Interested in traveling back in time and across dimensions? Good, because I’ve got a collection of steampunk short fiction to transport you to other worlds. The steam and clockwork-powered robots in these stories range from evil to enchanting, from sentient beings to human-piloted machines of mass destruction. The one thing they all have in common is being highly entertaining.
The Mark V Eleganté by Nelson Stanley
The Mark V Eleganté is a fantastic audio short over at Gallery of Curiosities. It’s set around an insanely dangerous race of massive steampunk contraptions where the only rule is that anything goes, and stuff gets smashed up worse than when the Hulk comes to town. The main character has a memorable voice, and the narrator fits him so perfectly that I can’t imagine anyone else reading it. The story manages to be both super fun and really tragic at the same time, and you should definitely give it a listen.
If you like podcasts and steampunk in general, Gallery of Curiosities is a delightful little corner of the internet, and you won’t regret checking out the other stories they’ve published.
The Governess and the Lobster by Margaret Ronald
A title like The Governess and the Lobster promises some quirky humor, and this short story doesn’t disappoint—but it doesn’t sacrifice depth and meaning for comedy. There are thoughts about education and cultural imperialism tucked away amid the witty dialogue and cool sci-fi concepts. Set in a unique desert city where humans and sentient automatons live side by side, the short story gives a brief glimpse of a vast and diverse fantasy world. It’s told through a series of letters between a governess and her matron, with interruptions by precocious children and mechanical mail-devouring lobsters.
It can be read in Issue #95 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
The Nightingale of Atlantic City by Meg Merriet
This is another sad one, and I don’t usually read sad stories for pleasure, but The Nightingale of Atlantic City is just so beautiful. It alternates between the present day as the beautiful clockwork automaton known as The Nightingale sings at an upscale nightclub and the past as the narrator tells the story of how she came to be. The setting of an alternate 1800s Atlantic city feels vivid, and though you know how the story’s going to end (in tragedy), that doesn’t make it any less of an emotional journey.
Grab a box of tissues and go to Wattpad to read the story, which was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Mad Scientist Journal.
Balfour and Meriwether in the Adventure of the Emperor’s Vengeance by Daniel Abraham
This one has a Sherlock Holmes vibe that I love, though to the best of my knowledge of Sherlock Holmes cannon, he and Watson never ventured into the tunnels below London to fight evil clockwork fallen angels. Like The Governess and the Lobster, the title Balfour and Meriwether in the Adventure of the Emperor’s Vengeance lets you know exactly what you’re in for. This is a classic adventure story that mixes a mysterious mood with tense action scenes as the protagonists track an unknown threat from a museum murder scene through the foggy streets of London. And the ending is ominous in the best sort of way.
You can listen to it in Episode 138 of PodCastle, which clocks in at nearly an hour, so do yourself a favor and put it on next time you’re stuck in traffic.
And that’s all from me. What are your favorite steampunk stories, short or long? Shout ‘em out in the comments!
Or keep reading with my second list of steampunk short stories here.