Wednesday, June 9, 2010

SteamPink: Private car - Heather's report

Ladies, before we commence with desserts, I would like to present our guest speaker of the day...

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by Heather Massey
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Who Is The Steampunk Romance Heroine?

When I think about the qualities of a steampunk romance heroine, three words come to mind: resilient, resourceful, and resolute.

A steampunk romance heroine must be resilient when facing the horrors lurking beneath the Victorian aesthetic’s brassy veneer. Living in a steam-powered culture presents new, unparalleled dangers even as the advances in technology herald the coming of a new age.

Our heroine must also be resourceful. Her status as a woman can place her at a disadvantage, and she can’t rely on the resources generally available to her male counterparts. But she frequently uses such underestimation in her favor.

Finally, a steampunk romance heroine is resolute. Filled with purpose, she’s determined to solve the mystery, thwart the villain, or prevent a catastrophe. Her ambition easily rivals that of the hero. Given such circumstances, this kind of heroine is nothing if not progressive. Rather than fearing change, she embraces it.

But what, exactly, does a steampunk romance heroine do?

Thematically, steampunk stories are often about change. Advances in technology invariably spawn new developments in the heroine’s society and culture. So as far as steampunk romance goes, a heroine’s role and status isn’t necessarily gender specific. She can be a spy, a scientist, an airship captain, or, as in the case of Dru Pagliassotti’s CLOCKWORK HEART, a specialized courier who soars through the skies upon wings of Ondinium. Steampunk romance offers the potential for heroines with a fresh twist.

The prevalence of steampunk inventions frequently demands that the steampunk romance heroine is familiar with steam-powered devices or at least has the aptitude to use them. If the heroine is an inventor, then she’s probably created them herself. In Nathalie Gray’s FULL STEAM AHEAD, present-day heroine Laurel Benson-Desmarais travels through a Bermuda Triangle type vortex and must adapt her sailing skills in order to survive among the airship culture of the strange new steampunk world she now inhabits.

Physically, I tend to envision steampunk romance heroines as dainty, slim, or petite rather than Amazonian in stature. Ultimately, it depends on the story, of course, but given the time period (especially if it’s a Victorian setting), I expect heroines who rely more on their sharp wit than their combat skills to extract themselves from sticky situations. Octavia Pye, the heroine of Katie MacAlister’s STEAMED, is an airship captain who must rely on her diplomacy skills—and her ability to keep secrets—in order to complete her mission.

Even if these heroines lack hand-to-hand combat skills, they are willing to physically defend themselves and others if need be. These ladies can be every bit the action-adventure heroine as any other—and if they’re wearing gorgeous, Victorian-style dresses while engaged in derring-do, all the better!

Barring any fighting skills, the steampunk romance heroine has something even better: a sharp wit. Alan Moore’s LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN seduced me with the fantastic dialogue uttered by heroine Mina Murray. Steampunk romance heroines are smart, a quality the hero under-appreciates at his own peril.

She’s also insatiably curious, a quality that can serve as a rich source of conflict. In addition, her curiosity serves as a foundation for her fatal flaw: she can be rash with a tendency to fall headlong into danger. But as is the case with Veronica Hobbes of George Mann’s THE AFFINITY BRIDGE, she is a fierce protector of the innocent and so justice must be served.

The wonderful thing about steampunk romance is that there’s room for all sorts of heroines, from traditional to progressive and everything in between. She’s not limited to just one kind of steampunk setting, either. You can find her in Victorian England, in alternate realities, in the Old West, and even in space.

No matter what she does or where she is, she’s resilient, resourceful, and resolute. It’s no wonder that the hero—and the reader—will fall in love with her.

To become acquainted with the variety of steampunk romance heroines available, here is a list of some current and forthcoming books:

FULL STEAM AHEAD – Nathalie Gray
STEAMED – Katie MacAlister
THE AFFINITY BRIDGE – George Mann (steampunk with romantic elements)
CLOCKWORK HEART – Dru Pagliassotti
WILD CARDS AND IRON HORSES – Sheryl Nantus (August 2010)
THE IRON DUKE – Meljean Brook (October 2010)
TANGLED IN TIME – Pauline Baird Jones (December 2010)

For more information about steampunk romance, I invite you to visit my blog The Galaxy Express for periodic updates.

Heather Massey is a blogger who travels the sea of stars searching for science fiction romance adventures aboard The Galaxy Express. Additionally, she pens a science fiction romance column for LoveLetter, Germany's premier romance magazine.

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by Heather Massey
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* image source Mina of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

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