Tremendously kind review of the Steam-Powered anthologies!
Originally posted on In Search of Thoughtful SFF:
If, like me, you’ve bounced hard off a lot of steampunk writing because of its un-questioning promotion of Victorian England or a male-dominated, entirely white Wild West With Gears; if you’ve read Amal El-Mohtar’s article Winding Down the House and nodded from start to finish; if you like the potential in steampunk to take apart our conception of the 19th Century and put it back together in new, thoughtful ways – JoSelle Vanderhooft’s anthologies Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories and Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories go some way to providing steampunk with brain and heart (as well as some damn good fun).
For starters, they put the focus thoroughly on the female – and not just the white, straight female, but the queer female and, reasonably often, the queer female of colour.
Amal El-Mohtar herself has a story in the first volume, “To Follow The Waves”, set in a Damascus where dreams are crafted in gems for wealthy buyers. Struggling to create a dream of the sea, which she has never seen, Hessa is suddenly inspired by a beautiful woman she glimpses in a café – and, for the first time, crafts a dream for herself. “To Follow The Waves” is a rare story for showing negative consequences to one person’s fixation on another, as well as the passion and confusion felt by both people; El-Mohtar’s prose is beautiful and shot through with that passion. This is one of the first volume’s finest and most memorable stories, and demands a sequel.