Steampunk, Combustion, and the Subversive Pursuit of Pleasure
For my final post on the blog today, I want to talk about the ethos at the heart of steampunk and how it relates to my latest novel, Combustion.
Steampunk is still punk — it’s anti-establishment, it’s rebellious, it’s counterculture. I like anything that pushes back against authority and makes us question the why behind our structures and systems. When writing Combustion, I imagined an alternate-history London that had been ravaged by rebellion and is just coming out the other side. They’re reshaping the social structures and trying to overcome old prejudices. New legislation has ostensibly created new opportunities for women and the working class, but benevolent sexism prevails.
It’s in this world where we meet Astrid Bailey, a machinist who invents “felicitation devices” to promote a person’s pleasure. Astrid has to partner up with the reserved, proper businessman Eli Rutledge to enter the World’s Fair. I love the trope of “uptight business man is actually filthy in bed.” I also love “person who’s never used sex toys gets to try them for the first time.” There’s plenty of both in this book. Astrid and Eli both have some growing to do: Astrid is quick to anger and slow to trust, and Eli’s privilege has blinded him to many societal problems. I like the intensity of their sexual chemistry and the way each learns that they’re better together.
Most of all, I like the sex-positive spirit of the book. Part of Astrid’s rebellion against the establishment is her desire to normalize sexual agency and pleasure. It’s a quality I value in our modern society, too, which can be all too puritanical and shame-based. In a world where happiness is commodified and filtered through capitalism, pleasure is a radical act.
Here’s wishing you radical pleasure in your own life.
Thanks for hosting me!
Thanks for joining me on the blog today! If you want to hear more from me, you can find me on my website and newsletter, as well as on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and now TikTok. And if radical pleasure sounds good to you, grab a copy of Combustion and let me know what you think!