About SteamPowered, Lesbian Steampunk Stories
edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft
The fifteen tantalizing, thrilling, and ingenious tales in Steam-Powered
put a new spin on steampunk by putting women where they belong -- in the
captain’s chair, the laboratory, and one another’s arms. Here you’ll meet
inventors, diamond thieves, lonely pawn brokers, clockwork empresses,
brilliant asylum inmates, and privateers in the service of San Francisco’s
eccentric empire. Though they hail from across the globe and universes far
away, each character is driven to follow her own path to independence and to
romance. The women of Steam-Powered push steampunk to its limits and beyond.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Build a Better Engine
by JoSelle Vanderhooft – 4
The Effluent Engine by N. K. Jemisin -- 8
Brilliant by Georgina Bruce -- 46
Owl Song by D. L. MacInnes -- 62
Where the Ocean Meets the Sky by Sara M. Harvey -- 95
Suffer Water by Beth Wodzinski -- 125
Steel Rider by Rachel Manija Brown -- 139
Truth and Life by Shira Lipkin -- 161
The Hands That Feed by Matthew Kressel -- 164
Love in the Time of Airships by Meredith Holmes -- 189
Under the Dome by Teresa Wymore -- 224
Clockwork and Music by Tara Sommers -- 245
Copper for Trickster by Mikki Kendall -- 262
Sleepless, Burning Life by Mike Allen -- 285
The Padishah Begum's Reflections
by Shweta Narayan -- 319
To Follow the Waves by Amal El-Mohtar -- 351
About the Authors -- 372
From: The Effluent Engine by N. K. Jemisin
New Orleans stank to the heavens. This was either the water, which did not have the decency to confine itself to the river but instead puddled along every street; or the streets themselves, which seemed to have been cobbled with bricks of fired excrement. Or it may have come from the people who jostled and trotted along the narrow avenues, working and lounging and cursing and shouting and sweating, emitting a massed reek of unwashed resentment and perhaps a bit of hangover. As Jessaline strolled beneath the colonnaded balconies of Royal Street, she fought the urge to give up, put the whole fumid pile to her back, and catch the next dirigible out of town.
Then someone jostled her. "Pardon me, miss," said a voice at her elbow, and Jessaline was forced to stop, because the earnest-looking young man who stood there was white. He smiled, which did not surprise her, and doffed his hat, which did.
"Monsieur," Jessaline replied, in what she hoped was the correct mix of reserve and deference.
"A fine day, is it not?" The man's grin widened, so sincere that Jessaline could not help a small smile in response. "I must admit, though; I have yet to adjust to this abysmal heat. How are you handling it?"
"Quite well, monsieur," she replied, thinking, what is it that you want from me? "I am acclimated to it."
"Ah, yes, certainly. A fine negress like yourself would naturally deal better with such things. I am afraid my own ancestors derive from chillier climes, and we adapt poorly." He paused abruptly, a stricken look crossing his face. He was the florid kind, red haired and freckled with skin so pale that it revealed his every thought-in point of which he paled further. "Oh, dear! My sister warned me about this. You aren't Creole, are you? I understand they take it an insult to be called, er...by certain terms."
With some effort Jessaline managed not to snap, do I look like one of them? But people on the street were beginning to stare, so instead she said, "No, monsieur. And it's clear to me you aren't from these parts, or you would never ask such a thing."
"Ah—yes." The man looked sheepish. "You have caught me out, miss; I'm from New York. Is it so obvious?"
Jessaline smiled carefully. "Only in your politeness, monsieur." She reached up to adjust her hat, lifting it for a moment as a badly-needed cooling breeze wafted past.
"Are you perhaps—" The man paused, staring at her head. "My word! You've naught but a scrim of hair!"
"I have sufficient to keep myself from drafts on cold days," she replied, and as she'd hoped, he laughed.
"You're a most charming ne—woman, my dear, and I feel honored to make your acquaintance." He stepped back and bowed, full and proper. "My name is Raymond Forstall."
"Jessaline Dumonde," she said, offering her lace-gloved hand, though she had no expectation that he would take it. To her surprise he did, bowing again over it.
"My apologies for gawking. I simply don't meet many of the colored on a typical day, and I must say—" he hesitated, darted a look about, and at least had the grace to drop his voice. "You're remarkably lovely, even with no hair."
In spite of herself, Jessaline laughed. "Thank you, monsieur." After an appropriate and slightly awkward pause, she inclined her head. "Well, then; good day to you."
"Good day indeed," he said, in a tone of such pleasure that Jessaline hoped no one had heard it, for his sake. The folk of this town were particular about matters of propriety, as any society which relied so firmly upon class differences. While there were many ways in which a white gentleman could appropriately express his admiration for a woman of color—the existence of the gens de couleur libre was testimony to that—all of those ways were simply Not Done in public.
But Forstall donned his hat, and Jessaline inclined her head in return before heading away. Another convenient breeze gusted by, and she took advantage of it to adjust her hat once more, in the process sliding her stiletto back into its hiding place amid the silk flowers.