Monday, February 4, 2013
stories that want
I recently finished listening to the audiobook of Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, which was a real pleasure--it's a great anthology, and beautifully read. My favorite story in it is "Steam Girl" by Dylan Horrocks. It's narrated by a kind of dorky teenage boy, who becomes friends with the new girl in his class: a fearless geek who goes around in a helmet and goggles, and calls herself Steam Girl.
Steam Girl draws, and she makes up stories. The stories are about Steam Girl--not the one who gets picked on in high school, but the real Steam Girl, who invents amazing gadgets, travels to Mars and Venus with her dad, becomes friends with alien princesses, and outwits evil usurpers and carnivorous plants. "Steam Girl" is a love story: it might be about kids falling in love with each other (we know how the narrator feels; we're not so sure about Steam Girl), but it's definitely about falling in love with stories. It's about the magic of adventure stories, and the attraction of making them up, and escape, and friendship, and how to survive real life.
It's also a realistic narrative. The high school Steam Girl makes gadgets, but they don't work. There's something sort of mysterious that happens at the end with a power cut in the town, but it's ambiguous. There's no obvious magic, no science-fictional invention, and really no steampunk, in the lives of the narrator and his friend. This is the type of story that sometimes shows up in sf zines and people go "Hey! That's not science fiction!" Maybe they're right, but what interests me here is that, steampunk or not, this is a story that wants steampunk readers.
I think there are a lot of stories like that. I think my "Selkie Stories" one is arguably like that. These stories don't announce themselves as speculative fiction with spaceships and dragons, but they want those readers desperately. They don't want to be in literary magazines. They'd feel uncomfortable, because they go around in a helmet and goggles. "Steam Girl" is not about fighting carnivorous Venusian plants, but it wants to be read by someone who has dreamed of fighting those plants. It makes me wonder about other stories and what they want. Are there sf stories that are sf stories by mistake, that pine for readers who only read realist novels?
Posted by Sofia at 9:43 PM