In these seven stories, our authors explore the allure and simmering sexuality of the Victorian age’s greatest detective, through the fantastical lens of steampunk. Editor J. Blackmore, known for her erotic steampunk anthologies, continues her romp through the literary boudoirs of the Victorian age that has previously included Lewis Carroll and which will soon encompass Jane Austen and H.P. Lovecraft, as well.
As she notes in her introduction to ELEMENTARY EROTICA: “I was surprised by the overwhelming response I got when I requested [these] erotic stories. Holmes’s apparent distaste for women and seeming lack of interest in sex make him an unlikely hero for an erotic story, but each of these authors found their own unique way of dealing with this problem. The backdrop of Victorian England is one filled with tension and danger for homosexual men.This was a time and a place where it was illegal to be gay, plain and simple. We’d do well to remember that Holmes was not always a devotee of the law.”
By transforming the Victorian figure into an erotic one, these stories make social commentary on the repressiveness of the Victorian age and fear of sexuality in our own times. They are simultaneously parodic, through their use of known settings and tropes, and erotic, through their liberation of the previously unwritten sexuality of the characters.
Table of Contents:
The Prophet’s Eye by Aoife Bright
The Hysteria Machine by Louise Blaydon
The Adventure of the Green Zeppelin by Elinor Gray
Research by Kate Lear
Upon the Use of Electrical Vibration in the Treatment of Hysterics by Violet Vernet
Emet by Cornelia Grey
Songs Without Words by Peter Tupper
Read an Excerpt from The Hysteria Machine by Louise Blaydon:
The thing began, as affairs in our rooms so frequently did, with a minor mystery.
At the time at which the events in question transpired, I had not yet acquired a practice of my own, and as such was still employed at Saint Bart’s hospital as a casual surgeon and lackey. The great advantage of this, for my purposes, was that it enabled me to demand personal days at my whimsy–or rather, at the whimsy of Holmes–such that we might catch an impulsive train to some distant part of the country on the trail of this thief or that scoundrel, or pursue a suspect across the capital at will. The disadvantage, of course, was that it rendered my accounts somewhat erratic, with the result that my income so barely sufficed to cover my costs that Holmes had taken to keeping my check book in the locked top drawer of his desk, with my permission. This had the benevolent effect of curtailing my inherited tendency towards impulsive spending; it also, I fear, appealed rather to Holmes’s ego. It would not be obvious to any but those who know him very well–and the number of such men is very small–but Holmes has a streak of vanity in him, and he enjoys the sensation of control. Were he not so eclectic in his energies, I have no doubt he would have made an excellent national dictator.
A second disadvantage to the nature of my employment at Saint Bart’s was that I had not been afforded any personal space of my own wherein to store my things–by which I refer to my stethoscope, diagnostic texts, and other basic accoutrements of the modern physician. This meant that I was forced to carry around on my person a rather sizable leather bag in which I kept all such items (and whose weight placed a medically inadvisable strain upon my wounded left shoulder, but this could not be helped). The bag being so heavy, I invariably set it down as soon as was feasible upon returning to our rooms, and as such, it was always to be found a little inside the main door of our sitting room, exactly where I had left it.
This night, it seemed, constituted the exceptional variable.
I had been rather more exhausted than usual upon my return to Baker Street that evening. This could be put down to a combination of factors; among them, the very large number of children who had managed to sustain minor injuries in outdoor activity–for it was summer–and the oppressive heat of the Underground, uncomfortable at the best of times and in hot weather intolerable. Accordingly, after calling in cursory fashion for Holmes and hearing no answer, I made short work of the supper Missus Hudson had provided, and promptly fell into a doze in my customary chair. This was around six, or a little after. Coming groggily back to myself fully two hours later with my mind rather clearer, I soon recalled my earlier intention to remind myself of the details of an operation I was scheduled to perform in the morning. I had spent a great deal of time in medical school, and almost as long, now, in practice, but it always behoves a doctor to refresh himself upon minor details before cutting open another human being; and so, standing with a stretch of my shoulders, I retraced my steps to the door in search of my bag.
I saw within moments that it was not where I had expected it, in the spot where it always rested when I was at home. Bemused, I occupied myself fruitlessly for another moment or two in some attempt to determine whether I might possibly have left it elsewhere; but I knew in my mind that I had set it down exactly as I always did, and a glance around the room, tonight rather neat, confirmed that I had not simply mistaken where I had put it. Two hours earlier, I had entered these rooms with a bag. Now, when I once again had need of it, that bag was gone.
I have not spent three years in the perpetual company of Holmes for nothing. He may be the leading expert in deduction, but I have learned a few things about the art myself, and it was immediately evident to me that no intruder could have entered our rooms, penetrated the impermeable barrier of the good Missus Hudson, and taken my bag without waking me. I am a doctor, but I was also a soldier, with a soldier’s overactive senses in slumber. No: there was only one man on earth who could have made off with my case, a deduction made only more sound by the fact that I knew him to have done it on several previous occasions. Holmes moves like a cat, and could easily have slipped back into our rooms unnoticed, had he wished to do so. There was also always the chance that he had been in his own bedroom since before my return, but had chosen not to answer my enquiry. When he is deep in thought, he has been known to employ such tactics.
