A Diverse Dilemma? – A Guest Post By Stephen Palmer
A few years ago, the well known scientist Tim Hunt caused a media storm by suggesting that women scientists in laboratories were distractingly sexy and prone to fits of tears. He was rightly lambasted and mocked for having such an old-fashioned attitude. This incident caused a particularly interesting tea break conversation in the staff room of the college where I used to work, between myself, two sociology teachers (for whom racism and much else is on the curriculum), a biology teacher and a psychology teacher. We covered sexism, racism, the youth of today – ie our students – and a few other related topics, and the conversation really made me think afterwards, not least about the use of offensive words in literature.
In 2014, Keith Brooke at Infinity Plus Books published my surreal, alternate-history fantasy Hairy London, a novel not to be taken seriously, but which has a couple of really serious themes – the nature of love, and the treatment afforded by white men of what used to be called the Establishment to non-British people, the “lower” classes and women. As somebody who is appalled by racism and sexism, and who has happily used a full human range of characters in his novels, I wanted to make use of some of the excesses of times gone past in order to allow two of my main characters – both of them men from wealthy English families – to learn from their experiences. To do this, I used the term darkie. I used it for no other reason than to make the point that the racism of the time was shameful and inhumane. I felt my use was appropriate.
This use of the word was noted in one of the novel’s reviews: … there is a boldness echoing the New Wave experimentalism of British SF in the 1960s. Bold to the extent that elements of the depiction of racism may prove controversial, not least some historically accurate language…
So, I asked myself: is it ever acceptable to use this term? And if so, what about the N-word?
In 2016, the first volume of my ‘Factory Girl’ trilogy, The Girl With Two Souls, whose main character Kora is a fourteen year old of mixed racial descent, was published. Technically, Kora is a mulatto. This word has its origin somewhere in the sixteenth century and comes from the Spanish mulato, meaning mule (the offspring of a donkey and a horse, ie mixed heritage). Interestingly, the N-word is not much younger – a few decades perhaps.
You will note I haven’t actually spelled out the N-word here. But I did use it in full in The Girl With Two Souls to enhance the sensation received by the reader that my main character was being treated with crude inhumanity. I felt that, because the word was used in an appropriate social context, not to mention an obvious historical context, it was right to use it.
Some people today think the word shouldn’t be used in any context; they say it is always wrong and always inappropriate. I think this is misguided, and often unhelpful. To censor the attitudes of people in the past by not using their dialect is to ignore or conceal their deeds.
Recently I finished reading Discoveries, Nicholas Thomas’ excellent survey of Captain Cook’s three voyages of discovery in the late 1700s. What was particularly interesting was the attitude of the British sailors to various Polynesian races. In fact, at this very early stage, Cook at least was comparatively enlightened, though in a particular way; he had a concept of peaceful interaction with “natives,” though only for the purpose of trade. And he used his own metaphor to describe them, not the Polynesians’ metaphors. He and other officers also used the difference in status of women to judge Polynesian societies, assuming that polygamy was primitive and monogamy the norm, ie the Christian norm. And of course Cook and others distinguished between the “European” straighter hair of the Australian Aborigines and the “woolly” hair of what they called Negroes, presuming that “woolly” hair was like animal hair. In this manner, and in others, they were able to present themselves with justifications for slavery.
I suppose we’re all guilty of making unthinking mistakes though, mistakes based in the norms of our own culture. The tea break conversation mentioned above turned to the use of the word ethnic, which I’ve regularly used as an umbrella word – for example to describe my collection of musical instruments – to mean non-British. The sociology teacher pointed out to me that the word was meaningless, since everybody has an ethnicity, a point which had escaped me, even though I’m of Welsh extraction and have received anti-Welsh mockery (from an Indian – oh, the irony). Ethnic… it shows how we accidentally slip into unhelpful terminology sometimes when describing the wider world.
The sociology teacher went on to explain that the acronym BME is used by British police and other organisations to cover black and minority ethnicities, thereby collecting everyone under one label. But it is a meaningless label, and hardly helpful, not least when for example non-British refugees (eg from Somalia) are all housed together when they are from groups who in Somalia are at one another’s throats.
One other issue we have is of making blanket identities, for example that of “African.” In my novel Muezzinland I wanted to write about the intricate and sophisticated cultures of Western and Northern Africa, which I did via folklore. It was a novel with racism as a theme – eg that of people from Northern Africa upon Western Africans – which did not mention race.
As an interesting addendum, none other than President Obama used the N-word during a podcast on 21 June 2015, showing that, in some circumstances, and from some people, there is a place for it.
And in a thought-provoking piece in today’s Independent, Ben Elton describes what he learned, much later, from his use of the epithet “spasmo” in 1982 in ‘The Young Ones,’ which went on to become a playground taunt. He regrets it deeply now, and has greatly contributed to disabled charities such as Scope, but the fact remains: the word was of its time. We can see that it’s wrong, but we have to use that word now in order to examine the sociological context of 37 years ago.
It turns out we are all human, with individual circumstances of gender, race, culture, background etc. I think it would be good if our society reflected that fact.
Many thanks for this thought provoking guest post Stephen. You can find Stephen’s blog here:
And the first book in his Factory Girl series here:
Good evening and welcome to my awe inspiring athenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets – or as that ridiculous octopus calls it, my ‘lovely library.’
I am the ghost of Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect, catalogue and review every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler of the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But I have not always been a bad tempered ghost in charge of an underground library. Once upon a time I was a bad tempered gentleman who had devoted his life to the collection of evidence which might perhaps one day bring about the downfall of our oppressive overlord, Wiz.
Not to be put off by death, I have struggled to find a way to continue my work and I have indeed found a method by which I can sporadically leave this library, to which I am otherwise bound, and travel abroad.
This method is known as The Opprobrious Pith Helmet.
By securing the services of a less than reputable Wizard I have had my soul partially bound to an ancient piece of explorational headwear and am therefore able to possess the wearer for short periods of time, with their consent…hm? Did I have to drug them first? Well how very rude of you of course I did not have to drug them…I mean the very idea!
So this evening, I most honoured to be occupying the form of authour Jaq D Hawkins and I… yes her hair is supposed to look like that. I think. Well, alright there may have been a very minor altercation with a disgruntled Bar Keep who mistook my innocent enquiries about leather bound tomes for something else entirely, but I managed to set him straight in the end… no, no those are not bruises on her knuckles, I didn’t hit him that hard.
Anyway I do not have time for an interrogation on the moral use of other people’s bodies, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have new books everywhere and I must review and catalogue them and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe? You’ve brought along some cherry brandy to keep out the chills as we work?
Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate a short extract of each story and a review, and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…
Nav Logan has an undeniable talent for comedy. I first came across this author when we were both invited to submit stories for the Dreamtime Dragons Anthology. I was well impressed that he was able to make getting eaten by a dragon funny!
Muliebral the Bald (or Bold) has compounded my opinion that Logan could give Terry Pratchett some serious competition in the area of human observation comedy, while setting the story within a believable historical fiction context. He can even do the accents while keeping them understandable, no small feat!
The story is about a king who has two daughters whom he feels he must marry off to generate heirs in the old Medieval patriarchal system. However, the girls are good fighters, being descendants of Boudicca and all, and Muliebral, more than her sister Chastity, sees no reason why they need a man to protect them or fill the role of heir to the kingdom.
Her basic attitude is summed up in a quote from her maternal grandmother, who clearly never approved of her daughter’s choice of husband, king or not:
Todhmhii’s (Tommy) one regret was that he had no sons to pass his kingdom on to. His wife, Hayleigh, had given him two daughters: Chastity and Muliebral, and they were as different as chalk and cheese. His mother-in-law, Lannau, regularly and publicly scorned him for his inability to produce any male heirs.
“If I told our Hayleigh once, I must have told her a hundred times,” the old hag would mutter to anyone who was daft enough to heed her, “You need to marry a strong virile Iceni man and you’ll be blessed with godlike children, not go gallivanting off with a worthless bog-trotting Briganti brigand who can’t tell the difference between a ewe in heat and a tavern wench! My grandmother, Queen Boudicca, would turn in her grave at the shame of it. Her last surviving kinswoman marrying a foul-mouthed, crotch-dribbling, goat fondler!”
How Mulibral goes about getting around her father’s insistence on following tradition not too subtly reflects a trope popular in Classical stories about strong women, but it is delivered with Logan’s characteristic ribald humour and is entertaining from start to finish. The quality of writing is superb and the characters come to life from the page with seemingly no effort.
