Who doesn’t love a good western romance, add Steampunk to the mix and you have a real winner. AMC’s hot T. V. show, Hell On Wheels, is now in it’s third season, set during the Victoria era at the end of the Civil War. Cullen Bohannon is it’s tall, dark bad boy hero, played by Anson Mount. Many women consider him one of their favorite male characters on TV. The popularity of this show leaves no doubt that 19th century American men, in well fitting jeans and well worn cowboy boots, make hot heroes. There are great westerns like Hell on Wheels and there are also great westernpunk shows.
The greatest example of a westernpunk television show is The Wild Wild West. All the 19th century high tech spy gadgetry made it Steampunk. Even though James West and Artemus Gordon didn’t fly on an airship, they lived in the luxury compartment of a steam powered train.
Nineteenth century locomotives were bigger than life with huge grills in front and towering smoke billowing out. Their long, powerful iron bodies were adorned with decorative brass, gleaming in the hot western sun as they cut across the wild, spacious west. They emitted an orchestra of musical sounds, including the steam whistle and the chuffing noise of the train. All of these things add to the ambiance and settings of Westernpunk stories.
There are several western states Steampunk stories are set in, Texas is one. As a Texan I can say lots of weird, fantastic, and strange things occurred in Texas in the 19th century and are great inspiration for Westernpunk tales. You may not know but it was a Texan, Jacob Brodbeck, who built and flew the first flying machine. The first take off occurred in 1866 in Gillespie County, Texas. It ran off a powerful clockwork motor and a series of gears. This large motor didn’t build up enough power for the airplane to take off on its own. Brodbeck built a ski-jump type ramp on the side of a hill near Fredericksburg, he’d take his flying machine to the top of it, and as it gained speed sliding down he’d start the motor. He could fly for three or four minutes with power, then he’d glide to a landing.
Another weird piece of Texas history is the alien UFO crash of 1897 which took place in Aurora Texas. A cigar-shaped UFO plowed though a windmill, destroying it. The good folk of Aurora discovered a space alien inside, who died upon impact. They gave him a Christian burial. Someone stole the space alien’s tombstone but the state of Texas erected a historical marker at the cemetery, which reads, “This site is also well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash was buried here.”
The Dallas Morning News printed the story and it can be read online. It stated an airship hit the tower of Judge Proter’s windmill, blew into pieces in a terrific explosion scattering parts of the UFO over several acres, wrecking the windmill and water tank, and destroying the Judge’s flower garden. The pilot, the only one in the spaceship, died upon impact and though his body was badly disfigured it was evident he was not an inhabitant of this world. That sighting and crash was part of the airship scare of 1896, in which UFOs of similar descriptions were reported throughout the U.S. including in Ohio, Iowa, Texas, Arkansas, and California.
Also Texas was its own country for a while, with its own president and its own money. Texas wanted to join the U.S. but what if it didn’t? What if Texas stayed a country? As for that idea, think of all those places in the U. S. originally owned by Spain and France. It reminds me of the Steampunk book, The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming.
Then there’s the shoot-em-up wild west. Would the addition of Steampunk weapons make it more lawless or less? Obviously it would depend on who had the biggest, baddest guns. What if Native Americans had high-tech weaponry?
As you can see the American west makes as good a setting for Steampunk as Victorian London does. Cherie Priest (Boneshaker) and Devon Monk (Dead Iron) have had great success with using the west for their Steampunk takes. For a Steampunk romance with a hot, western bad boy, I recommend Wilder’s Mate by Moira Rogers, it’s a fun, steamy westernpunk read. Please leave comments on westernpunk romances or western romances that you’ve enjoyed and recommend.
Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published romances. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter and her cat, Severus.