Steamgothic • novelette by Sean McMullen

★★★1/2

Meta: ISFDB. From the Jackaroo Series, originally published in Interzone July 2012. I’ve read it in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection.

I’ve never read a story involving steampunk cosplay culture before – fashion, tech, art, music etc. It is mainly about doing things with your own hands instead of touching virtual screens. POV is an engineer restoring steam engines in his free time and working on ultralight aircrafts to earn money. This combination makes him the perfect choice for a couple who found a steam-powered aircraft from 1852 perfectly preserved in a barn in England. The task is to reconstruct it and proof that it could have flown some 50 years before the Wright Brothers. BBC comes into play and there has to be a love triangle. I didn’t understand for a long time, why this is considered as science fiction, because it was completely contemporary, not even alternate world or something like that. The ending made that clear, although I think that it was quite artificial to give it a turn that way. The basic story was quite good, though: I loved the setting, the colorful characters, and the basic plot. You’ll find a very nice illustration done by Jim Burns who didn’t concentrate on some sexy goth girls but on the aircraft.

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