This is definitely one of my own favourite stories from the collection!
And I think we had better leave it there for this evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and I must be getting this body back to its rightful owner… hm? What’s that you say? You don’t think I should give it back in this state? Well we’ve only had a few haven’t we? It is hardly my fault if Jaq is a light weight… hic…
MANY THANKS TO AUTHOUR JAQ D HAWKINS FOR BEING A FABULOUS SPORT AND SHARING HER REVIEW IN PERIL’S LOVELY LIBRARY! YOU CAN FIND JAQ HERE
AND YOU CAN FIND MULIEBRAL THE BALD / BOLD IN THE DREAMTIME DAMSELS ANTHOLOGY HERE…
library image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com by Johnathan Adrianzen
#indiethursday: How To Successfully Self-Publish Your Steampunk Book on Amazon (Guest Post by Desiree. J. Villena)
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to this special “how to” edition of your favorite blog for all things steampunk! Gather ‘round the virtual fire — particularly those of you who’ve penned your masterpieces but have no idea what to do next — because today we’ll be talking about how to self-publish and sell your very own spectacular steampunk book on Amazon.
The gargantuan online retailer maintains a variety of reputations, from cutthroat marketplace and notorious Borders’ assassin, to a veritable land of milk and honey (if you know the right tricks). And though we as a self-respecting literary faction might want to turn our backs on Amazon, the fact is that it’s one of the easiest platforms for self-publishing authors to use, offering a simple upload process through its Kindle Direct Publishing unit and a range of exciting promotional options for authors.
On top of that, you simply can’t beat the consumer reach: Amazon controls roughly 80% of the ebook market in the US and UK, and significant portions in every other book-buying country too. Everyone knows Amazon, and most people use it, even if we may also shake our fists at the sky and scream “Damn you, Bezos!” whenever we hear about the latest Amazon travesty. Cognitive dissonance, economic convenience, willful ignorance — call it what you want, but Amazon’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
I mentioned “knowing the right tricks” in order to find success on Amazon, and it’s absolutely true that you can’t just waltz into the marketplace (metaphorically) and expect to make millions. Indeed, self-publishing a book is far from a glamorous business; you get more creative freedom and royalties than you would if you published traditionally, but you also have to put in about ten times the work. That said, if you’re courageous enough to put your book out into the world and you’re determined for it to succeed, you’re probably not the type to be dissuaded by hard work.
So with my slightly diatribical intro out of the way, let’s dive into the reason why all of us are here: presenting my most practical tips for self-publishing your book on Amazon and becoming the steampunk sensation you’ve always dreamed of being!
The most critical move toward successfully self-publishing almost any kind of book on Amazon is, unfortunately, the hardest. This is because it’s not about the publishing process itself, but what you do in the weeks, months, or even years leading up to your book launch: steadily building your following.
Imagine that each of your readers is a feral cat you are trying to tame; if you try to put a collar on it right away, it’ll claw and hiss at you. But if you leave some food out, coo at it, provide it a warm bed and maybe even a few toys, the cat will grow to trust you. By the time you go to slip a collar over its head, it won’t even notice — in fact, it’ll probably purr at the offer, happy to oblige. (This may be a little optimistic for a cat, but I digress.)
Basically, if you try to promote something to a new follower right away, they’ll unfollow you quicker than you can say elevenses. But if you ply them with interesting material, like interviews and reviews of other steampunk authors, they’ll stick around. You might get them to subscribe to a newsletter where you share your personal thoughts on the tropes and trends of the steampunk genre… and which you can eventually segue into talking about your own self-published book.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a steampunk blog or newsletter but you are active in relevant social media circles, try to capitalize on that! Engage in dialogue surrounding new releases and quintessential classics, squeal over fashion and fanart, and share cool and interesting images with your followers (I’ll talk more about this next). Maintain a friendly yet authoritative persona — this is helpful for any author, but especially in a niche like steampunk, where knowledge runs deep even among casual fans.
The point of all this is for other people to enjoy what you have to offer, trust that your content is high-quality, and believe that you are a talented person worthy of their support in the future. This method is known as “give, give, give, take,” and it’s highly effective in tight-knit communities like those of steampunk, where reputation is everything.
