alternate history (although alternate history is not always Steampunk) because by going back in time to a period where there wasn't this sort of technology and then placing it in, gives it a very strong sense of place. I have difficult accepting something as Steampunk when we're on a planet after Earth has been destroyed, because they would have already had advanced technology. I have a hard time accepting something can be Steampunk when it's set in the modern day.
I don't know if I explained that well. You can certainly disagree with me and I'd love to here about how other people define Steampunk. So a problem I had with a lot of the stories were that, to me, they were either fantasy or science fiction. If this were just an anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, that would have been totally fine. But I was expecting Steampunk, and I was disappointed.
As it is with anthologies, some of the stories were good and some were not. Some authors are skilled at writing a short story, and some are not. I image it's probably really hard to go from writing your 400 page YA novel to a 5-15 page story that's suppose to have all the feeling, action, character development, etc. as your novel. You're going to get that in any anthology though.
As a side note, for whatever reason, a lot of the stories seemed to revolve around time travel or stopping time or reversing time.
I had two favorite stories, and they happened to be the two last stories in the collection. Perhaps they were saving the best for last? Holly Black wrote a delightful story called "Everything Amiable and Obliging." It was set in the Victorian era, and revolved around a young women falling in love with her dance instructor, who is an automaton. This of course brought up the age-old question of "can robots feel?" It was light and funny and dramatic and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The last story was by M. T. Anderson called "The Oracle Engine" and it was totally amazing. It was set in ancient Rome. So cool! I've never read anything that took Steampunk back that far. It was totally fascinating. The story was taken directly from real Roman history and revolved around the fate of Crassus. I don't want to give anything away because I absolutely loved this story. Read it!
Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories will be available October 11.