Steampunk has its roots as a literary genre, and even though people tend to think of it today as a visual medium there are still plenty of writers out there coming up with Steampunk tales to captivate eager readers.
Shanghai Steam is an anthology of stories featuring a mashup of Chinese Wuxia fantasy and Steampunk. Wuxia is a word composed of two Chinese characters. According to Shanghai Steam’s website, Wu is used to describe things having to do with martial arts, war, or the military. Xia refers to the type of protagonist found in Wuxia fiction, and is also a synonym for chivalry. Thus, Wuxia fiction is translated as martial-chivalric fiction. The collection features nineteen authors and their original stories which include everything from ancient worlds filled with steam and Qi-powered machines, to flying monks and Martian pagodas.
The anthology is the brainchild of its editors, Calvin D. Jim, Renee Bennett, and Ace Jordyn, and sprung from a chance conversation. “One of us said, ‘I’d love it if something like this existed, but I don’t know anyone who would write for it,’” Explains Jordyn, “The others said, ‘I would!’ While none of us put a piece into the anthology, that conversation proved to us that there was interest in the project.”
All three were Steampunk fans working in the publishing field from the get go, but only Calvin had had any experience working on publishing English language Wuxia. “All three have worked on IFWA’s short story contest, In Places Between, as judges, editors, and general dog’s-bodies. Good practice for Shanghai Steam!”
A bigger push in the Steampunk community to include cultures other than Victorian England or the American old west into the Steampunk universe had not gone unnoticed by the trio and was another driving force in creating the work, “The fact is that the Victorian era affected and influenced (positively and negatively) many societies around the world. Many of those stories from a Steampunk perspective have yet to be told. That was one of the reasons for doing Shanghai Steam– to tell those stories from the Asian perspective. There seems to be pockets of Steampunk written by authors of color around the world. “The Dragon and the Stars” edited by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi, “The Steampowered Globe” anthology by Rosemary Liu, or the new anthology “Steampunk World” edited by Sarah Hans and funded on Kickstarter. You also see the odd story in Lightspeed and other online magazines by authors of color that represent diversity. But there is still a long way to go before all this becomes the mainstream and not the exception.”
With a clear mission as to what they wanted to present they set about the daunting task of selecting the pieces that would appear in the anthology. “We chose the stories which spoke to us, which sang to us, which reached into our hearts and gave us dreams.The hardest part was having to say ‘no’ to some really wonderful pieces. Plus, we worked hard to balance the cultural aspects of the stories with the needs of the anthology.”
After careful, painstaking work, Shanghai Steam was finally published by Absolute XPress on October 10, 2012. The anthology’s positive reception proved that there was a a large majority of the Steampunk population that was hungry for these kinds of tales. Though there has been no definite plans to produce a sequel Jordyn says they are open to the idea. “We’ve had some conversations about it, about broadening the scope to include the world, or staying within China, or…. There are so many ways to go!”