Speaking of ways to cultivate a strong reputation…
Steampunk has a very distinct aesthetic in both the literary genre and subculture as a whole. Even someone who knows very little about it can still hear the word and immediately envision clockwork and corsets. Of course, there’s often a difference between what people think of as “steampunk” and actual steampunk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of popular perception to promote your book with some amazing art!
By far the most important aspect of this is your book cover design. In the publishing world, we like to joke about how “don’t judge a book by its cover” is totally backwards advice for authors; while it works as a philosophical adage, it’s simply untrue when it comes to actual books. Readers will inevitably judge a book by its cover, and decide whether to “look inside” or even buy based on the quality of the design. Which, to be fair, is sort of logical — if the author didn’t bother making an effort with the cover, why would the inner contents be any better?
This doesn’t mean you need to go to art school just to sell your book. However, you should put some serious thought and probably money toward your cover design, whether that means commissioning a friend or hiring a professional. As you’ll learn throughout this process, this is just one of many times when it’s helpful to have a community — you can ask other steampunk authors what level of quality they’ve gone for with their covers, as well as how they managed to afford it and/or if there’s a particular designer they’d recommend.
Don’t forget to look at other bestselling steampunk books on Amazon, too! Again, there’s a distinct dark-and-metallic aesthetic that universally indicates steampunk. But trends can change, and you want to ensure your book cover is clearly associated with this particular genre, both for your personal promotional purposes and on Amazon itself.
Finally, when it comes to visuals, don’t stop with your cover. If you have the budget for it (or some artistically inclined friends to help you out), you should absolutely get a few additional illustrations for your book. Steampunk is one of the most inventive genres out there, and while there’s something to be said for allowing your readers’ imaginations to run wild, it can also be incredibly powerful to provide some visual aids.
What’s more, you can tease these images alongside text previews from your book in order to give your followers a taste of what’s to come. Remember: give, give, give as much as you can before you take. Even something fairly simple (like, say, a tongue-in-cheek “wanted” poster) can make really fun bonus material for your fans.
Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of self-publishing on Amazon. For those who don’t know, all self-publishing authors on the platform use Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, to upload and publish their books.
However, within that all-encompassing process, you also have the option to enroll in KDP Select — a program that allows you to run various price promotions through Amazon, put your book on Kindle Unlimited, and earn higher royalties in certain territories. It’s free to enroll, but it requires 90 days of Amazon ebook exclusivity, meaning you cannot go through any other digital distributors for the first three months of your book’s release.
This is super-condensed summary of everything that KDP Select actually entails, but for our purposes, that’s all you need to know. Your conundrum now is: is it worth it?
The best thing about KDP Select is how easy it is to use. You can start promotions (either free or discounted) with the touch of a button, and then simply direct your fans to your Amazon page. Plus your book will automatically be discoverable on Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers will read it and you’ll get a payout based on how many pages they get through.
The worst thing about KDP Select is, obviously, the fact that your book is restricted to Amazon — despite its far-reaching dominion, it can be unnerving to feel like you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. And if you live in one of those countries where Amazon isn’t quite so totalitarian, you may even be missing out on significant distribution and marketing opportunities. While you will be able to digitally distribute to other places once the 90-day enrollment period is over, you’ll be staking most of your early-launch momentum on Amazon alone.
I can’t tell you outright whether KDP Select is the right choice for you. However, I can tell you which factors to consider: How much help do you want with implementing promotions? Do you have followers who are willing to pay for your book at full price, or will they need a promotion to entice them? How important is wide distribution to you personally? Are you writing a steampunk series? (Series tend to do well on Kindle Unlimited.)
The one aspect of KDP Select that probably appeals to almost all steampunk authors is that there aren’t too many steampunk books currently on Kindle Unlimited. Not only is this a unique selling point for your marketing, but the steampunk-starved SFF readers who subscribe to KU will rush to your book like flies to honey. Of course, there’s no way of knowing how many people will end up read ingyour book through KU, but at least it’s free to get into their library.
Whether or not you decide to enroll in KDP Select and run an Amazon-sanctioned price promotion, there’s still plenty more you can do to externally promote your self-published steampunk book! There are oodles of book review blogs and promotion services that you can explore, not to mention advertising on your own blog and social media — though with relative restraint, since you still don’t want to scare your followers away (remember the cat lesson).
