Heather Massey’s Steampunk Café!

Sweet Steampunk Discovery: Caitlin Like’s Maiden of the Machine

If you haven’t yet seen the amazing art via #VisibleWomen on Twitter, it’s a rabbit hole I thoroughly recommend you explore. In addition to their art pieces, artists have been posting bits of information about themselves and their projects, so while scrolling through the offerings the other day I paid close attention in the hopes of discovering artists who were involved with either a science fiction romance and/or steampunk romance projects.

Maiden of the Machine_Chapter1During my search, I hit upon Caitlin Like’s free webcomic Maiden of the Machine. Here’s the premise:

Elizabeth Watson is a young woman trapped between ideals that she can never reach.

Too traditional to take part of her adventurer family lineage and too poor and obscure to be a true society lady, Elizabeth’s fortunes may change for the better with the introduction of famed industrialist Mr. Lovelace in her life. She is soon pulled into his world of industry and conspiracy- where violence is the norm, sky pirates roam the skies and a woman with wings made of brass and steel hunts in the night.

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The description sold me immediately and I subsequently binge-read the available chapters in two sittings, heh.

The web site describes Maiden of the Machine as a “Gothic Adventure” and I think it’d appeal strongly to steampunk/steampunk romance readers. The comic launched in August 2014 and updates every Thursday. The archived content is here. It’s not complete yet, but here are some non-spoiler impressions/tags based on my reading so far:

* The two main characters—Elizabeth and Abigail—are a) sisters b) smart c) women-of-color d) daring e) incredibly likeable.

* Elizabeth is the shy, bookish type while Abigail is the adventurous one whose heart lies in exploring distant lands and she chafes at society’s oppressive sexism. Abigail is also the older sister and she takes her responsibility to look after Elizabeth very seriously.

* The story gives readers plenty of time to get to know the characters and a few flashbacks provide backstory

* The story features villainous lady airship pirates (rowr!).

* There’s a heaping amount of action-adventure and mystery.

* The story includes a bit of violence and blood, but it’s not graphic.

* The male characters are all rather dashing and mysterious!

* Did I mention the story has lady airship pirates?!

* The first four chapters focus on introducing the characters, setting up the story, and action-adventure.

* Some of the characters engage in lots of adorable blushing.

* The steampunk elements are present, but slight. We know Mr. Lovelace is an industrialist, but the story hasn’t yet delved into what he manufactures or why. Neither is it yet clear how the title’s promise of a “Maiden of the Machine” will factor into the story. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more tech and some groundwork about how it impacts the world by chapter four, but your mileage may vary. There’s plenty enough else going on, at any rate.

* The girl power and female gaze is strong with Maiden of the Machine and for me those elements alone are a huge draw.

At the rate this webcomic is going, there seems to be a lot of story ahead, which would be great! Overall, I’ve been enjoying reading Maiden of the Machine and look forward to more.

For additional news about artist Caitlin Like, follow her on Twitter: @caitlike

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