In an unnamed place, in a time that never was, sex is elevated as high as ritual, and can be had for the price of a theater ticket. In The Innocent’s Progress and Other Stories, Peter Tupper explores the many facets of a complicated, sensual, and, in many ways, rigidly conservative society. Here, we are given passes to a theater of fantasies; we are allowed into the labyrinthine world of steam-powered workhouses; and we are given glimpses into the minds and mettle of the kind of people who survive in such a world.
About the author: Peter Tupper’s first professional fiction sale was to Circlet Press’s S/M Futures anthology back in the mid-1990s. In addition to working as a journalist, he blogs about the history of BDSM at www.historyofbdsm.com, and co-founded Metro Vancouver Kink, a non-profit community organization.
Includes the stories:
- The Innocent’s Progress (originally published in Like A Wisp of Steam)
- The Pretty Horsebreaker (originally published in Like A Corset Undone)
- Delicate Work
- The Slave
- The Impurity
- The Spirit of the Future
Enjoy a hot excerpt:
From the story “The Impurity”
Each transformation was a little different. This time, he didn’t vomit and the twitching didn’t blossom into spasms. When the shaking stopped and his transformation was complete, leaving his body stable for the moment, he took stock of himself. His flesh was hotter, denser; even his skin was tighter. He sniffed, opened his mouth and tasted the air, savoring the myriad flavors and aromas. Without looking, he could distinguish the many different chemicals in the laboratory. He opened his eyes, and the colors were more intense. Hot things glowed.
Edward Hyde got to his feet, straightened his clothes, now loose and rumpled, and sat on the stool at the laboratory table.
A figure stood in the corner of the laboratory, a column of black rubber with a wasp waist and brass buttons, capped by a rubber hood with an air filter that looked like a shortened elephant’s trunk. A pair of hazel eyes was just visible through the circular glass lenses. It clasped its two hands in heavy black rubber gauntlets.
“Take that off,” he ordered.
The black hands rose and undid the laces at the back of the hood, then pulled. There was a suction-like sound as the rubber slid over the woman’s head, eventually revealing Mary’s face, flushed and glistening with a mixture of perspiration and corn starch. She breathed as deeply as her corset and collar allowed and scratched her matted fair hair. The hood went on the hat rack next to the others.
“You know what to do,” he told her.
The rubber habit squeaking with every movement, the maid trotted forward, dropped to her knees between his legs and undid his loose trousers. His cock, erect and ready since his transformation finished, stood out. Without hesitation, she opened her mouth and he slid into her. Just as he had trained her, she let him in all the way to the back of her throat. Ah, the perfect way to start the evening.
He let his head roll back with pleasure. “How long have you worn your habit, Mary?” he asked.
She took him out of her mouth for a moment, a strand of saliva connecting them briefly. “I slept in the cabinet wearing it, so since ten o’clock last night, Master.”
Sleep, he thought, hating the idea, even as Mary resumed her ministrations. I wonder how little sleep she really needs? He loved to watch her move around the laboratory, slick and black and upright, more like a chess piece than a woman. The long black rubber habit, thick shoulder-length gloves, and hood with the glass eyepieces and air filter were, ostensibly, to protect her from the dangerous chemicals in the laboratory. The tight-laced corset and stovepipe collar, well, he just preferred them. Or rather, he preferred her constant struggle to meet his requirements. Had she a naturally slender waist and long neck, he would have done something else to put his stamp on her; have her tattooed and ringed like a savage, perhaps?
The thought of that was enough to push him to climax. He spent into her mouth, a release that only sharpened his near-constant desire. Mary swallowed his seed, without even a little coughing, and then licked him clean. She grinned up at him, pleased with herself.
“Good girl.” Hyde appreciated her attention to detail as much as her near-canine devotion as he absently patted her head. In fact, she was a little too compliant. He missed the delicious tension of pushing her just a little further each time. Each time he returned to the laboratory in the back of the house, he was always pleased and sometimes surprised to see that she had not left. She always adapted to the latest ordeal or stricture. Now his curiosity, perhaps the only trait he shared with his other half, drew him towards a new experiment.
He pointed at the second beaker containing the black liquid, next to the empty one. “Do you know what this is?”
She stood up and looked at it. “It appears to be the formula you created, Master. I mean, that created you.”
“So it appears.” It was a strange substance, black as tar and thick as syrup, but with a way of beading and moving like liquid mercury. Pour it on a flat surface and it would shift about like a living thing. Even in the beaker, the surface of the liquid bulged upwards slightly. “It might also be poison. It might also be water with harmless coloring. Even if it is the formula, it might have no effect at all.” Or it might just kill you. He smiled. The prospect of imminent destruction was delicious. “Drink it.”
She started to reach for the beaker, then hesitated, her fingers beating faintly against the countertop. It wasn’t the reward that appealed to her, he knew: it was the challenge. Even when he assigned her tasks that were obviously pointless or even impossible, she threw herself into them with a relish of some medieval nun performing devotions. He rather liked the idea, actually, of being so worshipped.
“Haven’t I proven I’m strong enough to do anything you demand of me?” she said.
“Test to destruction, pet.”
She picked up the beaker, raised it to her lips and drank. She choked, almost retched, and finally gulped it down. Her hands shook as she put the beaker down, but he knew that was nerves, not the formula itself.
“Good girl! And now we wait.” He leaned forward, delighted. Already he could see her body temperature rising.
“I don’t feel any diff—” Mary doubled over as if someone had punched her in the stomach.
He leaned forward. “Did I mention that the initial transformation is somewhat agonizing?” he commented, watching with his hand resting on his chin.
She straightened up, cheeks flush and shivering. “Me stomach feels…” The tremors increased to outright shuddering. Her face twitched grotesquely, and she stumbled forwards and collapsed onto the counter.
He watched in delight; there was nothing he liked better than witnessing something in disarray. Mary was a hardy little thing, as he well knew, and she would hang on to the bitter end.
The laces up the length of each glove broke with two loud snaps, followed by a louder crack of her corset laces breaking. Mary keeled over, choking and sputtering. Hyde leaned forward slightly so he would have a clear view.
She lay on the floor in a fetal position, deathly still. He frowned slightly. It would be damned inconvenient if she were dead…
She took a huge, gasping breath at the same moment as she sprang to her feet, arms outstretched. She was all flashing emerald eyes, sharp widow’s peak, body now all bone and sinew, fingers flexing as if she wanted to touch everything around her. He’d wanted to rip open that mousy little servant naïf and see if there was anything more interesting inside. And what could be more interesting than a distaff version of himself?
“This is new,” she said, looking around the laboratory as if seeing it for the first time. He knew what she was feeling and thinking, her new heightened senses turning the world into a fantastic spectacle. “There are two alley cats rutting ten yards north of here.” She sniffed the air. “And the Harrison boy down the street just spent into his handkerchief.”
“Welcome!” he exulted, spreading his arms wide. “Welcome to the world, my dear.”
She turned to face him, tatters of her rubber dress whirling around her. “I want to do everything! Show me everything!”
“And why not? Even a tiger enjoys the company of a tigress from time to time.”
(Purchase The Innocent’s Progress to read the story’s conclusion!)
In a steampunk society where sex is ritualized and marriage is sacred, the slightest misstep can bring your world tumbling down. In this collection, Peter Tupper explores the many facets of a time that never was, and a society that is all too familiar. Rich in eroticism, and immersive in its detail, The Innocent's Progress and Other Stories is a sterling example of what steampunk can be.