One hot tip for steampunk authors is to aim for quality, not quantity, when reaching out to potential reviewers and third-party promoters. By that I mean: don’t click on those directories and then send a canned email to every single contact on the list! Take the time to comb through your options and select 3-5 reviewers who you think could really help out your book, then write a personalized inquiry to each of them. Off the top of my head, I’d recommend The Kindle Book Review and BookDoggy for first-time authors. And of course, you can always ask for a review or interview from a steampunk-specific blog like this one.
You can do so much more with your own personal connections, too: ask a popular mutual follower about a cross-promotion, encourage your newsletter subscribers to leave a review, and maybe even offer a larger giveaway to increase engagement. The prize doesn’t have to be your book; the giveaway could be for anything steampunk-related, and indeed your followers might be more excited by the prospect of a cool clothing item or small piece of furniture than a book.
Whatever path you take, I certainly hope you’re in a better position to succeed than you were about 2,000 words ago. Steampunk is such a singular genre with an incredible community behind it, and every author’s voice matters — so get out there and make yours heard.
Many thanks from all of us at Blake and Wight to Desiree for this fabulous guest post this morning! Here’s a little more about the author…
The Characters of The Department of Curiosities
I introduced Tillie Meriwether in an earlier book blog tour post (Meet Viola Stewart
and Tillie Meriwether – https://phoebedarqueling.com/2019/04/27/karen-carlisle-viola-
stewart-and-tillie-meriwether-guest-post/ ), now it’s time to introduce some of the other
characters in The Department of Curiosities.
Every hero (or heroine) needs a backup team. Some are sought out. Some thrust upon
them. Some insinuate themselves slowly – for better or for worse.
Most of the characters you’ll meet are associated with The Department of Curiosities, a
government unit in charge of acquiring; cataloguing and securing said ‘Curiosities’. The
‘Department’ is essentially a gigantic curiosity cabinet, only the ‘Curiosities’ are hidden from the avaricious eyes of The Society (Men in Grey) and other nefarious groups – for ‘the good of the people’.
Lord Professor Avery Allington:
When Tillie Meriwether meets Avery Allington, he introduces himself to Tillie as
‘Professor Allington’. Avery Allington (Sir Avery) longs to be defined by his works and not
his title. He prefers to think he earned his position in The Department of Curiosities based on
his education and loyalty, rather than legacy.
He understands what it is to be judged by what you are and not for whom you are and,
as a result, he tries not to judge others on position or appearance. He ignores Tillie’s gender
and youth (she’s only twenty and hasn’t been presented to Society as yet) to discover her
value to The Department, via her intelligence, resourcefulness and enthusiasm.
Once his loyalty is given, Sir Avery will give the benefit of the doubt and requires
factual proof before he withdraws his loyalty. He trusts General Sabine implicitly, even to
ignoring Tillie’s concerns about the loyalty and motives of others, and his own doubts of
Tillie’s allegiances. As a result, he ignores ‘blind spots’, and the possible consequences, this
Through Sir Avery, Tillie discovers a clandestine world of secrets and the hidden
repository where illegal and unregistered mechanicals and contraptions are housed.
Allington sees the potential good in the ‘curiosities’ they are charged to remove from
circulation. Eventually he must decide which is more important: loyalty or scientific discovery.
Next we meet General Sabine, Director of The Department of Curiosities. He is an ex-military man, loyal (beyond doubt) to the Empire, and an ardent admirer and confidant of the Queen. He is also a scientist, specialising in magnetic fields. Thus his allegiances are to the Empire and scientific research…
(The General was inspired by the historical ‘Major-General Edward Sabine’ who wrote a treatise on magnetic fields, was Scientific Advisor to the Admiralty, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and President of the Royal Society.)
Operatives and Domestics:
We also meet various ‘underlings’ and operatives of The Department of Curiosities, including Harrow, Smythe, Saunders and Grace – operatives, coachman, valet and maid. All have a vital role to play in Tillie’s development into a fully-trained operative, and as she learns who is she can trust and where her loyalties truly lie.
As you probably suspect, all four characters have their own secrets and motives, and are not all what they seem. (Spoilers!)
My favourite secondary character is Grace.
