Sunday, November 4, 2012

SP2: The Steam Dancer by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Episode 2 of my Steampunk November; this post is a couple days late but that's alright because I am in fact caught up with my reading, and I'll be posting a few reviews tonight. So there :P

Kiernan's "The Steam Dancer" was a very different short story from what I've read in the past. Usually, there's a brief introduction and exposition, followed by a climax and resolution (you know, like when you learn about the parts of a book in middle school). This story, however, didn't really go anywhere, which definitely seemed like the entire point to begin with. Missouri Banks is a woman who went from street urchin (think Aladdin) to married woman with a 'career' dancing in Madam Ling's establishment. And honestly, I'm not entirely sure I'm convinced it was a strip club, and not a brothel. But I digress.

Missouri spent many a day on the streets begging for food and money, and after a storm of bugs weakens her to the point of death, she is rescued by a mechanic. The swarm of bugs infected her eye, forearm/hand, and leg, but luckily this mechanic was so generous he built her a new arm, leg, and eye. So, now she's half human, half machine (I'm thinking Cyborg from 'Teen Titans', because I'm a child like that), and dancing for Madam Ling. Apparently women with machine body parts are in high demand, because she's a main attraction. Her mechanical leg burns her one night though, and the mechanic has her stay home and rest the next day so he can fix it to avoid future injury.

Really, this is the entire story. I would have liked a little bit more plot, but I think this story was meant more to represent Kiernan's own upbringing (not literally, of course). Perhaps she was orphaned as a child, but was rescued and put back together. Part of me wanted to feel bad for Missouri, but I think that was just the grim style of writing. She seemed very happy though, in love with her mechanic husband and perfectly content to dance half-dressed with her mechanical arm and leg steaming up and such. As long as you're happy though, right?

Interesting story, although rather lacking in substance. I definitely feel like "The Steam Dancer" should be the first chapter to a much longer story, perhaps even a novella or novel. But, I dream.

I'll be back online in a bit to post 2 more reviews for yesterday's and today's steampunk short stories (check out that alliteration) :)

- Justin

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