The Steampunk Scholar's Reading List: Primary Texts

When I decided to study steampunk for my PhD research, I immediately began compiling a reading list of primary sources. I began with Wikipedia's list of steampunk works, augmented by steampunkopedia, and then supplemented these with the shorter lists, such as the top 10 literary steampunk works at While I wanted as comprehensive a collection as my budget could afford, I also didn't want to be wasting my time on peripheral works which only username Dr. Aetheric Tophat on random-discussion-thread-of-your-choice considers steampunk. Recently I came across this link at, which tabulates how many times a book has been tagged "steampunk." It's an interesting, though not necessarily accurate list, given that "Flaming London" by Joe Lansdale only has 2 tags, though in my opinion it is clearly steampunk.

Here's the list I came up with, set out in MLA works cited format for all you lazy scholars who want to pirate my work. Most of these books are on my shelves already, awaiting reading. Those in bold text I've already read. The linked ones are the titles I've already made annotated entries for here at Steampunk Scholar. I will be following this list up with another, of secondary texts, like Jess Nevins' Unofficial Guides to the League of Extraordinary Gentlement, another list of primary film examples, one cataloguing the short stories, and then also one concerned with the ostensible "proto-steampunk" works such as those by Verne and Wells.

Anderson, Kevin J. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. New York:Pocket Star, 2003.

---, ed. War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches. New York: Spectra, 1997.

Ashley, Mike and Eric Brown, eds. The Mammoth Book of New Jules Verne: Return to the Center of the Earth and Other Extraordinary Voyages, New Tales by the Heirs of Jules Verne.: New York: Carrol and Graf, 2005.

Augustyn, Brian, and Mignola, Mike. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight. New York: DC Comics, 1989.

Baker, Kage. Not Less Than Gods. Burton: Subterranean Press, 2010.

---. The Women of Nell Gwynne's. Burton: Subterranean Press, 2009.

Bear, Elizabeth. New Amsterdam. Burton: Far Territories, 2007.

Blaylock, James P. The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives. Burton: Subterranean Press, 2008.

---. The Digging Leviathan. New York: Ace Books, 1984.

Bush, Emilie P. Chenda and the Airship Brofman. Self-published, 2009.

Carriger, Gail: Changeless: The Parasol Protectorate: Book the Second. New York, Orbit Books, 2010.

---. Soulless--The Parasol Protectorate: Book the First. New York, Orbit Books, 2009.

Dahlquist, Gordon. The Dark Volume. New York: Bantam, 2009.

---. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, Volume One. New York: Bantam Books, 2008.

---. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, Volume Two. New York: Bantam Books, 2009.

Di Filippo, Paul. The Steampunk Trilogy. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1995.

Ewing, Al. El Sombre: Pax Britannia Series. Gardena: Abaddon Press, 2007.

Flaming, Matthew. The Kingdom of Ohio. New York: Amy Einhorn Books, 2009.

Foglio, Phil & Kaja. Girl Genius: Omnibus Edition #1. Seattle: Studio Foglio, 2006.

Frost, Mark. The 6 Messiahs. New York: William Morrow and Co. 1995.

---. The List of 7. New York: Avon Books, 1993.

Gevers, Nick. Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology. Lenton: Solaris, 2008.

Giambastiani, Kurt A. The Year the Cloud Fell. New York: Roc, 2001.

Gibson, William & Sterling, Bruce. The Difference Engine New York : Bantam Books, 1992.

Gray, Nathalie. Full Steam Ahead. Red Sage Publishing, 2010.

Green, Jonathan. Human Nature: Pax Britannia Series. Gardena: Abaddon Press, 2009.

---. Leviathan Rising: Pax Britannia Series. Gardena: Abaddon Press, 2008.

---. Unnatural History: Pax Britannia Series. Gardena: Abaddon Press, 2007.

Guinan, Paul, & Bennett, Anina. Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel. New York, Abrams Image, 2009.

Hernandez, Lea. Cathedral Child. Fullerton: Image Comics, 1998.

---. Clockwork Angels. Fullerton: Image Comics, 1999.

Hunt, Stephen. The Court of the Air. UK General Books, 2007.

---. The Kingdom Beyond the Waves. UK General Books, 2008.

Jeter, K.W. Infernal Devices: A Mad Victorian Fantasy. New York: New American Library, 1987.

---. Morlock Night. New York: Daw Books, 1979.

Judson, Theodore. Fitzpatrick’s War. New York: DAW Books, 2004.

Kelly, Joe. Steampunk: Drama Obscura. New York, Wildstorm Comics, 2003.

---. Steampunk: Manimatron. New York, Wildstorm Comics, 2001.

Lake, Jay. Escapement. New York: Tor Books, 2008.