Grace’s original appearance was a Ladies’ maid to Tillie. After all, a nineteenth century lady needs assistance. And when working in a male-dominated department, Society would insist Tillie have a chaperone. By the final draft, Grace’s characters had grown, complete with her own secrets, loyalties and motives to be explored more in book two of the series.
“The Inventor?” Harrow scoffed. “I always thought that name was pretentious.”
Finally a bit about the villain of the story:
The Inventor, aka known as ‘The Professor’. The Inventor hides behind many names. He also hides behind a mask, not for anonymity but for protection against the world. He is a germophobe, requiring all who come in contact with him to wear a protective mask and demanding his henchmen to be injected with silver as a safeguard (this was a cure used in the nineteenth century). He is hungry for fame and will do anything for recognition by The Royal Society. The Inventor would be comical, if it were not for his callousness and disregard for others.
The Department of Curiosities will be released 22nd May, 2019.
If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on my blog post: www.karenjcarlisle.com/DOC1bookblogtour
You can pre-order your eBook copy of The Department of Curiosities (for special price of US$2.99) at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/934976
or sign up for my newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/
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- Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle
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Or support me on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!): https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle
Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of speculative fiction – steampunk, Victorian mystery and fantasy.
She graduated in 1986, from Queensland Institute of Technology, with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Optometry, and lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
Karen first fell in love with science fiction when she saw Doctor Who, as a four-year old. This was reinforced when, at the age of twelve, she saw her first Star Destroyer. She started various other long-term affairs with fantasy fiction, (tabletop) role-playing, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk – in that order.
She has had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine and her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes?’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.
She writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures, and co-writing the occasional musical ditty.
Karen has always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.
She is not keen on the South Australian summers.
Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… oh it’s from my dear friend Elen Sentier…
Well, here I am, two hundred and fifty feet above the sea, on the edge of a vertical cliff. Gulls and jackdaws call overhead, a few kittiwakes perched on the cliff opposite, a seal playing down in the water below. Oh how inviting that water looks, all I have to do is step off the edge and I’d been down there, in the water, swimming with her. Well, actually, no – I’d bounce off a whole bunch of scary-looking pointy rocks on the way down, minced nicely for shark food, expect the basking sharks hereabouts are plankton-eaters. Hmmm! Perhaps I won’t do that then!
I adore this place up on the cliffs of North Cornwall. I love that it’s hidden too, you can’t see it as you come up the path and in fact the path goes right on past, you have to deliberately turn off, go a different way, when you get to Firebeacon Hill. I did and sat awhile on the bench at the top, then slithered and skidded my way down the steep slope on the baked earth and slippery dry grass. Breathless, I sat in the cool shadow of the cliff for a few moments, it always gets my heart going doing that skid-walk! Then there’s climbing through the hole …
Lady’s Window is a huge hole in the rockface that stands up at the edge of the cliff. I don’t know enough about geology to tell you why or how it does this, it looks incredible. From the top you think if you climb through you’ll just crash down the rocks and into the sea below, but you don’t. you can climb through the hole onto a path, quite a wide path considering, where you can walk out along the outer side of the cliff for twenty or thirty feet. Ha! Walk! No, I crawl. I have a lousy head for heights but a complete fascination with them.
So I creep through the hole, clutching at the rock, and out crawl onto the path. I go a little way along and sit down with my back to the rock wall. That feels safe, my heart calms down and I begin to be able to take in the views.
Only the sounds of nature out here, birds, the wash and thud of the sea on the cliff below, the wild mewl of a seal. A small sail-boat scuds along the horizon, looks like a little fishing boat, not fancy enough for a holiday-maker’s yacht, maybe he’s out for lobster pots.
The sun is going down, falling down the sky to go to bed in the sea. This is what I came for. Not long now. Down and down he goes until he’s just sat on the edge of the horizon, sending a red-gold pathway back to Lady’s Window and the cliff where I’m sat. It’s so tempting to step out and walk that sun-path.
Later the full moon will rise and, later still, she will set out there in the west following the sun down into the sea. As she goes she too will make a pathway across the water, a moon bridge across to West-Over-the-Sea, our fairy lands and the Isles of the Dead, the lost lands that only emerge out of the sea at certain times. They will be there tonight. Will I walk the moon path? I don’t know but, for now, I pull the quilt over me and stuff myself inside the bivi-bag. It’s good to sleep in the sound of the sea. Wish you were here …
Lady’s Window features in Moon Song, Elen’s 2nd novel. It’s where Isolde, the protagonist, sets out from to find the dead Tristan and bring him back so he can finish his magical songs. It’s a really magical place where Elen spends some time every year.
