Extrapolation

Retruthing Steampunk

Caitlín R. Kiernan Rewrites American West Steampunk

Extrapolation (2018), 59, (2), 163–184.

Abstract

Steampunk is the subject of increasing scholarly scrutiny. Some scholars argue steampunk provides a progressive analysis of past, present, and future social conditions. But it is also nostalgic for empire, ignores the historic reality of the Victorian era, and fetishizes technology. This article analyzes five short stories by Caitlín R. Kiernan, who creates a steampunk world centered in the fictional city of Cherry Creek (Denver), Colorado, in the 1890s and early 1900s. In these stories Kiernan works against the typical way four signature steampunk themes (status of women, industrialization, technology, and colonization) are portrayed in steampunk, especially American West steampunk.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Barth, John. “The Literature of Exhaustion.” 1967. The Friday Book: Essays and Other Nonfiction. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1984. 62–76. Print. The Literature of Exhaustion The Friday Book: Essays and Other Nonfiction 62 76 Google Scholar

Beard, David. “Introduction: A Rhetoric of Steam.” Clockwork Rhetoric: The Language and Style of Steampunk. Ed. Barry Brummett. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2014. xiv–xxxii. Print. Introduction: A Rhetoric of Steam Clockwork Rhetoric: The Language and Style of Steampunk xiv xxxii Google Scholar

Bellin, Joshua David. The Demon of the Continent. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2001. Print. The Demon of the Continent Google Scholar

Blackhawk, Ned. Violence over the Land: Indians and Empire in the Early American West. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2006. Print. Violence over the Land: Indians and Empire in the Early American West Google Scholar

Blaylock, James P. “The Ape-Box Affair.” The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives. Burton: Subterranean Press, 2008. 11–25. Print. The Ape-Box Affair The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives 11 25 Google Scholar

Bowser, Rachel A., and Brian Croxall. “Introduction: Industrial Evolution.” Neo-Victorian Studies 3.1 (2010): 1–45. Web. 1 May 2018. Introduction: Industrial Evolution Neo-Victorian Studies 3.1 1 45 Google Scholar

Bowser, Rachel A., and Brian Croxall. “Introduction: It’s About Time: Reading Steampunk’s Rise and Roots.” Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures. Ed. Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2016. xi–xlvi. Print. Introduction: It’s About Time: Reading Steampunk’s Rise and Roots Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures xi xlvi Google Scholar

Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation 1620–1647. 1856. New York: The Modern Library, 1981. Print. Of Plymouth Plantation 1620–1647 Google Scholar

Broadmore, Greg. Dr. Grordbort Presents: Victory. Milwaukie: Dark Horse, 2009. Print. Dr. Grordbort Presents: Victory Google Scholar

Carriger, Gail. Soulless. New York: Orbit, 2009. Print. Soulless Google Scholar

Carriger, Gail. Prudence. New York: Orbit, 2015. Print. Prudence Google Scholar

Carrott, James H., and Brian David Johnson. Vintage Tomorrows: A Historian and a Futurist Journey through Steampunk into the Future of Technology. Sebastopol: Maker Media, 2013. Print. Vintage Tomorrows: A Historian and a Futurist Journey through Steampunk into the Future of Technology Google Scholar

Catlin, George. North American Indians. 1844. Ed. Peter Matthiessen. New York: Penguin, 1989. Print. North American Indians Google Scholar

Clayton, Jay. “Hacking the Nineteenth Century.” Victorian Afterlife: Postmodern Culture Rewrites the Nineteenth Century. Ed. John R. Kucich and Dianne F. Sadoff. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2000. 186–210. Print. Hacking the Nineteenth Century Victorian Afterlife: Postmodern Culture Rewrites the Nineteenth Century 186 210 Google Scholar

Clute, John. “Edisonade.” The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Ed. John Clute and Peter Nicholls. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993. 368–370. Print. Edisonade The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction 368 370 Google Scholar

Crowther, Kathryn. “From Steam Arms to Brass Goggles: Steampunk, Prostheses, and Disability.” Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures. Ed. Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2016. 73–96. Print. From Steam Arms to Brass Goggles: Steampunk, Prostheses, and Disability Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures 73 96 Google Scholar

Csicsery-Ronay Jr., Istvan. The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction. Middleton: Wesleyan UP, 2008. Print. The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction Google Scholar

