Steampunk Originals is a collection of 28 stories that celebrate the diversity of the steampunk genre. Steampunk, for those who don’t know, is a sub-genre of science fiction wonderfully described by Urban Dictionary as, “what the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.” These are vignettes, with stories from only one to a few pages in length, and the plots are really secondary to the theme. Set in England and America, each story does a good job of giving the reader a taste of what steampunk can be.
In “Rule, Britannia! The Messenger,” by Axel Howerton and Red Tash, a girl messenger who dreams of growing up to join the Sky Brigade, gets to deliver a message to Prince Harry Windsor, Crown Prince of the Sky Brigade. As she runs though town delivering messages, the reader gets to glimpse the steampunk world; “Unconventional Conventions,” by Mike Schneider, tells the story of a boy trying to convince his strict father to let him to go to a steampunk convention and what that would look like in the steampunk world; “Bait,” by Scott White, David J. Clifford, and Mike Schneider, is the tale of boy in the American West whose job it is to go down mine shafts to flush out monsters so they can be killed and the mines can be worked. I like how focused this story was. That is, instead of using the story to have a character walk around and look at the world, the reader gets a focused view of one place and time and how one aspect of the world works. There are also a few ads sprinkled through the book. I particularly liked the one for “Self-Steaming Vegetables,” by Jared Konopitski, showing large vegetables with steam cookers attached to their tops.
As an intro to the genre, these short stories really give a flavor of what steampunk is through an accumulation of examples, not through a single cohesive story. So the more closely you read, the better sense you get of the steampunk world. The artists do a great job of developing their characters given how little space they have to work with. This book also gives the reader a nice taste of what a graphic novel can be. Having multiple authors and artists means multiple art styles. So the art varies from rough and sketchy to crisp and defined. As an intro to the genre, it is spot on.