Before 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.
Leslie 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.
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.