Di Filippo, Paul. “Victoria.” Steampunk. Ed. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. San Francisco: Tachyon, 2008. 241–294. Print. Victoria Steampunk 241 294 Google Scholar

Dvorak, Ken. Foreword. Steaming into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology. Ed. Cynthia Miller and Julie Anne Taddeo. Lantham: Scarecrow Press, 2013. ix–xi. Print. Steaming into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology ix xi Google Scholar

Ellis, Edward S. The Huge Hunter; Or, The Steam Man of the Prairies. Prod. Blackmask Online. n.p., 2009. Web. 1 May 2018. The Huge Hunter; Or, The Steam Man of the Prairies Google Scholar

Ferguson, Christine. “Surface Tensions: Steampunk, Subculture, and the Ideology of Style.” Neo-Victorian Studies 4.2 (2011): 66–90. Web. 1 May 2018. Surface Tensions: Steampunk, Subculture, and the Ideology of Style Neo-Victorian Studies 4.2 66 90 Google Scholar

Fiedler, Leslie, A. “Introduction.” In Dreams Awake. Ed. Leslie A. Fiedler. New York: Dell, 1975. 1–23. Print. Introduction In Dreams Awake 1 23 Google Scholar

Ford, Jeffrey. “The Seventh Expression of the Robot General.” Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution. Ed. Ann VanderMeer. San Francisco: Tachyon, 2012. 317–324. Print. The Seventh Expression of the Robot General Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution 317 324 Google Scholar

Freneau, Philip. “The Indian Burying-Ground.” The Little Book of American Poets: 1787–1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1915. 3–4. Print. The Indian Burying-Ground The Little Book of American Poets: 1787–1900 3 4 Google Scholar

Gibson, William, and Bruce Sterling. The Difference Engine. London: Gollancz, 1990. Print. The Difference Engine Google Scholar

Gilman, Felix. The Rise of Ransom City. New York: Tor, 2012. Print. The Rise of Ransom City Google Scholar

Gould, Stephen Jay. Time’s Arrow—Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1987. Print. Time’s Arrow—Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time Google Scholar

Hager, Lisa. “The Alchemy of Aether: Steampunk as Reading Practice in Karina Cooper’s Tarnished and Gilded.” Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures. Ed. Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2016. 179–197. Print. The Alchemy of Aether: Steampunk as Reading Practice in Karina Cooper’s Tarnished and Gilded Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures 179 197 Google Scholar

Harrison, Harry. A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! London: Faber & Faber, 1972. Print. A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! Google Scholar

Hurley, Kelly. The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. Print. The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle Google Scholar

Jagoda, Patrick. “Clacking Control Societies: Steampunk, History, and the Difference Engine of Escape.” Neo-Victorian Studies 3.1 (2010): 46–71. Web. 1 May 2018. Clacking Control Societies: Steampunk, History, and the Difference Engine of Escape Neo-Victorian Studies 3.1 46 71 Google Scholar

Jameson, Elizabeth. All That Glitters: Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1998. Print. All That Glitters: Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek Google Scholar

Jeter, K. W. “Letter to the Editor.” Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field 20.4 (1987): 57. Print. Letter to the Editor Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field 20.4 57 Google Scholar

Jeter, K. W. Morlock Night. Nottingham: Angry Robot, 2011. Print. Morlock Night Google Scholar

Kiernan, Caitlín R. “And far away behind their lines, the partisans are stirring in the forest.” The Online Journal of a Construct Sometimes Known as Caitlín R. Kiernan 22 August 2012. http://greygirlbeast.livejournal.com/906780.html. Web. 1 May 2018. Google Scholar

Kiernan, Caitlín R. “Derma Sutra (1891).” Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart. Burton: Subterranean Press, 2012. 191–204. Print. Derma Sutra (1891) Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart 191 204 Google Scholar

Kiernan, Caitlín R. “Goggles (c. 1910).” Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution. Ed. Ann VanderMeer. San Francisco: Tachyon, 2012. 355–366. Print. Goggles (c. 1910) Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution 355 366 Google Scholar

Kiernan, Caitlín R. “The Melusine (1898).” Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart. 113–125. Print. The Melusine (1898) Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart 113 125 Google Scholar

Kiernan, Caitlín R. “The Collier’s Venus (1898).” The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories. Burton: Subterranean Press, 2013. 77–100. Print. The Collier’s Venus (1898) The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories 77 100 Google Scholar

Kiernan, Caitlín R. “The Steam Dancer (1896).” The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories. 15–25. Print. The Steam Dancer (1896) The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories 15 25 Google Scholar

