Steampunk is the twisted offspring of science fiction and postmodernism, a sassy, unpredictable tongue-in-cheek style of which the incomparable Paul Di Filippo is master. The three short novels in The Steampunk Trilogy are all set in a very alternative nineteenth century, and feature a mixture of historical and imaginary figures. In "Victoria," a young and lissome Queen Victoria disappears from her throne and is replaced by a sexy human/newt clone. The race is on to find the original Victoria and to hide the terrible secret from the nation. In "Hottentots," Massachusetts is threatened by monsters from the deep; in "Walt and Emily," Emily Dickinson hooks up with a robust and lusty Walt Whitman, loses her virginity, and travels to a dimension beyond time where she meets the future Allen Ginsberg.
Queen Victoria as a trollop-in-training whose newt-human clone serves as stand-in during Victoria's trysts? Walt Whitman as lusty seducer of an only partly reticent Emily Dickinson who loses the "Keys to the Inner Chambers of her Heart" to him? This fine and funny madness is "steampunk," a branch of cyberpunk fiction that locates itself in historical venues rather than in the future. Paul Di Filippo has certainly done his homework: the settings as well as the language emulate the times and, in Dickinson's and Whitman's cases, their poetic language, which asserts itself into their conversational dialogue and thoughts at most unusual but appropriate moments. Dickinson's "Universe Entire" is disrupted by a naked Whitman bathing in her rain barrel and singing his "body electric." But will Dickinson's "White Election" remain intact?