Wed
Mar 7 2012 1:00pm

Amazing and Bizarre Prosthetics in Steampunk Romance

Wild & Steamy, Featuring The Blushing Bounder by Meljean BrookBefore the advent of biomechatronics, prosthetic limbs ranged from the eerily crude to the surprisingly sophisticated. Early prosthetics were made from materials such as wood, bronze, iron, and copper. People relied on these replacement parts after an injury or illness, or to supplement body parts that have been missing from birth.

The creepy cool nature of pre-modern prosthetics makes the fictionalized versions in steampunk romance so fascinating. The primitive mechanical parts themselves often have an unsettling and sometimes horrific nature because they can only roughly approximate the real thing (e.g., an oversized iron hand). Plus, authors of steampunk/steampunk romance often cook up some really bizarre prosthetics (a boiler for internal organs, anyone? See: Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters and “The Blushing Bounder” by Meljean Brook).

What I particularly enjoy about steampunk-inspired prosthetics in romance is how they impact the developing relationship and provide social commentary about the “Other.” Authors will frequently explore themes such as acceptance, love being blind, and those related to characters with disabilities. These kinds of stories also challenge readers to question their assumptions about beauty and wholeness.

Therefore, I thought it’d be fun to round up a few steampunk romances featuring characters with prosthetics of one kind or another.

The Iron Heart by Leslie DickenLeslie Dicken’s sizzling steampunk romance The Iron Heart features a character with prosthetic limbs, but I won’t say who to avoid spoilers. What I can tell you is that artificial limbs play a significant role in the story and are often used for eerie foreshadowing.

Wild Cards and Iron Horses by Sheryl Nantus is set in an alternate universe Old West and features the exploits of hero Jonathan Handleston who is preparing to play the poker game of a lifetime. What sets him apart from other players is that because of a war injury, he has a brace to provide support for his crippled hand. But not just any type of brace—his withered hand is encased by a steampunk exoskeleton!

In Christine Danse’s character-driven m/m steampunk romance Island of Icarus, hero Jonathan Orms has a prosthetic arm.

Meljean Brook’s The Iron Seas series features a plethora of characters with prosthetic limbs and other body parts. In Here There Be Monsters, the novella that launched the series, heroine Ivy Blacksmith has two prosthetic arms and hands that are identical to real arms and hands (except for their color). Captain Machen, the hero of that story, has a prosthetic foot.

Far from Broken by JK CoiThe heroine, Callie, in J.K. Cois Far From Broken has prosthetic legs and mechanical organs.

Several stories feature full-on steampunk cyborgs in leading roles: This Winter Heart by P.G. Forte, Far Too Human by Anitra Lynn McLeod, and Iron Hard by Sylvia Day.

Want to know more? Jaunt over to Wikipedia and read about the history of early prosthetics. The reading will make for an interesting prelude to the steampunk romances that incorporate them!


 

Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.

She’s also an author: Her latest sci-fi romance is Queenie’s Brigade from Red Sage Publishing. To learn more about her published work, visit www.heathermassey.com.

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8 comments
Heather Waters (redline_)
1. redline_
Marissa Meyer's Cinder references more advanced prosthetics (Cinder's a Cyborg), but that was the first example that came to my mind. Really enjoyed that book.

Other than a bit of Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan (still want to get that book), I don't think I've read any steampunk. I've been curious about Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series for a while now, though, and this post has only increased my interest. Will have to check it out!
Christopher Morgan
2. cmorgan
Best one I can think of is actually a manga/comic called Full Metal Alchemist. It's not really victorian, so not sure if it would be steampunk, but I think if we let Leviathan in with WWI we could let Ed and Al in with WWII.
Heather Waters (redline_)
3. redline_
@cmorgan -- Oh, is Leviathan not actually steampunk? I am not up on these things!
Christopher Morgan
4. cmorgan
@redline

That's the thing, is steampunk the tech or is steampunk the victorian era? These are important questions. Leviathan is WWI, but most steam punk is 1800s ish.
Heather Massey
5. HeatherMassey
@Redline_ Good to know! I've heard good buzz about that title.

@Cmorgan I personally think the steampunk tag applies to FMA. It depends on how broadly one defines steampunk.

>is steampunk the tech or is steampunk the victorian era?

It's the tech. Most stories are set in the Victorian era, so steampunk is Victorian by association, but steampunk *can* take place in other time periods and settings (particularly fantasy-based ones). How well that's done depends on the story and how plausible the steam-driven tech is given the time period. However, steam power fits best with Victorian times, and for good reasons.

Often, steam-powered tech is mixed with others, like clockwork-powered devices (clockpunk!). Once you get beyond the 1800s you get dieselpunk, decopunk, etc. Here's a link about those last two:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieselpunk#Dieselpunk
Christopher Morgan
6. cmorgan
May have geeked this out a bit beyond the topic at hand so...Mustang/Hawkeye FTW?
Dean Malchik
8. Dean Malchik
My book, Unacceptable Risk, available at Amazon.com, also includes a heroine who is an amputee and uses a prosthetic hand.
Dean Malchik
10. Shark with Lasers
Thank you so much for these suggestions! Also an FMA fan here, and I won't lie, that automail is cool. Winry Rockbell FTW! I agree that there are definitely some steampunk influences in that series, even though the setting is an alternate reality early 20th century instead of late 19th.
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