Soup Of The Day: With #Steampunk Author David Lee Summers
Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!
Helping me this morning is Steampunk writer David Lee Summers, author of The Clockwork Legion series! Good morning David, thank you so much for coming to help me in the kitchen today, I hope your journey here from your own dimension was a good one?
I had a delightful journey. The spacetime vortex was a trifle bumpy in the middle, but that just adds some zest to the ride!
Indeed! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?
I did indeed. This is a soup my character Ramon Morales enjoys in the novel Lightning Wolves called Caldo de Pollo. It’s a traditional soup from New Mexico and the proportions are easily adjustable to feed as many as you need. This recipe will make about six 8-ounce servings.
1 tablespoon Canola oil
4 chicken leg quarters
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
48 oz chicken stock
1 cup whole grain brown rice
2 cups water
1 cup baby carrots
2 large potatoes
1 onion chopped fine
¼ cup cilantro
2 tablespoons New Mexico or Anaheim green chile roasted and chopped
2 stalks celery cut about an inch long
½ cup salsa (pick the flavor you like, I like a smoky, Chipotle salsa)
Heat oil in 4 quart pot. Sauté onions until clear to lightly browned. Cut chicken quarters in half and add to the pot. Add chicken stock, rice, garlic, and green chile. Bring to boil then simmer until chicken is tender—about an hour. Allow to cool. The dish may be prepared to this point and refrigerated overnight. Remove chicken from pot. Discard skin and bones. Shred meat and set aside. Skim fat from broth. Add 2 cups water, carrots, celery, potatoes, cilantro, salsa, and garlic powder to the stock. Bring to a boil then cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender. Add water as needed to keep it brothy. Add the shredded chicken back to the pot and heat through.
Oh how marvellous! Thankyou! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we have a seat by the fire and I will put the kettle on, and you can tell the orphans here all about your Steampunk series, it starts in New Mexico but the story unfolds to span the globe doesn’t it?
The Clockwork Legion series does indeed start in New Mexico. It begins when a small town sheriff meets a woman from a distant land who endeavors to be a healer in every sense of the word. She wants to heal not only sick and injured people, but the land and rifts between people. Unfortunately, not everyone wants those rifts healed and she falls afoul of the rich and powerful.
In the meantime an alien swarm, so tiny it can’t be seen, comes to Earth. Fascinated by our two main characters and their desire to heal the rifts that divide people, it decides to take action and starts unlocking the potential of the world’s great inventors. In the process, it inadvertently unleashes the Russian Invasion of America and our heroes struggle to set things right again. The story spans the Western United States and then crosses the Pacific to Japan for the third book.
And what about the main characters, Fatemeh and Ramon, could you tell us a little more about them?
Fatemeh Karimi is the healer I mentioned. She ran away from Persia when she converted to the new Bahá’í Faith and found herself in danger of persecution. She’s curious about all things spiritual, has a strong sense of justice, is a talented herbalist, and wants to help every troubled person she meets. That strong sense of justice, though, gets her in to trouble. Also she might, just might, talk to owls.
When we meet Ramon Morales, he’s the sheriff of Socorro, New Mexico, a raucous mining town in the center of the territory. He’s very owl-like with round glasses and soon falls under Fatemeh’s spell. Like her, he has a strong sense of justice, plus he has a strong interest in what this great century of change will bring. When we first meet him, he’s trying to find his direction in life. As the books progress, we see his interests come into greater focus.
Your settings and characters are certainly a move away from London-centric Steampunk do you think we need to encourage greater diversity within the genre or do you think we have it already?
The whole world experienced the steam era, which means there is a whole world that could serve as a backdrop for stories. There have been some good strides made toward diverse steampunk such as Nisi Shawl’s Nebula-nominated Afro-steampunk novel Everfair or Eric Brown’s steampunk novel set in India, Jani and the Greater Game. If you add time to the mix and allow for post-apocalyptic stories we can consider Paulo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl set in Southeast Asia. Cheri Priest’s Clockwork Century novels are set in America. If we now add in small and independent press titles, we truly span the globe.
So yes, we do have diverse steampunk, but really, we’re just beginning. Because people do have a very London-centric view of Steampunk, it’s clear we need to keep up the good work and encourage more diverse steampunk. We need to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to come and join us as we explore this wonderful, fun, creative space and have them tell their stories. Steampunk will only be richer for the efforts.
I absoloutely agree with you I …Oh! now the kettle is boiled, may I offer you a cup of tea? How do you take it?
Just a little sugar, please!
Hm, it is the last of the ration I’m afraid! There you are. So what first attracted you to Steampunk?
I think I was a Steampunk before I even knew what Steampunk was. My dad was a locomotive foreman for Santa Fe Railroad and introduced me to steam locomotives at a young age. What’s more, while I’m a speculative fiction writer by day, I’m an astronomer by night. My first job in the field was working on a nineteenth-century telescope with a wind-up clock drive and glass photographic plates. I got to see first-hand how I could use nineteenth century technology to produce publishable science in the late twentieth century!
My first story published for professional rates was called “The Slayers” and told the story of an airship crew who hunted dragons. The story had a very Steampunk aesthetic and appeared in Realms of Fantasy Magazine in 2001, long before I even heard the word “Steampunk.”
