Clockwork Dolls started out with a single bizarre fantasy–a clankingly minimalist autonomous mobile sex toy. It fit perfectly within the steampunk aesthetic, and I spent more time than I’d like to admit working out the design and function. Finding the characters of Anke and Phoebe was harder, but I’ve always loved butch/femme couples. Anke’s formality and her suppressed desire contrasts with Phoebe’s energy and charisma. The stratified nature of Victorian society lends itself perfectly to a story about forbidden love. I also liked the idea that class and custom could be the real obstacle between two lovers, instead of their gender.
As the story progressed, I enjoyed exploring the places where sensuality met automation. Anke’s dolls and creations changed form and function with Phoebe’s needs and desires. The dolls themselves are ornamental and beautiful, the way a higher-class woman like Lady Phoebe was supposed to be. Anke creates a symbol for her ideal of Lady Phoebe herself, building dolls that you may look at but that are not meant to be touched (lest direct contact spoil the illusion of perfection). Anke’s machine, by contrast, is a symbol for the way Anke thinks of her desire and sexuality–decidedly not beautiful or ornamented, not meant to be seen or noticed, dedicated to performing one task and one task alone. Anke is no stone butch, but she certainly doesn’t see herself as beautiful, even with the trappings and accouterments of makeup and lingerie.
I’d written erotica before, but this is the first erotica story I’ve actually shown to someone I was dating! As the story progressed, I ran each new scene past my girlfriend, Sara. She gave me amazing feedback on which parts worked, which didn’t, and how I could tweak them to make the story perfect.
Anthologies which include this story: