Steampunk World anthology gives the globe a voice

Why Kickstarter SF anthology Steampunk World is well worth backing

Alliteration Ink has been producing fun anthologies for a little while now. Their new one, Steampunk World, is six days from the end of the line on Kickstarter and it’s a little different to what you’d expect from the genre. Editor Sarah Hans explained everything…

Tell us a little about what you view as steampunk.

Steampunk is, traditionally, Victorian-era science fiction. That can be stretched a bit to include science fiction and even fantasy that has a particular aesthetic, an aesthetic that is inspired by the mid-late 1800s and the steam-powered technology that comes from it.

There are some hallmarks of steampunk that tell you what genre you’re reading, like airships, cogs, goggles and automatons. There are also elements that are less obvious, like a sense of optimism and grandeur. Many authors imagine how our world would have been different had steam technology become popular instead of digital. That’s why many people refer to steampunk as a type of alternate history.

What are the negatives of the genre?

The vast majority of the writing about steampunk takes place in Britain and the United States, though, believe it or not, the 1800s actually happened all over the world. Though much of this writing is very brilliant, it is rather limited in scope. I feel, as do my authors and publisher, that there are more stories to be told.

How does Steampunk World address that?

We are trying to view Steampunk through the lens of cultures outside of Britain and the US. There’s nothing inherently wrong with fiction set in those places, but it’s been done. A lot. Meanwhile, stories with a steampunk aesthetic that take place outside of these cultures are less common.

One of steampunk’s strengths is that, because it’s an alternate history, we don’t have to conform to what’s written in history books. We can imagine a world in which steam technology reached the furthest corners of the globe. That, of course, then begs the question: How does that change history? How does that change reality for people all over the world? What if Hong Kong was never captured by the British because they had an army of brass warriors? What if Sri Lanka conquered the world because of its fleet of unstoppable submarines? The possibilities are endless. And we can examine questions of humanity and the nature of hope while we explore these possibilities.

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What was your submissions process?

Because I didn’t have time to read slush, I invited authors with whom I wanted to work during the summer of 2013. I received a number of really excellent submissions that I committed to buy, but I didn’t receive enough submissions from writers of colour. So I extended the deadline to October and put out a special call for authors of colour. I also invited authors of colour who were recommended to me. Thanks to that second call, I received a second wave of submissions and I was able to fill out the anthology.

If the Kickstarter funds a Volume 2, then I would like to make that book an open-call project. So, any writer would be invited to submit. That’s important to me because there are a lot of talented voices out there, and I’d like to help them find a broader audience. “Discovering” the amazing work of a writer who was previously unknown to me is the most fun part of editing.

Can I tell you about Emily Cataneo or Malon Edwards? They’re both amazing and have stories in Steampunk World and I get a little thrill every time I think about that.

One of the things that fascinates me about projects like this is the ease with which they create global teams of authors. Who have you got on the list for this book?

We have a number of award-winning authors like Jay Lake, Ken Liu, Nisi Shawl, Lucy A Snyder, and Lillian-Cohen Moore, as well as some well-known steampunk authors like Jaymee Goh, Balogun Ojetade, Pip Ballantine, and SJ Chambers.

And we have other authors from all over the world: Indrapramit Das, Lucien Soulban, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. It’s a really exciting mixture of established voices and new ones, familiar and foreign. I think there’s a little something for everyone in this collection and I can’t wait to share these stories.

What’s your recommendation for a single piece of steampunk newcomers should read?

That’s a tough question, because steampunk is such a broad genre that covers so much. I really liked Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker and Gail Carriger’s Soulless, as well as Jay Lake’s Mainspring and Brandon Sanderson’s recent novel, The Rithmatist. There are a number of “steampunk classics” like The Anubis Gates, The Difference Engine, and Leviathan, which people always recommend to me, but which I’ve never gotten around to reading.

And of course there are a few anthologies like Steampunk and Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, both edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, that can give readers shorter, more bite-sized examples of the genre, like an appetizer that gives you a hint of the meal to come. Anthologies are great for helping readers find writers whose voices appeal to them.

You can still back Steampunk World on Kickstarter and find out more about Sarah Hans on her website.