I first heard the word “Steampunk” around 2009 when I was telling someone about a story I’d written in which a zombie-like creature is raised from the dead with a Tesla coil. The person said the story sounded very Steampunk. I looked into it and realized he was right. What’s more, I realized a lot of the stuff I liked writing could, indeed, be called Steampunk.
This is all to say that when I finally did discover Steampunk, the pump was primed and I was ready to jump aboard. I’ve always loved nineteenth century technology from precision gear-driven machines to electrical apparatus such as Tesla coils. Also, I love looking at points in history and seeing what would happen if dots were connected that hadn’t been connected in history as we know it.
Splendid! And how have your own culture and experiences influenced your writing?
When I write, I try to capture the world around me as I see it. I grew up in a culturally diverse neighborhood in Southern California. My mom was a third-generation New Mexican and we visited the state often when I was young. I fell in love with it and moved to New Mexico for college. In college and in my subsequent astronomy career, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with men and women from all around the world. Currently, I live in a diverse neighborhood about 35 miles north of the Mexican Border. The observatory where I work is in the Tohono O’Odham Nation of Southern Arizona.
Ethnically, I’m some mix of Celtic and Central European stock and undoubtedly have reaped the benefits of white privilege. That said, I’m so far removed from those roots, it’s not always easy to separate those cultural influences from the ones that surround me on a daily basis. Although I do worry about falling into the trap of cultural assimilation in my writing, I do my best to avoid that by respecting the cultures I write about. I learn what I can about their history and remember that first and foremost, we’re all people and we’re more alike than different.
Having noted all that, I always thought it was strange when I was a child to watch western films and see them populated with nothing but white people. They seemed nothing like the west as I knew it. It took books like The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols and Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya to show me the New Mexico I saw with my own eyes. I wanted to capture that New Mexico, that western United States, in my writing.
Another element to mention is that I’ve been surrounded by strong women all my life, including my mom, my wife, and my daughters. They are a big influence on the strong women in my stories. Among other things, it’s important that the characters in my stories be good role models for my daughters.
There is a strong undercurrent of social , religious and political commentary to your work, do you think Steampunk is well placed to draw attention to important issues both past, present and future?
By its nature, Steampunk looks at the past and asks “what if?” That puts it in a unique place to not merely report on the past, but ask how it could have been changed. Although we can’t change the past, those insights can help us see where problems persist in the present and allow us to shape the future in response.
The nineteenth century is rightly criticized for many human rights’ abuses and inequalities. It was an era of rampant colonialism. That said, it was also the era when many brave men and women began to speak out. Arguably, that was a much harder time to speak out. Speaking out often got you beaten or even killed. Looking back and facing the ugly parts of our past becomes a way to remind ourselves to be brave and steadfast in the present, seeking justice and equality where we can and not to allow ourselves to fall back into a time when we judged people by their gender or their skin color.
The Bahá’í Faith features strongly in my Clockwork Legion novels. That started simply because it was a brand new religion during the late nineteenth century. However, the more I learned, I discovered that its practitioners are denied educations and even jailed to this day simply for their beliefs. What’s more, there’s a lot I agree with in the faith, including the emphasis on education for all and equal rights for women. It became an opportunity to bring attention to a subject that’s often buried under more prominent social issues.
That is fascinating, it has certainly inspired me to find out more. But back to your own writing for a moment, do you have any new releases or projects brewing that we can get excited about?
I just co-edited an anthology called Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales which is a collection of exciting science fiction tales released by WordFire Press. My most recent novel is called The Astronomer’s Crypt and imagines astronomers, ghosts, a drug cartel, and a monster from the dawn of time colliding at an observatory like the one where I work in real life.
On the Clockwork Legion and Steampunk front, I’m very excited to announce that my Clockwork Legion story “Fountains of Blood” is in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone edited by David Boop and published by Baen Books. In addition to my story, you’ll find stories by Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, Jody Lynn Nye, Alan Dean Foster, Phil Foglio, and many more. Also, I’m just putting the finishing touches on the fourth Clockwork Legion novel, Owl Riders. Stay tuned for more information about that soon!
Wonderful! Lots of things to look forward to! And where can we find your work online?
You can sign up for my newsletter and find more about me and my books at http://www.davidleesummers.com
I also maintain a blog at http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com with news and information plus articles related to my writing, my work life in astronomy, and other things that influence my work.
Marvellous! Well now, it really has been so wonderful to chat to you today David, thankyou so much for coming to give me a hand in the kitchen! I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?
Thank you so much for the interview. I’m hungry now! Definitely time to dish up the soup!
Thankyou all of you for joining us today, I must pass on Max and Collin’s apologies for not being at home this week – apparently they have ‘reasons’ and apparently these will soon become…er…apparent! In the meantime, do please take the time to visit David’s weblinks below and come and join me next week when I will be hosting our blog tour post for Karen J Carlisle’s wonderful new instalment of Viola Stewart!!! Until then,
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074FHCJXG/
The Astronomer’s Crypt: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N5EH8QP/
Straight Outta Tombstone: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1481482696/
Clockwork Legion novels are as follows:
Lightning Wolves: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LI3LO80/
The Brazen Shark: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AHCSA0W/
This entry was posted on September 20, 2017 by Penny Blake. It was filed under Soup of the day and was tagged with authors, books, culture, diversity, fiction, history, interviews, sci fi, science fiction, steampunk, Victorian.