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Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution Paperback – October 5, 2012
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VanderMeer’s follow-up to previous similarly themed anthologies targets established fans of the retro-infatuated steampunk movement.”
This third volume of the acclaimed Steampunk anthology series features an international cast of authors and a revolutionary take on the wonders of Steam. As steampunk continues to gain in popularity, these new tales and fresh tropes from established steampunk storytellers and new exciting talents reconcile Victorian pleasantries with passionate ideologies, reinvigorating the genre.”
Demonstrates the power of a well-orchestrated collection...a must-have for any fan of the subgenre.”
The 27 stories gathered here are therefore noteworthy both because of their subject matter as well as for the way they stretch the stylistics of Steampunk in new and different directions.”
These stories have something everyone can enjoy.”
Steampunk III is a strong and sharp collection of writing. You don’t have to be a fan of steampunkor even really know what it isto enjoy this work. In any case, it collects the writing of not only the sharpest, newest voices in steampunk, but also a great many who bring their authority to all types of explorative writing.”
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There are certainly stories between these covers that strain my definition of Steampunk, and I could certainly understand someone taking a given tale and saying "this isn't Steampunk". Indeed, many of the stories I wouldn't have classed as Steampunk, which for me has always been a sub-genre of Science Fiction and/or Fantasy, a matter of the wallpaper and set dressing more than anything.
Which is to say I enjoyed all the stories in this collection without worrying about the genre labeling. I didn't understand what at least one of them was trying to tell me, which means I missed the point of more than one, but the ride was enjoyable for all that. If you have narrower expectations from *your* Steampunk writing you may find this collection less satisfying than perhaps the others in the series, especially the first.
But hey. Why not stretch your definitions for a short while? A book like this is kind of like a good record album; often the tracks you bought it for turn out to be the least enjoyable, and the ones you didn't know about become favorites.
For the first time, Ann VanderMeer is solo editor of the project. (Her husband and frequent collaborative editor Jeff VanderMeer is represented by his fine tale "Fixing Hanover," reprinted from "Extraordinary Engines.") The premise of this anthology is to show the breadth of steampunk, both conceptually and geo-politically. It's a shame that it decides to open with one of its worst stories, Carrie Vaughn's "Harry and Marlowe and the Talisman of the Cult of Egil," which would have been right at home in the terrible "Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance" anthology; it has little plot, some stereotypical airship romance and isn't interesting. The anthology improves greatly from there, and -- with only a few exceptions -- I thoroughly enjoyed the vast majority of its more than two dozen stories. "The Effluent Engine" by N. K. Jemisin could also have easily appeared in "Hot & Steamy" -- and would have been by far the best story in the anthology if it had (it originally appeared in "Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories") -- except that it is good. It has actual steampunk/alternate history elements that are pertinent to the story and a romance. "Peace in Our Time" by Garth Nix is another standout, as is Caitlin R. Kiernan's "Goggles (c. 1910)," "Study, for Solo Piano" by Genevieve Valentine (set in the universe of her novel "Mechanique"), "An Exhortation to Young Writers (Advice Tendered by Poor Mojo's Giant Squid)" by David Erik Nelson, Morgan Johnson, and Fritz Swanson and "Beatrice" by Karin Tidbeck.
Among the stories that I didn't like were Catherynne Valente's "Mother Is a Machine" (maybe it's me; I can't make head or tale of what the story is about) and "The Stoker Memorandum" by Lavie Tidhar (not as incomprehensible as Valente's story, but also needlessly obtuse; Les Lezards do not grow more tolerable or appealing to me upon further acquaintance).
The anthology also attempts to stretch the definition of steampunk, sometimes in ways of which I don't approve. "To Follow the Waves" by Amal El-Mohtar is a fine story, but I'm not sure it is steampunk. El-Mohtar defends the story against such charges in "Winding Down the House: Towards a Steampunk Without Steam," one of four nonfiction articles in the book, but it isn't what the story lacks (as she points out, there are better uses for water in the desert than making steam) that makes me question its inclusion, but what it possesses. The technology and fulcrum about which the story revolves are crystals that capture a dreamer's dreams, allowing others to re-experience those dream compositions a few times. It's an interesting concept, but it doesn't approach the alternate technology that steampunk represents to me. It's more like a fantasy, and a good one. (I don't usually approve of supernatural elements in steampunk.) Perhaps it has alternate history elements that made the author feel it qualified as steampunk -- at least two editors have agreed with her -- but in the essay she makes a telling admission: she wanted it to be steampunk because steampunk is/was popular. That's not a good enough reason.
Worth the time to read if you really liked 1 and 2