Steampunk Week

Steampunk Week – Heather Massey on Steampunk Romance

Our last day of our Steampunk Appreciation Weeks is dedicated to Steampunk Romance. First up is an article by Heather Massey, the force behind The Galaxy Express, a dedicated niche blog for all things Science Fiction Romance; her blog champions the genre providing great insights about it as well as giving in-depth reviews of SFR books and profiles/interviews of SFR authors.

And she is here today to talk about Steampunk Romance. Please give it up for Heather!


Steampunk Romance: Love, Gadgets, & Themes

What is steampunk romance? Easy. It’s a tale that combines steampunk and romance. (What, you thought it was a trick question?!) It’s simultaneously that simple—and yet that complex, too.

To qualify, as an ambassador for science fiction romance, I’m here to discuss science fiction based steampunk romance. Sometimes the lines are a bit blurry, but I leave the dissection of paranormal/fantasy based steampunk to others. So let’s dive into it, shall we?

We know all about romance. As for steampunk, a comprehensive look at its nature can be found here in Bloggers Talk Steampunk. In a nutshell, Romance + Victorian-era science fiction=Awesomesauce.

Currently, steampunk romance is more about its potential. As a reader, it’s simultaneously frustrating, because I want to read as many steampunk romances as possible Right Now, and exciting, because it’s fascinating to witness the birth of a new subgenre. Steampunk romance has so much ooh-la-la to offer readers who seek character-driven steampunk stories as well as those who crave a new twist on romance. To wit:

*Fresh, inventive settings

The Victorian era is an underexploited time period as far as romances go, and that goes double for alternate history Victorian settings. London, England? Check.The American Old West? Double-check. Mars? Triple-check!

*A shiny new set of characters

Think airship pirates, inventors, and rugged desperadoes. Think secret agents, submarine captains, and even automatons! But if you think heroines can’t play any of these characters, think again. Steampunk settings allow more latitude for heroines, especially if the worldbuilding sufficiently accounts for whichever progressive roles they inhabit. To me, this represents a creative new way authors can air out, reinvent or altogether annihilate those dusty old romance tropes.

*Unique aesthetic

The steampunk aesthetic is an intoxicating blend of old and new, shiny and sooty, brassy and grungy. Authors can introduce readers to all manner of inventions, gadgets, and accessories, many of which are stylishly integrated with simple household items such as a cane, umbrella, or pair of glasses. In other words, one pair of brass goggles to rule them all.

But hold your gears for a moment. Steampunk romance isn’t just about aesthetics. At least, I hope it’s not.There remains the question of how much theme, and how much romance to include for a story to qualify as steampunk romance (as opposed to steampunk with romantic elements). Variety is good, but rather than make the steampunk concepts a mere backdrop, I’d encourage authors to explore the various themes that make the steampunk setting so rich. There should be a reason a hero and heroine belong—and fall in love—in a steampunk age. If they can be transplanted to any other setting without a loss of plot or romance, then the author is writing the wrong story.

However, just because there are themes doesn’t mean a steampunk romance can’t be fun or lighthearted in nature. Steampunk romance can explore dystopian themes, or it can tap into the more light-hearted, action/adventure Edisonade roots of steampunk. The themes and science fictional elements may not be as prevalent as those found in traditional steampunk, but they can certainly run as deep.

Despite steampunk romance’s modest beginnings, it’s already picking up, er, steam across the pond as well. And this month, my magazine column for Germany’s romance magazine LoveLetter is part of an in-depth steampunk romance feature. Not only that, but from what I’m hearing, editors are keen to acquire it.

Where steampunk romance is heading may be as elusive as aether, but in the meantime, here is a list of books you can read now, as well as those on the horizon:

CLOCKWORK HEART—Dru Pagliassotti

Circlet Press’ Like A Wisp of Steam anthology
Cherry Tart—Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks (Ellora’s Cavemen, Vol. 3)
TANGLED IN TIME—Pauline Baird Jones
STEAMED—Katie MacAlister


THE IRON DUKE—Meljean Brook (October, 2010)
WILD CARDS & IRON HORSES—Sheryl Nantus (August, 2010)
Forthcoming, as-yet-untitled steampunk romance anthology from Samhain Publishing

If you’re interested in learning more about steampunk romance as well as following news in this subgenre, come aboard The Galaxy Express where I’ll be featuring periodic updates under the title Steampunk Romance Watch.

Now, let’s break it down further. In the future, what kind of steampunk romance stories would you like to read? What types of steampunk heroes, heroines and gadgets would excite you?

Are you interested in a particular locale? What about tone, atmosphere, heat level, and themes? Would you prefer science fiction based steampunk romances, or are you interested in tales that include fantasy elements?


Thanks, Heather!

So what do you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

And don’t forget to come back later today to check on our second guest post by Meljean Brook talking about her new series: The Iron Seas and for a chance to win a copy of CLOCKWORK HEART by Dru Pagliassotti!


  • Moonsanity (Brenda H.)
    April 17, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve read Steamed and loved it for the quirky characters. I’m fairly new to reading steampunk, but I have a feeling steampunk romance will end up being my favorite as far as reading choices. I agree that just plugging two people into a steampunk themed story with no “connection” to the world would not come across well. I’m sure as steampunk becomes more and more popular we’ll see this happen.

    A variation on two characters that would be cool in a steampunk world would be the ship’s mechanic
    and doctor from Joss Wheadon’s Firefly. I love the idea of a “hands on” woman who can build and create like that mixed with a scientist, who has all the education, theory and traditional intelligence. Put them together and that would be a cool story. Just a thought. 😆

    I’m all for a high heat level by the way:)

  • Heather Massey
    April 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    “ship’s mechanic”–Moonsanity, I’m so there. Swooning, even. Superb idea! Thanks for commenting!

    Ana and Thea, thanks for inviting me along for the ride on your most esteemed airship!

  • Jerkin Agbu
    November 5, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    I like this books I want to post this in my social website acounts. Cute stories dudes.I want to try this.

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