I'm done. I'm finished. The mission has been completed. I'll tell you all about it soon enough, but for now, I'd like to share the last thing I wrote in the dissertation.
One of the proposed revisions my external reader recommended was an appendix of primary sources essential to literary steampunk studies. I compiled this list based largely upon the popularity of these texts, not necessarily their scholarly or literary merit. While Dexter Palmer’s The Dream of Perpetual Motion might be more conducive to ostensibly serious textual rigour, its influence on the steampunk aesthetic is marginal. After reading over sixty steampunk novels, these are the ones I'd say are must-haves for literary studies in steampunk. There are many other works that are brilliant, or that address certain facets of the steampunk aesthetic, but in answer to the question "Where do I start?" this is what I'd reply. This is not my list of favourites, but rather a list of the books you need to be reading if you want to be talking about steampunk with any sort of authority.
Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon (2006): While Pynchon’s epic novel contains many other styles of narratives, the adventures of the Chums of Chance clearly owe a debt to the steampunk aesthetic. Those looking for a very serious and dense work of literature to study steampunk through need look no further. That said, it is not widely read within steampunk circles, so should not be part of a literary assessment of steampunk as a popular phenomenon.
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (2009): In addition to catalyzing
Priest’s career, Boneshaker popularized the genre for readers outside
the subculture, and while it was not the first to do so, was arguably
the book that reminded fans that steampunk could take place in the
Steampunk, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer (2008): For a study of steampunk before the 2009 boom in popularity, one cannot do better than the first of the Tachyon series of steampunk anthologies. This book includes everything from an excerpt from Moorcock’s Warlord of the Air to short fiction by Jay Lake written in 2007. It’s an excellent resource for someone looking for a survey of steampunk from its first-wave inception to second-wave innovation.