Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Coming Revolution

Or, What's So Punk About Steampunk Erotica

J. Blackmore

It's probably the most common criticism you hear about steampunk: it's all goggles and steam engines and pretty clothes, and there's almost nothing about the Victorian age's major crimes. You don't often read steampunk adventures that deal with crushing poverty, cultural jingoism, and sexual repression and hypocrisy.

While it might be fair to say this of most steampunk fiction, it's not true of all, and it is certainly not true of steampunk erotica. What could be more compromising than seeing the Victorians with their pants around their ankles and their petticoats flipped over their heads? The rebels and rogues, adventurers and heroes that populate these tales live their lives in direct opposition to the status quo; theirs and ours. Not only are they infused with the spirit of independence and exploration, but they are also in tune with their desires.

There are few acts more punk than orgasming, loud and long, when the world wants you to shut up and behave yourself.

Generally speaking, erotica is a repository for fantasies, both commonplace and forbidden. The world of steampunk is often one of theocracy, conservatism, rigid class structures, and rampant technological progress. The parallels with our own society are not hard to find, and it is easy to sympathize with these brave men and women, and easier still to fantasize about them.

All this is not to say, however, that pornographic steampunkery is nothing but preachy metaphor with tits thrown in. No, there is just as much scatological humor as there are poignant movements of flesh. Corsetted heroes gleefully frolic with goggled air pirates. The cheeky writers telling their stories come up with words like cunnotage, and do everything in their power to make their gallant protagonists sweat. It's funny, it's thought-provoking, and it's very very hot.

And it is completely deserving of the "punk" suffix. Humans coming together, regardless of creed or nation, to howl and scream and groan and grind is, well, beautiful. It's a rough and pure poetry that flies in the face of arbitrary rules, and speaks of the essential core we all share. And hey, if some people like their freedom-fucking with a side of leather and clockwork, that just adds color to the dreamscape.

J. Blackmore is an assistant editor at Circlet Press. ( She is the editor of Circlet's steampunk erotica trilogy, Like a Wisp of Steam, Like Clockwork, and Like a Corset Undone. These books can be purchased at the Circlet website, or at and

Also, my steampunk blog is at

Buy Links for Like A Corset Undone (KB: Don't miss Like a Wisp of Steam and Like Clockwork, also from Circlet. I reviewed Like A Wisp of Steam for Erotica Revealed and loved it!)


  1. I'm intrigued by juxtaposing the social conservatism of the steam era to the rebellion that is punk. I like the idea of staying true to the available technology but "pushing it" and am having fun finding my own voice.

    As I work on my steampunk story, I find that critical voice in the back of my head saying "but is it steampunk?"

    Well, I think it is; time will tell if the editor agrees. Either way, I'm enjoying the ride.

    Thanks to all who have contributed to this week's steampunk explorations.

    I even posted a little exploration on the sex element of steam at my blog on the subject yesterday.

    You folks definitely helped me Get a Grip on steampunk!


  2. Welcome to the Grip, J.,

    Your post definitely got me thinking. I've been working on a steampunk story most of the week, but with a niggling sense of discomfort about how faithful I'm being to the genre. As it happens, however, my characters are both outlaws, in a sense. So, naively perhaps, I may have got it right.


  3. J,

    I always enjoy reading the thoughts of editors and your views on Steampunk were an intersting and entertaining defence of a genre that (in my opinion) doesn't need to be defended.

    I suspect I will now lose a week checking out your blog and immersing myself more in this fascinating world.



  4. I went to your website and was astonished to discover there really is such a thing as a steam powered phallus.

    I'm just starting to discover Circlet Press. I'd heard of Cecila Tan before because I was always looking for her vampire stories in antholgies. She was my guest here once which was a thrill for me.

    Which book would you recommend for me to read first to get acquainted with steampunk erotica?


  5. I agree with these other comments. The "but is this steampunk" question pops up as I'm writing too.

    We can point to examples better than we can explain it, but the second we try to make it our own, things get murky.

  6. Thanks for all the comments everyone!

    To Garce: Well, you know I'm going to suggest my own books, Like a Wisp of Steam, Like Clockwork, and Like a Corset Undone. :-) They appeared in that order, so it's probably best to start with Wisp.

    If you want something in print, I'm particularly fond of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist.

  7. There's a story Theodore Sturgeon (I think) once told on himself: He was venting to his editor (H.L. Gold, I also think) about how he'd really like to write a story to take down Sen. Joseph McCarthy, because it was all so unjust, unfair, un-American.

    And the editor told him, "Go home and write a story about a man who has an argument with his wife."

    Meaning, I took it, that no matter what you write, your true feelings will come out.

    So, FWIW, in my writing I never (well, hardly ever) try to force social or political commentary. It just seems to happen, & I hope it doesn't overwhelm the entertainment value.


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