Guest Blog by Rhonda Parrish
I first heard of steampunk twelve years ago at the World Fantasy Convention in Calgary. A friend and I were walking through the vendor room and there was a book called ‘Best of Steampunk’ or ‘Ultimate Steampunk Collection’ or something like that. When we asked the bookseller about what steampunk was she basically said, “Buy the book and find out.” Which was spectacularly unhelpful and gave me the impression she didn’t actually know the answer.
I’m not sharing this story just to throw shade at some unnamed bookseller, but because I think that since then steampunk has become pretty well-known. Even if people haven’t read much of it, they know the aesthetic—gears and goggles, steam and airships. Wild west and Victorian settings. We all get it. Gaslamp fantasy might be a little less common, but it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s set in the same Victorian/Edwardian era as steampunk, but with a focus less on tech and more on the supernatural and magic. Often with an obvious gothic influence.
That gothic influence shows itself in a lot of the stories in this collection. In fact, this is probably the darkest anthology I’ve ever put together for World Weaver Press. I think it’s partly a reflection of my personal tastes, partly because of the influence of the genre, but probably mostly a sign of the times. Submissions for this anthology closed about two weeks after my city started to lockdown as a response to COVID-19. That means while North American authors probably didn’t have the new coronavirus front of mind when they were writing their stories, I definitely had it front of mind when I was reading and selecting them. There’s no way that couldn’t have played a part in which stories I chose to include, even though it wasn’t a conscious part of my decision making.
The good news, though, is that dark doesn’t mean depressing. While these stories do tackle some serious issues in fairy tale form (imperialism, equal rights, racism, exploitation), and they absolutely go to some dark places, many (most?) also find a spark of optimism or hope in the darkness. There aren’t a lot of traditional happily ever afters in these fairy tales, but there are a lot of satisfying endings and these days that is a thing to be treasured.
Like a magpie, Rhonda Parrish is constantly distracted by shiny things. She’s the editor of many anthologies and author of plenty of books, stories and poems. She lives with her husband and three cats in Edmonton, Alberta, and she can often be found there playing Dungeons and Dragons, bingeing crime dramas or cheering on the Oilers.
Her website, updated regularly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com and her Patreon, updated even more regularly, is at https://www.patreon.com/RhondaParrish.
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