Kohlke, Marie-Luise, and Christian Gutleben. “The (Mis)shapes of Neo-Victorian Gothic.” Neo-Victorian Gothic: Horror, Violence, and Degeneration in the Re-Imagined Nineteenth Century. Ed. Marie-Luise Kohlke and Christian Gutleben. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012. 1–48. Print. The (Mis)shapes of Neo-Victorian Gothic Neo-Victorian Gothic: Horror, Violence, and Degeneration in the Re-Imagined Nineteenth Century 1 48 Google Scholar

Lansdale, Joe R. “The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider Get Down: A Dime Novel.” Steampunk. Ed. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2008. 107–145. Print. The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider Get Down: A Dime Novel Steampunk 107 145 Google Scholar

Lawrence, Jay. “The Perfect Girl.” Carnal Machines: Steampunk Erotica. Ed. D. L. King. Berkeley: Cleis Press, 2011. 71–79. Print. The Perfect Girl Carnal Machines: Steampunk Erotica 71 79 Google Scholar

Limerick, Patricia Nelson. The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West. New York: Norton, 1987. Print. The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West Google Scholar

Mather, Cotton. On Witchcraft. 1692. Mineola: Dover, 2005. Print. On Witchcraft Google Scholar

Midgley, Mary. Science as Salvation. London: Routledge, 1992. Print. Science as Salvation Google Scholar

Miéville, China. “Having a Higher Bar: Interview with James Carrott.” Vintage Tomorrows: A Historian and a Futurist Journey through Steampunk into the Future of Technology. Ed. James H. Carrott and Brian David Johnson. Sebastopol: Maker Media, 2013. 173–184. Print. Having a Higher Bar: Interview with James Carrott Vintage Tomorrows: A Historian and a Futurist Journey through Steampunk into the Future of Technology 173 184 Google Scholar

Miller, Cynthia J. “Airships East, Zeppelins West: Steampunk’s Fantastic Frontiers.” Steaming into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology. Ed. Cynthia Miller and Julie Anne Taddeo. Lantham: Scarecrow Press, 2013. 145–163. Print. Airships East, Zeppelins West: Steampunk’s Fantastic Frontiers Steaming into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology 145 163 Google Scholar

Miller, Cynthia J., and A. Bowdoin Van Riper. “Blending Genres, Blending Times: Steampunk on the Western Frontier.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 39.2 (2011): 84–92. Print. Blending Genres, Blending Times: Steampunk on the Western Frontier Journal of Popular Film and Television 39.2 84 92 Google Scholar

Miller, Cynthia J., and Julie Anne Taddeo. “Introduction.” Steaming into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology. Ed. Cynthia Miller and Julie Anne Taddeo. Lantham: Scarecrow Press, 2013. xv–xxvi. Print. Introduction Steaming into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology xv xxvi Google Scholar

Nevins, Jess. “Introduction: The 19th Century Roots of Steampunk.” Steampunk. Ed. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2008. 3–14. Print. Introduction: The 19th Century Roots of Steampunk Steampunk 3 14 Google Scholar

O’Brien, Jean M. Dispossession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, 1650–1790. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print. Dispossession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, 1650–1790 Google Scholar

O’Brien, Jean M. Firstings and Lastings: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2010. Print. Firstings and Lastings: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England Google Scholar

Pagliassotti, Dru. “Technology and Human Relationships in Steampunk Romance.” Steaming into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology. Ed. Cynthia Miller and Julie Anne Taddeo. Lantham: Scarecrow Press, 2013. 65–87. Print. Technology and Human Relationships in Steampunk Romance Steaming into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology 65 87 Google Scholar

Perschon, Mike. “Seminal Steampunk: Proper and True.” Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures. Ed. Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2016. 153–178. Print. Seminal Steampunk: Proper and True Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures 153 178 Google Scholar

Peschel, Oscar. The Races of Man and Their Geographical Distribution. New York: Appleton, 1894. Print. The Races of Man and Their Geographical Distribution Google Scholar

Powers, Tim. The Anubis Gate. New York: Ace Books, 1983. Print. The Anubis Gate Google Scholar

Priest, Cherie. Boneshaker. New York: Tor, 2009. Print. Boneshaker Google Scholar

Priest, Cherie. “Addison Howell and the Clockroach.” Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution. Ed. Ann VanderMeer. San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2012. 31–36. Print. Addison Howell and the Clockroach Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution 31 36 Google Scholar

