Steampunk romance is a great place to read about couples who embark on a joint heroic journey. In these tales, couples often face a villain or some kind of threat. More often than not, the hero and heroine share equally in the responsibility of saving the day.
The concept is an exciting one, but why does it happen? Which ingredients in steampunk romance foster the joint heroic journey dynamic? I singled out three key reasons based on my reading experience.
1) The alternate history setting element in steampunk romance allows for more progressive interpretations of heroines. They can have occupations beyond those dictated by traditional gender roles. Heroines can be inventors, airship captains, spies, police inspectors, and business owners. Therefore, these women have more resources, influence, and control. They have the freedom to become part of the action and move the plot forward.
The alternate history setting creates a fertile ground in which authors can explore changing attitudes toward gender roles—in both women and men.
One thing I’ve noticed about the steampunk romance heroes I’ve encountered is they are quick to assume the heroines are as capable as they when it comes to solving the mystery or combating the villain. They recognize heroines don’t need permission from anyone to take charge or make important decisions—it’s just what they do.
2) Action-adventure elements also increase the extent to which a steampunk romance couple embarks on a joint heroic journey. Steampunk romance has roots in the Edisonade genre. Victorian-era people were fascinated by technology and engineering and their interest was channeled into tales about inventors and their fantastical devices.
Steampunk romance taps into a similar mindset. But instead of featuring one protagonist, these stories offer two. External threats, like rampaging giant automatons, are common in steampunk romances. The hero and heroine must unite and share their skills to overcome their common foe or risk losing each other. Plus, it’s fun to discover how they integrate their respective talents.
3) Steampunk technology often levels the playing field. You’re as likely to encounter a heroine familiar with steam-powered technology as a hero. Hence, heroines are often on an equal footing with the heroes, which leads to the inevitable joining of forces. Steampunk romance heroes recognize a good thing when they see it, you know?
Heroes and heroines in steampunk romances are excited about what their partner can accomplish with technology. Whether their love interest is piloting an airship or operating a difference engine, steampunk romance heroes and heroines develop an attraction to one another based on talent and skill. Quite the aphrodisiac, eh?
Thanks for reading my speculations about some of the building blocks of the joint heroic journey in steampunk romance. Here’s a list of books that will entertain you with them (in alphabetical order by author):
Skies of Steel by Zoe Archer
The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris (steampunk with romantic elements)
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
The Iron Heart by Leslie Dicken
Love in the Time of Airships by Meredith Holmes (from the anthology SteamPowered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories; Joselle Vanderhooft, Editor)
The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (steampunk with slight romantic elements, but worth mentioning given The X-Files nature of the story)
Steamed by Katie McAlister
Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti
Nights of Fire by Nico Rosso
And, if I may, you’ll also encounter the joint heroic journey in my new Western steampunk romance, Iron Guns, Blazing Hearts (Lyrical Press).
Now I’d like to know your opinion. What are your thoughts about the heroic journey? Would you be interested in reading more stories with that type of fantasy? Why or why not?
Fill out the Rafflecopter form at the end of this post and you’ll be entered in a random drawing for a chance to win a digital copy of Iron Guns, Blazing Hearts!
* Winner’s choice PDF, ePub, or .mobi.
* The deadline to enter is 2/28/2013.
Now for the blurb:
The West just got a whole lot wilder.
A woman on a mission... Scientific achievement isn't enough for Violet Whitcomb. Life working alongside her renowned scientist father is filled with intellectual challenges, but what she truly craves is love and adventure. She’s resigned to a fate of academic pursuits…until a fateful trip across the American frontier changes everything. A rogue inventor known as the Iron Scorpion kidnaps Violet's father and she alone is left to plan his rescue.
A man with a secret... Logan McCoy knows firsthand going up against the Iron Scorpion is suicide, but he can't let Violet waltz into the villain's lair alone. She may be a stranger, but she's also the most compelling woman he's ever known.
A perilous quest... Their attraction is undeniable, but their alliance turns contentious when Violet insists on including a third partner on their mission: her father's latest invention and the world's most advanced automaton, Arthur. The reason for Logan's resistance isn't clear until Violet comes face-to-face with the Iron Scorpion's diabolical devices, and by then, it's far too late.
About the author
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.
She’s also an author in the subgenre. To learn more about her published work, visit www.heathermassey.com.