Good Minds Suggest—Elizabeth Bear's Favorite Steampunk

February, 2015
Elizabeth Bear

Rate this book
Clear rating
From noir cyberpunk (Jenny Casey) to heroic fantasy (Eternal Sky) to surreal science fiction (Jacob's Ladder) and more, author Elizabeth Bear builds big, imaginative worlds bursting with detail. Her debut, Hammered, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel in 2006, and in the decade since, she's published more than 30 novels, novellas, and short story collections. The Massachusetts-based writer now takes on the steampunk genre with her new Gold Rush-inspired adventure, Karen Memory. Her fiery heroine is a brothel worker in a gritty, steam-powered Wild West mining town, where a serial killer has just murdered a fellow prostitute.

Bear tells Goodreads, "I came to steampunk sort of big-endian, with the card-based role-playing game Castle Falkenstein and the Call of Cthulhu role-playing supplement Cthulhu by Gaslight back in the 1990s. So those, childhood exposure to The Wild Wild West in reruns, Tim Powers, weird westerns, and the Gibson/Sterling foundational cornerstone The Difference Engine were my entrée to the oeuvre, as it were."

"Well, and of course I've read the vast majority of the original source material—Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Time Machine, Frankenstein—the science fiction of the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian era. But in this list I'm going to concentrate on some more modern and less-cited works."

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Goodreads Author)
Rate this book
Clear rating
"This was a breakout novel for Priest, and it deserves the fuss. In addition to being fast-paced, witty, and featuring a brainy female protagonist of a certain age, this book single-handedly undermines the common argument that steampunk consists entirely of narratives focused on glorifying adventuring British nobles and rapacious industrialists. There are no Victorian Bruce Waynes to be found among the heroes of this novel—just a working-class single mom with a factory job and more guts than sense."


The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs (Goodreads Author)
Rate this book
Clear rating
"This is a weird, mad little book that transposes Roman legionaries carrying bound demons in shooting irons and cannibal elves into a landscape inspired by the American West. Blood everywhere."


Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine
Rate this book
Clear rating
"A beautifully written novel of a steampunk circus, love, loss, betrayal, and a vicious game of personal politics among a group of broken people who believe that only one of them can learn to fly."


The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Goodreads Author)
Rate this book
Clear rating
"This book pushes every button I have. It's the story of the half-breed-Goblin son of the Elven emperor, child of a discarded minor wife, who is thrust upon the throne unexpectedly and unprepared when the terrorists (or perhaps freedom fighters, if you prefer) bring down the airship upon which the entire royal family is traveling, killing his father and older brothers. He's forced to survive the vicious politics of the imperial court with no training and less experience. Everything about this book is a delight."


Jonah Hex: Shadows West by Joe R. Lansdale & Timothy Truman
Rate this book
Clear rating
"This is cheating a little because it's a comic book run collected in a graphic novel, but I would be absolutely remiss if I didn't mention the Joe Lansdale/Tim Truman run on DC's Jonah Hex, published entirely as Jonah Hex: Shadows West. This saga of a horribly disfigured Civil War veteran in a Wild West gone weird was 'grimdark' before grimdark was a thing, but it also manages to be satirical, darkly hilarious, and not take itself seriously at all. I came very close to sliding a Jonah Hex homage into Karen Memory. If there's ever a sequel, maybe I will."


Bonus: Everfair by Nisi Shawl
"As a Bonus Track, which is to say, a work that hasn't been published yet but that I'm dying to read, I'd like to add Nisi Shawl's Everfair, which is coming out this year from Tor. [It's] promised to be a steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo. I love Nisi's short fiction. This is her first published novel. I can't wait."


Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Steampunk



Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Gayle Francis (new)

Gayle Francis Moffet I don't understand how "Jonah Hex" is "cheating a little." It meets the criteria of being steampunk. The only difference between it and the other titles is that the rest are prose and JH is a comic book, and I don't think the particular medium adds or negates whether or not a story is steampunk. Steampunk is a genre that can pass through any medium. Comic books are a different medium than novels, but it doesn't mean comic books are telling stories that are less steampunk than what is being told in novels.


message 2: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Bear I ran out of room before I got to R.S. Belcher's SIX GUN TAROT, too. So many good books, so little time...


message 3: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret I looked for more info about Everfair by Nisi Shawl and all that came up on Tor.com was an article dated 2012 by Cat Rambo. There is no release announcement.


message 4: by Sean (new)

Sean O'brien As far as graphic noel go, the comic book "Steampunk Corsairs" wedges in nicely. No cheating at all.


message 5: by Gayle Francis (new)

Gayle Francis Moffet Sean wrote: "As far as graphic noel go, the comic book "Steampunk Corsairs" wedges in nicely. No cheating at all."

Westward is also up there.


message 6: by Jhj (new)

Jhj Beynen Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld!!!


message 7: by Ritanna (new)

Ritanna The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels and Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series.


message 8: by Terri (new)

Terri The trilogy that starts with "Mainspring" by the late, brilliant Jay Lake.


message 9: by Gayle Francis (new)

Gayle Francis Moffet Ritanna wrote: "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels and Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series."

Oh, I just read the first trade of League! I liked the overall story, and the visuals were fantastic.


back to top