Resnick, Mike. The Buntline Special. Amherst: Pyr, 2010. Print. The Buntline Special Google Scholar

Resnick, Mike. The Doctor and the Kid. Amherst: Pyr, 2011. Print. The Doctor and the Kid Google Scholar

Robb, Brian J. Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian Visions. Minneapolis: Voyageur Press, 2012. Print. Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian Visions Google Scholar

Rose, Margaret. “Extraordinary Pasts: Steampunk as a Mode of Historical Representation.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 20.3 (2009): 319–333. Print. Extraordinary Pasts: Steampunk as a Mode of Historical Representation Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 20.3 319 333 Google Scholar

Shawl, Nisi. “The Steampunk That Dare Not Speak Its Name.” Tor.com. 5 Oct 2011. Web. 1 May 2018. The Steampunk That Dare Not Speak Its Name Google Scholar

Showalter, Elaine. Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle. New York: Viking, 1990. Print. Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle Google Scholar

Siemann, Catherine. “The Steampunk City in Crisis.” Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures. Ed. Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2016. 51–70. Print. The Steampunk City in Crisis Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures 51 70 Google Scholar

Smith, John. The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles. Vol. 1. 1624. Bedford: Applewood Books, 2006. Print. The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles Google Scholar

Spurr, David. The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism. Travel Writing, and Imperial Administration. Durham: Duke UP, 1993. Print. The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism. Travel Writing, and Imperial Administration Google Scholar

“Steampunk.” Brave New Worlds: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction. Ed. Jeff Prucher. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Stimpson, Kristin. “Victorians, Machines and Exotic Others: Steampunk and the Aesthetic of Empire.” Clockwork Rhetoric: The Language and Style of Steampunk. Ed. Barry Brummett. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2014. 19–37. Print. Victorians, Machines and Exotic Others: Steampunk and the Aesthetic of Empire Clockwork Rhetoric: The Language and Style of Steampunk 19 37 Google Scholar

Stock, Amanda. “Battle of the Sexes: How Steampunk Should be Informed by Feminism. Gatehouse Gazette 15 (Nov 2010). http://www.ottens.co.uk/gatehouse/Gazette%20-%2015.pdf. Web. 1 May 2018. Google Scholar

Suggs, Jr., George G. Colorado’s War on Militant Unionism: James H. Peabody and the Western Federation of Miners. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1972. Print. Colorado’s War on Militant Unionism: James H. Peabody and the Western Federation of Miners Google Scholar

Taylor, Mary Anne. “Liberation and a Corset: Examining False Feminism in Steampunk.” Clockwork Rhetoric: The Language and Style of Steampunk. Ed. Barry Brummett. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2014. 38–58. Print. Liberation and a Corset: Examining False Feminism in Steampunk Clockwork Rhetoric: The Language and Style of Steampunk 38 58 Google Scholar

Thornton, Russell. American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1990. Print. American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492 Google Scholar

Turner, Frederick Jackson. “The Significance of the Frontier in American Historiography.” Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner. Ed. John Mack Faragher. New Haven: Yale UP, 1998. 31–60. Print. The Significance of the Frontier in American Historiography Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner 31 60 Google Scholar

VanderMeer, Jeff. The Steampunk Bible. New York: Abrams Image: 2011. Print. The Steampunk Bible Google Scholar

Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. L’Ève future (The Future Eve). The Decadent Reader: Fiction, Fantasy and Perversion from the Fin-de-Siècle. Ed. Asti Hustvedt. New York: Zone Books, 1998. 520–750. Print. L’Ève future (The Future Eve). The Decadent Reader: Fiction, Fantasy and Perversion from the Fin-de-Siècle 520 750 Google Scholar

Weakland, Joseph, and Shaun Duke. “Out of Control: Disrupting Technological Mastery in Michael Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air and K. W. Jeter’s Infernal Devices.” Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures. Ed. Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2016. 199–218. Print. Out of Control: Disrupting Technological Mastery in Michael Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air and K. W. Jeter’s Infernal Devices Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures 199 218 Google Scholar

Westerfeld, Scott. Goliath. New York: Simon Pulse, 2011. Print. Goliath Google Scholar

Zhu, Liping. The Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Elections, and the Rise of the West. Lawrence: The UP of Kansas, 2013. Print. The Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Elections, and the Rise of the West Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Goho, James