---. Mainspring. New York>: Tor Books, 2007.

Lansdale, Joe R. Flaming London. Burton: Subterranean Press, 2006.

---. Zeppelins West. Burton: Subterranean Press, 2001.

Lowachee, Karin. The Gaslight Dogs. New York, Orbit, 2010.

Lupoff, Richard. Into the Aether. New York: Dell, 1974.

MacAlister, Katie. Steamed: A Steampunk Romance. New York: Signet, 2010.

MacLeod, Ian R. The House of Storms. New York: Ace Books, 2005.

---. The Light Ages. Toronto: Pocket Books, 1997.

Mann, George. The Affinity Bridge. New York, Tor Books, 2009.

---. Ghosts of Manhattan. Amherst: Pyr, 2010.

Maumejean, Xavier. The League of Heroes. Manuella Chevalier, Trans. Encino: Black Coat Press, 2005.

Mellon, Mark. Napoleon Concerto: A Novel in Three Movements. Sierra Vista: Treble Heart Books, 2009.

Miéville China. Iron Council. New York: Del Ray Publishing, 2005.

---. Perdido Street Station. New York: Del Ray Publishing, 2000.

---. The Scar. New York: Del Ray Publishing, 2002.

Michael Moorcock. A Nomad of the Time Streams: A Scientific Romance. Clarkston, White Wolf, 1995.
I've read Warlord of the Air, the first book in this collected edition.

Moore, Alan and Kevin O’Neill. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One. La Jolla: America's Best Comics, 2000.

---. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume Two. La Jolla: America's Best Comics, 2003.

Newman, Kim. Anno Dracula. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1993.

Oppel, Kenneth. Airborn. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

---. Skybreaker. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.

--- Starclimber. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

Palmer, Dexter. The Dream of Perpetual Motion. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2010.

Pagliosotti, Dru. Clockwork Heart. Rockville: Juno books, 2008.

Peters, S.M. Whitechapel Gods. Toronto: Roc, 2008.

Pondsmith, Michael Alyn. Castle Falkenstein: Adventures in the Age of Steam. Redmond: Talsorian Games, 1994.

Powers, Tim. The Anubis Gates. New York: Ace Science Fiction Books, 1983.

---. The Stress of Her Regard. 1989. San Francisco: Tachyon, 2008.

Priest, Cherie. Boneshaker. New York: Tor, 2009.

Pullman, Philip. The Amber Spyglass. New York: Random House, 2000.

---. The Subtle Knife. New York: Random House, 1997.

---. The Golden Compass. New York: Random House, 1995.

Pynchon, Thomas. Against the Day. Toronto: Penguin, 2007.

Reeve, Phillip. Infernal Devices. 2005. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.

---. Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space. London: Bloomsbury, 2006.

---. Mortal Engines. 2001. New York: Harper Collins, 2005.

---. Predator's Gold. New York: Harper Collins, 2006.

Rucker, Rudy. The Hollow Earth. 1990. Austin: Monkeybrain Books, 2006.

Rutoski, Marie. The Cabinet of Wonders: The Kronos Chronicles Book 1. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008.

Sedia, Ekaterina. The Alchemy of Stone. Prime Books, 2008.

Smedman, Lisa. The Apparition Trail. Calgary: Tesseract Books, 2007.

Stephenson, Neal. The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. New York: Bantam Books, 1996.

Stirling, S.M. The Peshawar Lancers. New York, ROC, 2003.

Vandermeer, Ann, and Jeff, eds. Steampunk. San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2008.

Westerfeld, Scott. Leviathan. Toronto: Simon Pulse, 2009.

Wooding, Chris. Retribution Falls: Tales of the Ketty Jay 1.  Gollancz, 2010.

Wrede, Patricia C. Thirteenth Child. New York: Scholastic Press, 2009.

Zoem, Dazjae. Wonderdark: The Awakening of Zuza. Self-published, 2009.

I should also note that I have compiled a list of French steampunk works, but will not be adding them to this list until I've actually learned how to read French, aside from the inclusion of The League of Heroes, a translated version of Xavier Maumejean's La Ligue des héros.


  1. I'm envious. Not only will my theses' reading be not nearly as enjoyable, most of it will be too expensive or too niche to buy.

    I may have asked you already, but what did you think of The Diamond Age?

  2. Ah You have China Mieville on there! I told you he was amazing! Hopefully you can make it through this time.

  3. Michael - I'll be posting about The Diamond Age after I post on The Difference Engine, but I thought it was great - with another Snow-Crash-like abrupt ending that left me a bit cold. And Amanda, I have to check out Mieville, or I simply haven't done my homework! Maybe I just have a bias against Mieville because he's a Tolkien-hater.

