Friday, May 24, 2013

What We’re Reading: Steampunk

Steampunk, the sub-genre of science fiction set primarily in the 19th century and featuring fantastic, often steam-powered technologies with a Victorian flare, has been steadily growing in popularity over the last two decades. But what if you are more of a fantasy buff than a sci-fi reader? Never fear, prolific editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have just the collection for you: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells.

With this collection, Datlow and Windling have gathered a marvelous batch of all-new Victorian aged/tinged fantasy stories (a new fantasy sub-genre referred to as Gaslamp fantasy) by some of the genre’s best authors. Of particular note are:

"Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells" by Delia Sherman: When a contemporary researcher attempts to uncover some of the Queen’s most guarded secrets, he gets more than he bargained for...

"The Fairy Enterprise" by Jeffrey Ford: An unscrupulous entrepreneur believes he has come up with a foolproof and profitable plan for a new industry: Grow fairies and sell them to the public.

"Smithfield" by James P. Blaylock: A photographer attempting to photograph London before the newly installed electric lights are activated discovers something extraordinary. (Be sure to read the author’s note after the story, it is as enjoyable and thought-provoking as the story itself!)

"Phosphorus" by Veronica Schanoes: A touching and horrifying story that illuminates a London not typically seen in Steampunk/Gaslamp fiction.

"Their Monstrous Minds" by Tannith Lee: A reclusive scientist dabbles in realms better left to the gods, with both expected and surprising results.

In addition to editing the collection, Terri Windling provides a wonderful introduction that gives the reader insight into the Victorian age and its fascination with the supernatural, as well as how that fascination seems to be manifesting itself in contemporary culture. There is also a list of recommended reading at the end of the collection.

Datlow and Windling have been editing must-read collections of fairy tales, fantasy, horror, and science fiction short fantasy for more than 20 years. Other collections include After : Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, The Beastly Bride : Tales of the Animal People, Snow White, Blood Red   and the
The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror annual collection.  

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