Purely Professional is out in the world, making people happy and horny and curious about their next door neighbors and the potential of remote-control vibrators. What’s been happening in the meantime?
Well, for one, my agent has been shopping around Combustion, which is a Steampunk erotic romance. We’ve been getting some offers, which is very exciting, and I can’t wait to tell you more. In the meantime, though, I thought I’d answer a very important question: what the hell is Steampunk?
I like to describe Steampunk as Victorian Futurism. It’s in the family of speculative fiction, meaning it’s based in a world that differs from ours by a few key factors. As you might guess, the world runs on steam power, so machinery is fundamentally different from how it occurs today. There’s also an anti-establishment core to Steampunk, the “punk” aspect, if you will: many Steampunk stories have a dystopian element to them, a corrupt government that should be subverted or overthrown. The aesthetic is usually Victorian in nature: corsets and top hats, but with a mechanical bent: goggles, brass, lots of gears. Sometimes, though, it’s more of a “Wild West” backdrop; the Joss Whedon classic series Firefly has many Steampunk elements. The fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells is very Steampunk in nature. If you imagine the future through the eyes of an 18th Century inventor, you get Steampunk. Pop on over to The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences for more.
The appeal, of course, is multifaceted. The aesthetic of Steampunk is simply gorgeous. Every year, I attend Templecon in Warwick, RI, which is a Steampunk-themed gaming convention, and every year I dress up and spend most of my time flailing in awe at other people’s costumes. Beyond that, I love the way the genre plays with the complex morality of the Victorian era. The Victorian era was a time of great contradiction: on one hand, propriety was highly valued, sexuality repressed. On the other hand, though, prostitution was widespread and unregulated, even tacitly accepted as part of the culture.
Personally, I love the opportunity to explore female sexuality through Steampunk. In Combustion, my main character Astrid Bailey invents “felicitation devices,” aka sex toys, and teaches her naïve clients how to find pleasure in their own bodies. In her attempts to legitimize her business, she faces prejudice as both a woman inventor and a proponent of female sexual empowerment. In partnering with Eli Rutledge, an established business owner, she encounters a new problem: falling in love.
I love Astrid’s sexual confidence. She loves (and sleeps with) both men and women. Astrid’s bisexuality is, for me, a deliberate pushback against sexual repression, but ultimately, the story isn’t about her sexuality as much as it’s about her learning to give and accept love.
And, of course, it all happens in a Steampunk world. Zeppelins, goggles, hot men in waistcoats? Sign me up.