Proto-Steampunk Short Fiction

There’s been something of an influx of Victorian era fiction on oi9 as of late, and I figured I’d let my readers who are also history and literature buffs know about their posting. These are not technically Steampunk works. Steampunk itself is a modern movement that takes elements of the Victorian world and transposes it in today’s world. These two works, however, were written during the Victorian time itself and dreams of what technology might do for humanity in the future. For Steampunk today, looking at science fiction during the Victorian period is akin to retracing your family tree: the connection is distant, but ultimately you’re somehow related to these people.

The first is entitled The Steam Arm and is purportedly the first cyborg horror story to enter into fiction. This ballad tells the story of a young man who loses his arm in a war and gets it replaced with a mechanical, steam driven appendage. Dripping with metaphor and commentary about the Victorian world, The Steam Arm expresses abounding discontent with the increasing influence of technology of humanity. You can read the ballad here.

The second piece is a poem by Edward S. Ellis entitled Darius Green and tells the story of young Mr. Green and his flying contraption. Flight would eventually become a huge theme in the Steampunk subculture, with airships and various other flying machines becoming quintessentially Steampunk. You can read the poem here.