Carnal Machines

Book by Cleis Press Inc.

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Steamy and steaming: sex by clockwork gaslight

Erotica with a decadent Victorian spin, and a technological angle that is almost as thrilling as the uses the tech gets put to. A world without computers, fast cars or videos, but the things they have instead will thrill you just as much... if not more!
Published:
Pros:
An excellent investigation of all that truly makes steampunk tick.
Cons:
Will probably baffle anyone who hasn't at least grasped the concept of the steampunk universe.
Rating by reviewer:
5
extremely useful review
I'm sure there are less flippant theories than this, but for me, Steampunk Erotica first chugged into view aboard an old Leonard Cohen album that a college boyfriend used to play all the time. I've forgotten what it's called, but one image has always lived with me, that of Queen Victoria dispensing sound spankings with her mechanical corset. Wow, I still get a shiver just thinking about it, with the sheer implausibility of the scenario only adding to its allure.

Steampunk is not concerned with implausibility. Quite the opposite, in fact, as even a brief inspection of its essential tenets makes apparent. It posits an alternate world that could have been, as opposed to the one that was, while raising itself above the rest of the science fiction universe by establishing some very firm groundrules as to what those "could-have-beens" are. Steam replaces electricity and oil. Zeppelins instead of aeroplanes. Corsets instead of t-shirts and bras. My Leonard Cohen fantasy grows moister by the moment.

Where, however, does erotica fit into this brave new world? I have to confess, the idea of a steam driven dildo fills me with even more dread than the thought of the electric ones that were around before someone had the bright idea of batteries; the very concept of sliding something inside my body whose other end is attached to a wall socket is beyond the realms of sci-fi for me. And, it transpires, for many of the authors who venture into these waters. In other words, the two words that make up the title of this book, "carnal" and "machines" look great on the cover. But that's more or less as far as they go.

More or less.

How far beyond the realms of "classic" steampunk literature would you have to travel to find a sex toy powered not by steam, but by an incubus (Teresa Noelle Roberts' "Human Powered"?) Or a clockwork lesbian (Janine Ashbless' "The Servant Question")? True, the latter device has yet to be perfected, which means the inventor, Mr Tulliver, still needs to perform a service or two, but if you've ever pondered the feasibility of a wind-up cock (let's hope it doesn't wind down too fast), or pondered the mechanics of sundry bondage racks and devices, then Carnal Machines will definitely leave you thinking wistfully about your brother's childhood Erector set. Mercy me, even the name could cause a lady to flush.

But it isn't the deviant devices (to borrow Kannan Feng's title) that unite the tales here, so much as the sense of being pulled from your reality into a universe where such toys are actually feasible; where their users marvel not at the author's imagination, but at the ingenuity of the inventor himself. And lest you get to imagining that the entire steampunk universe is peopled by geniuses whose entire raison d'etre revolves around sex and orgasm, then look at the most popular usages to which our own world has put some of the greatest inventions of the past hundred-odd years. Cameras and movies. Batteries and personal massagers. The Internet....

This is not a book for the casual erotica reader, seeking detailed descriptions of the Act As We Know It. There's a lot of that included, of course, but it is more an exploration of human curiosity, allied to a technological universe wherein we are primed to expect the unexpected. It is simply the characters' job to surprise us more than that. And to do so with a facade of language, manners and deportment that would even please Queen Victoria, that most notoriously not-amused monarch of old, getting her jollies from beating the behind of a Canadian poet with her underwear.

See? Now that image is going to stay with you, too.
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Comments
  • ScarletFox
    ScarletFox  
    I have this book wish listed, and I have to say your review has made me just itch to put it on my next order!
  • Jenny Swallows
    Jenny Swallows  
    it really is worth it!
  • Bex1331
    Bex1331  
    I really want to read this one! Too bad it's out of stock
  • XxXxX
    XxXxX  
    Great job, thanks for sharing!
  • kadelette
    kadelette  
    I like Victorian stuff.. might have to see if I can find this around. Thanks for the good review!
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