  4. Another shout out for Mieville here. He'll change your steamy world.

    Gotthammer - I shall be persusing your titles and see what I've missed out. Hope you don't mind. Great post. Also, an anonymous poster left a message on my blog to say that Steampunk Tales - the iphone/ipod app, is now available as a pdf.

    Here's the link:

    Hope your research is goign well

  5. Steal away Vee. And good to hear about Steampunk tales. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. Your blog and research are like five kinds of awesome.

    More seriously, I am not sure if you're just sticking to straight literature, but if you're looking at RPGs, the steam punk element is strong in the Mage the Ascension Sons of Ether, at least in the chronicles in which I have played.

  7. I'm torn about Anno Dracula. It's alternate Victorian history and it includes characters like Dr Jekyll and Dr Moreau, but I don't remember there being any major technological elements. Amazing read though.

    Just finished 'Ghosts of Manhattan'. It's a big pulpy treat, though not a lot of attention or detail is given to the world, a world of coal-powered cars, rocket-powered biplanes and holotube transmitters. At times the story feels like it could work just as well without the steampunk elements, as if Mann's hedging his bets, though I'm sure they'll bear fruit in future books.

    Great list.

  8. Haven't read Anno Dracula yet, so I'll reserve final judgment, but given the presence of Anubis Gates in the original three of steampunk and its continued acceptance as part of the "canon" of steampunk (please note the quotes, I'm being slightly facetious there), I don't think steampunk can be limited in its definition to 19th century style + technological elements. Your statement that "the story feels like it could work just as well without the steampunk elements" is true for most steampunk, which is why I've concluded steampunk is an aesthetic, not a genre. I'll have more to say about this soon in my regular posts, but I just thought I'd bounce back a response Harmsden. Welcome to the conversation!

  9. I know what you mean about steampunk being an aesthetic, but I think in a book like 'The Difference Engine' or Cherie Priest's 'Boneshaker' the technology is integral to the plot. Priest's novel is an exploration of world post the invention of the Boneshaker, just like Gibson and Sterling's novel is an exploration of a world post the invention of a working difference engine.

    But I accept it's harder to apply such rigid characteristics to a book like 'Northern Lights' ('Golden Compass' over there) and yet I'd happily describe 'Northern Lights' as steampunk. Maybe I'm getting trapped in an old debate: what constitutes 'hard' and 'soft' SF.

    Thanks for welcome by the way.

  10. I agree completely with the assessment of the Difference Engine, but that's because it's one of the most rigorous steampunk works in regards to the effect of technology on history. Priest's Boneshaker doesn't strike me the same way - the book doesn't need the technology to tell its story - the zombies could have been made in another way, there could have been different ways of getting over the wall, etc.

    But I agree with your main point, that some books rely on technology. And I would agree that those constitute hard sf. But then I'd call The Difference Engine steampunked hard SF. Still just an aesthetic, not a narrative structure. Might seem picky to some, but I've found the aesthetic approach encompasses both the literature and the subculture.

  11. Great blog! I've only just subscribed and the timing couldn't be better. I'm an older student and whilst I've still to complete my undergraduate degree, I am already thinking of undertaking Honours in Literary Theory with a focus on Steampunk.

    I came to the genre via cyberpunk (Gibson and Sterling), and whilst I've read Stephenson's "Diamond Age", I read it before knowing what steampunk was; that it even existed as a genre.
    Since then I've fallen in love with Mieville, who also seems to be a favourite of the above fellow fans.

    So my question... what is the present state of academic research in the genre? What are the gaps and opportunities?

  12. Thanks Tim! The state of the academic research - it's definitely a largely unexplored area. One of my most recent posts is of the secondary sources I've been able to find so far on Steampunk that aren't just encyclopedic entries, which should give you an idea of the opportunities/gaps. It's a great area of study, so I'd say go for it!

  13. I'm mining your earlier blogs and found a post on your Five Year Mission, which is a veritable gold mine.

    It seems to me that steampunk as genre and aesthetic operates in a space of a possible history (forgetting Mieville's extraordinary for the moment). Please correct me if I'm offtrack, but I mean that it functions in the liminal space between the history that was (Victorian; modern) and the history that is (postmodern/colonial).

    Thanks again!

  14. Steampunk definitely operates in the spaces between: between SF and Fantasy, between your history that was and history that is (very nice!), between verisimilitude and gonzo hyper reality. Glad you're finding the site a gold mine. That was my intention: open source research.

  15. Has anyone suggested the Ambergris series by Vandermeer?

  16. I've seen Ambegris occasionally mentioned as steampunk, but I kept the titles on this list to those that are commonly, not marginally, held as steampunk.


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