Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Where scientists and schoolgirls, fair folk and Romans, intergalactic bandits, utopian revolutionaries, and intrepid orphans solve crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments, consult oracles, and hover over volcanoes in steam-powered airships. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the genre’s established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. Visionaries Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant have invited all-new explorations and expansions, taking a genre already rich, strange, and inventive in the extreme and challenging contributors to remake it from the ground up. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.
Veteran editors Link and Grant serve up a delicious mix of original stories from 14 skilled writers and artists. Among the many high points: Cassandra Clare's creepy "Some Fortunate Future Day," in which a lonely girl, grown bored with her sentient clockwork dolls, develops a crush on a wounded soldier; Libba Bray's subversively funny "The Last Ride of the Glory Girls," which concerns a girl gang robbing trains and dirigibles on another planet (presumably a future Mars) heavily reminiscent of the Old West; Holly Black's humorous and romantic "Everything Amiable and Obliging," whose heroine, a rich orphan, must deal with her feelings toward her cousin and persuade his sister not to marry her clockwork dance instructor; and M.T. Anderson's magisterial "The Oracle Engine," which explores the political complexities resulting from the Roman Empire's development of a Rube Goldberg like supercomputer. Chockful of gear-driven automatons, looming dirigibles, and wildly implausible time machines, these often baroque, intensely anachronistic tales should please steampunks of all ages. As the lovelorn, mechanically gifted "hero" of comics artist Shawn Cheng's contribution says, "The world is a machine. Imperfect parts together in a perfect arrangement." Ages 14 up.