On the other hand, I was slightly disappointed by Cleis Press' other steampunk title this year, Carnal Machines, edited by D.L. King. I liked a few of the stories in that anthology, but others just weren't interesting enough. I believe the key to good steampunk is the same as the key to good erotic romance: the beauty is all in the details.
Fortunately, Wright's editing instincts do not fail her, and Steamlust is full of glorious details. It's the clockwork lovebirds in Sylvia Day's "Iron Hard." In Vida Bailey's time-travel adventure "Undergrounded: Hannah Hawthorne and the Stranded Time Ship," it's the giant copper bathtub with its jets and nozzles. It's Pete's "melted chocolate" eyes in "Green Cheese" by Lisabet Sarai and the contents of the secret room in Andrea Dale's spiritualist tale "Lost Souls."
My personal favorite of the collection was "Sparks" by Anna Meadows. It imagines a Victorian version of Prohibition and a young smuggler who makes illicit intoxicating spirits from delicate flower petals. She's reunited with her lost love, Ezra, possibly the anthology's most drool-worthy male: "The scent of violets and roses mixed with the soft spice of ashes and cloves. Cambric and ash: it identified him as well as a fingerprint." Even Ezra's perpetually dirty fingernails and calloused hands are endearing in this sensual tale. But then there's Ezra's violet lightning, a very neat little trick...
I don't think anyone will be disappointed by Steamlust. It's all that it claims to be. There are plenty of spinning gears, mechanical limbs, automatons, airships and parasols to delight the steampunk fan. There are erotic twosomes and threesomes steamy enough to satisfy the erotica reader.
On a sidenote, Anna Meadows and I both wrote stories published in the Cleis Press anthology Best Lesbian Romance 2010. Hers is called "Coming Out Party," and mine is called "Soaked." Andrea Dale and Sacchi Green also have stories in both anthologies. I have to admit, I've never read the entire anthology, but I think I will soon.
Disclosure: I received my copy of Steamlust from the publisher at no cost. I was not otherwise compensated for this review, which represents my honest opinion.
Photo: VaughnSaball, Creative Commons License