I sighed heavily. Evidently his cogitations had led him towards some conclusion, which he needed a medical man’s equipment and texts to confirm. This was all well and good, but the well-being of a person will always be, to me, of higher importance than that of a case, and I could not permit Holmes to retain my texts when I myself had need of them. I crossed the room in three strides, ran up the brief flight of stairs that led to Holmes’s door, and rapped sharply upon it.
I waited. When a moment or two had passed and yielded still no answer, I pressed my lips together in some determination, and leaned my ear against the door. “Holmes,” I repeated, with a greater sense of insistence.
At first, his disinclination to respond to my entreaties had failed to arouse any great anxiety in me, for Holmes is a strange creature, given to long periods of silence, and to behavior which, in any other man, might have seemed the height of rudeness, but which in Holmes is only his manner, and must be tolerated as such. But increasingly, it was occurring to me that there were other uses to which Holmes might yet have put my medical equipment. A glance sufficed to confirm my suspicion that his little vial of cocaine–a seven percent solution of his own deviant design–was not in its habitual place upon the bookcase. This realization caused me to redouble my efforts upon the door.
“Holmes,” I insisted. “I demand that you open this door immediately! As you have doubtless determined by now, I do not carry syringes of the sort you require, and I must have my bag!”
The silence that endured after my words had fallen dead into the air seemed quite complete. I pressed my ear to the panels of the door again, pushing myself closer against it in my increased distress. There was still no clear sound from within, but I did notice, upon this occasion, a faint whirring buzz somewhere inside the room, whose provenance I could not place. A moment later, I heard the unmistakable hitching breath of a man in evident pain.
My heart clenched in my chest. I paused not a moment longer, stricken with contrition at all the things I had thought of him when, all the while, his reluctance to answer me was due to his having sustained some hideous injury. In the seconds it took me to fumble at the door handle, a succession of numerous horrible imaginings paraded themselves through the corridor of my mind, each one more unthinkable than the last. “Holmes,” I called out again. “My dear fellow, do not be concerned. I am on my way!”
Another second’s jiggling at the fob, and the recalcitrant lock gave way to the invading key. It released with an audible click, and the door burst open under the impetus of my impatient weight. I raised my hands first, and my eyes second, braced for whatever piteous sight might greet them.
That sight… did not come.
In its stead I saw a vision which was to alter the course of my existence forever, had I but known it. It was, as I have stated, a warm day in midsummer, and the heat had not dissipated with the evening. Nevertheless, it was hardly usual practice for gentlemen–even gentlemen as eccentric in their manner as Holmes–to attempt to ease themselves by stretching out quite naked on their beds before nine. It seemed still less likely that the device in his hand–which he was now, as far as I could determine, attempting to insert into his person in a most inadvisable manner–could possibly avail him of any relief.
I could, I suppose, have been mortified at the sight. As it was, the combination of the way in which he was looking at me, with a steadiness that almost suggested he had expected my intrusion, and my outrage at seeing my medical equipment abused in so inexplicable a fashion, roused me instead to irritation.
“Holmes,” I declared, “that is absolutely not the purpose for which that device was intended. It is supposed to relieve hysteria and restlessness in young ladies; I neither know nor care what you are hoping to achieve with it, but I would greatly appreciate it if you were to give it back. And the rest of my medical equipment.”
To my immense annoyance–although I must confess, not entirely to my surprise–Holmes began to laugh. I noticed through my irritation that he did not entirely cease what he was doing, either, although the motions of his hand slowed.
“My dear Watson,” he said, in a voice rich with amusement. “Do you not believe in the multifaceted nature of creation?”
The remark was so odd that I floundered for a moment, nonplussed. “Well… yes,” I said, my irritation momentarily dispelled in my confusion.
“Well then,” Holmes said tartly, nodding as if he had established some pertinent fact. “Can you not entertain, then, the notion that this device may be suitable for several purposes, rather than solely the one to which you ascribe it?”
As if in demonstration, he pressed the tip of the implement firmly against his entrance, in evident suggestion. To my initial distress and confusion, my body’s reaction to the sight was one not of repugnance, but, rather, of… interest. Alarmed by the rush of sensation to my groin, I cleared my throat and addressed him with my firmest military air.
“That device,” I informed him, “is for administering pelvic massage to young women.”
Holmes only laughed again, softly, this time, beneath his breath. “Ah, Watson.” He pressed again with the implement, such that this time, the tip of it slipped a little way within the entry to his body. I felt myself stir again alarmingly, and swallowed.
“It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts,” said Holmes. Again, he pressed upon the end of the instrument, and again, it pushed a little further inside of him. Beside the bed, the little steam engine that powered it hissed and swished, inexorable and undeterred.
“Certainly,” I said, in a voice which I must confess was rather husky, “it appears to be functioning correctly, despite your… unorthodox application of it.”
“Indeed,” Holmes agreed, raising his hips slightly to ease the passage of the prosthesis. As it slid home, he uttered a small hitching sound in the back of his throat, his head falling a little back in reaction.
Writing now, with the benefit of two years’ hindsight, I recognize that it was this vision which undid me…
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In these seven stories, our authors explore the allure and simmering sexuality of the Victorian age's greatest detective, through the fantastical lens of steampunk. Editor J. Blackmore, known for her erotic steampunk anthologies, continues her romp through the literary boudoirs of the Victorian age that has previously included Lewis Carroll and which will soon encompass Jane Austen and Lovecraft.