Months ago, I was sent a copy of Best of Spanish Steampunk, an anthology edited by Marian Womack. There’s really nothing more awesome than waking up to find twelve hundred pages of steampunk sitting in your inbox.
It took me a long time to read, but that’s sort of the beauty of a broad-ranging anthology like this. Do you just have time for a few-page dose of steampunk on the bus? Try “Saturn’s Children” by Sergio Lifante: Short, spooky, and inspired by a Barcelona crime spree from the early 20th century. In it for the long haul? The collection closes with two novellas: I particularly recommend “Black Eagles” by Eduard Vaquerizo, which paints a detailed picture of a reimagined Spanish empire.
The sections are divided by typical steampunk tropes and themes – politics, robots, time travel, etc. – and collection is at its best where it takes those and mixes them up with Spanish settings and histories. “Shot to the Gut” by Jesús Cañadas which retells an anarchist revolt in Andalusia, is a particularly good alt history telling of a bit of Spanish history that I wouldn’t have known, but now want to read about. “Biochronography Of The Lateral Jump: Aub’s Theorem” by Guillermo Zapata also earns serious points in the use-of-Spanish-history category for featuring Salvador Dalí and other historical figures in a time-hopping murder mystery.
It’s not surprising that such a massive collection has some weak spots, but it’s a bit interesting to look at what they are: The stories that left me feeling meh were the ones that took an “add steam-tech and stir” approach, dropping in a factory or automata or dirigible, slapping London in the backdrop, and leaving it at that. For a genre that delights in its tropes (and oh, do I delight in a good automata,) it was a reminder that they can’t stand on their own without solid characters, conflicts, and, yeah, maybe traveling a bit away from London. (Though maybe not too far – there were a few good stories that left the real world behind altogether and opted for building new steampunk worlds for their settings, but the strongest pieces in the anthology were without fail rooted at least a bit in history.)
If you’re looking for many hundreds of pages of steampunk that mix the tropes we know and love with settings and histories you might not have encountered before, Best of Spanish Steampunk is definitely worth a look. Thank you to Marian Womack for inviting me to review!