Hieroglyph’s Elizabeth Bear publishes Karen Memory, a steampunk Western

Karen MemoryOne of our talented Hieroglyph contributors, Elizabeth Bear, just published a new Old West steampunk novel, Karen Memory, with Tor Books on February 3.

This book has it all. To wit:

  • A bordello
  • Mind-control technology
  • A serial killer
  • Electrocuting gloves
  • Airships
  • A Singer sewing machine mecha-suit
  • A meticulously factual burning building scene
  • Gunfights
  • Political intrigue

…you get the idea.

For me, Karen Memory epitomizes something that speculative fiction does uniquely well: help us more clearly see and understand the nuances of our history by putting it into a fantastical context. A major theme of novel is that the Old West was far more diverse than we tend to think, according to the popular and historical depictions that form our cultural imaginary. Bear’s racially, sexually (and otherwise) diverse portrayal of the Old West is arguably much more accurate than many of the more “realistic” and factual sources that are readily available to us as cultural consumers. And this message comes across much more clearly and urgently through the novel’s steampunk grammar than it does in most historical movies or women’s and ethnic studies monographs (at least from my perspective as a card-carrying feminist scholar).

Over at NPR, Jason Heller writes, “Karen Memory breezes by at a leisurely pace, a bracing yet charming adventure yarn that never feels forced, despite the brassy confidence of its delivery.”

Of course, this is all a way of saying that you should definitely check out the book. It’s on sale now at your finer booksellers, and on her website, Bear has posted a roundup of online and offline places where you can pick it up.