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Steam•Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, an anthology edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft and published by Top Shelf, an imprint of Torquere Press Publishers.

This anthology consists of fifteen stories mixing lesbians and steampunk in various concentrations. For me, steampunk is mixing the untapped potential of the new sciences and technologies of the industrial age through the 1920s to the punk ethos from cyberpunk, in other words how the new technology changes and oppresses the world. By my definition, three of the stories do not fit into the steampunk genre but they are still quite interesting all the same.

Now, the lesbianism ranges from chaste romances to some quite explicit encounters, so if such is not your cup of tea be warned. The characters and setting range across the United (and disunited) States, to Haiti and South America, Africa, the Middle East and India, across much of the globe and even to other worlds which have parallels to our own. The first thing that struck me was how much of this anthology is an example of Hite’s Law: "All alternate histories produce zeppelins." Almost all of the stories feature zeppelins and, as steampunk is almost by definition alternate history it conforms nicely to that Law. Though Sara M. Harvey’s “Where the Ocean Meets the Sky” gets bonus points for incorporating both Emperor Norton and airship privateers in her story.

The stories are all well-written, though some I found more engaging than other which is always the case in an anthology. In general, the further they drifted from the roots of steampunk, the less enjoyable I found them but that may partly an expectation clash and not be a fair reflection on those stories.

Looking at it from the point of view of a roleplaying gamer, the question of how inspirational is it always comes to mind. The answer: Yes, it is very inspirational. Especially for a steampunk or alternate history campaign there are many ideas here to spark games or pieces of games. There are a wide variety of characters, ideas and places that can be easily be lifted and re-imagined as needed to fit into a game world.

While it might seem that this anthology is aimed at a rather niche market, however if you have interest in steampunk short fiction and do not mind a bit of romance on the side, it may be well worth a read as it provides a new perspective.

The book releases in January and you can preorder Steam•Powered directly from JoSelle Vanderhooft until Thanksgiving, after January you can buy it from Torquere Press Publishers.

Notes: This reviews is based on an advanced readers copy of the anthology given to me for the purpose of the review but I have also pre-ordered a copy for myself. Crossposted from my Sea of Stars RPG Design Journal.
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