First: I am nearly always disappointed by the portrayal of women in fantasy. Be it "sword and fantasy" fiction, science fiction, cyberpunk, steampunk...the heroine is too often a spunky feminist or a sex object (or both). If you like that, sure. I don't.
Authors who write heroines of this type into steampunk fiction lose not only my admiration of wow, this person has a published book! but also my suspended belief. Granted, there are many forms of "steampunk," indeed, the genre's definition is highly debated. I'm talking about the Victoriana alternative reality setting -- your girl should not walk and talk as though she's from this reality of 2011. Worse still, she should not think like someone from the twenty-first century and yet possess the mannerisms of Victorian Era England. It's just confusing.
I want, and I think most people want, two simple yet hard to deliver aspects of steampunk. 1) A heroine you not only admire, love, and can identify with but also someone you aspire to be. She has passions and desires like the least of us, driven by motives like the best of us, but also possesses heroine qualities that inspire and encourage us. 2) As much believability as possible. Mad scientists, giant war machines, airships, zombies are all very well if they happen in a believable context. Imposing modern attitudes on a nineteenth or even eighteenth century society...wrecks the party.
Three examples come to mind: The Difference Engine -- good book, I enjoyed it, but I'm not interested in re-reading the escapades of a courtesan. Full Steam Ahead -- not so good, incredibly mouthy heroine. Boneshaker -- fun read! Not the expected stereotype heroine but she, and everyone else, did not speak like nineteenth century folks.
The second reason: I love steampunk. Do I need any other reason to write fiction in tribute to the genre?
I am not so confident that I can write a story featuring a heroine of such noble caliber as described in the above paragraph, but I am confident that I'll have a good time! The general concept is still sketchy, but blogging about it always inspires me and creates a kind of contract -- now I have to follow through and do what I said I'd do.
Not to reveal too much, but I'm delighted to share a brief list of the aspects of my story that I know so far. Subject to change, of course.
England, 1834 (Playing it safe. I'm comfortable in this century).
Posh family loses oldest son in the Napoleonic wars (Lord Nelson featured? Perhaps. No promises)
Automaton (Daedalus Standard, DaV model 1815. His name is Arlo ((Faerie Queene reference))
Inventions (of course)