Moon Song is a magical-realism mystery novel set in modern-day Cornwall. Isolde must find folk singer Tristan who killed himself before he finished a set of magical songs that help people heal. She succeeds but when she takes him back to the Isles of the Dead, where he can now rest in peace, she gets trapped there herself. Only courage and the willingness to literally jump of a cliff will save her.
How delightful! Well we’re coming to the end of summer now my dears, I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday yourselves and enjoyed our series of steampunk summer postcards, as the weather starts to turn again and the Lemonade Trade begins to fizzle out for another year Max and Collin will be found fending off Liver Birds and Landlords in their subterranean parlour once more so do pop in and join them for their monday morning cuppa and tuesday elevenses, I will be opening up my soup kitchen again and looking out for some marvelous steampunk authors to help me dish up tasty soup and share their new books with our little Lancastrian street urchins, and of course our grumpy ghost Perilous Wight will be back in his lovely library with some splendid steampunk fiction to share with you all so, until then
Blessings on your brew my dears!
A GUEST POST BY STEAMPUNK WRITER KAREN J CARLISLE…
<The Parlour door creaks open. Smoke drifts into the room. An old lady with a grey bob enters, shuts the door behind her and leans on her silver walking stick.>
Don’t worry, dears, the smoke should dissipate soon. I should’ve never left Agnes to watch the scones/oven. She always gets distracted, that one. I managed to save some scones for us.
< A plastic container thuds on the table.>
I’ve brought that new book you wanted. It took some trickery to pry it from the author’s hands, you know. They’d only just arrived by courier. She’s so excited. I thought you might like her to visit.
<The cane taps on the floor.>
Oh, sorry. I didn’t see you there. Are you here to see Max and Collin? We haven’t met have we? They said they would introduce us before they left. I’m Enid Turner.
Oh, dear that sounds very formal. <She smiles.> Just call me Aunt Enid.
They didn’t tell you I would be looking after the Parlour, today? They had to pop out to sell some lemonade… <She lowers her voice.> To earn the rent money.
<The clock strikes eleven. Aunt Enid sighs.>
It’s time for Elevenses already? Oh, dear, I am late, aren’t I? That explains why they aren’t here. That’s the problem with Relocation Magic. It’s not always reliable.
<She reaches into her apron pocket, retrieves a book and plops it onto the table. The kettle whistles in the kitchen.>
Do you prefer tea or coffee?
<Tea cups chink onto their saucers. The plastic container snaps open. The smell of freshly baked scones fills the room.>
I made scones and lemon butter. Why don’t you try some.
<She dribbles some honey into her coffee, her hand grips her walking stick as she waits.>
Why, thank you. It’s a family recipe. Are you feeling all right?
<She relaxes and rests the walking stick against her chair.>
Oh, good. Now that’s done, I suppose I should get started.
<She clears her throat.>
Ahem…Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously ridiculous and chi-chi to the core parlour located somewhere within the lower intestines of the splendidly steampunk’d city of Lancaster.
Is that how it goes? Yes? Oh, good. I must apologise; Max and Collin said they would leave some questions for me, but I can’t seem to find them anywhere. I suppose I’ll have to ask the questions myself.
<She sips her coffee.>
Q: Tell us about the new book, Aunt Enid.
Oh, it’s just a little story Agnes and I wrote. My niece, Sally, insisted we publish it. But don’t believe everything you read.
Q: And what is The Dark?
There’s no such things as Shadows and Collectors, or The Dark. That sort of thing gives people nightmares.
<Aunt Enid frowns, picks up the book and reads.>
“When people start disappearing Sally is drawn into her aunt’s secret world and soon discovers her aunt is a Protector Extraordinaire.”
Yes, it’s my duty to stop it breaking through this world’s protective shell, and protect you all. That’s what a Protector does – in the story, that is.
Would you like another scone?
<Aunt Enid turns the book over and shifts in her seat.>
Q: Tell us about your garden?
Oh, I’d love to. Did you know hydrangeas change colour depending on the acidity of the soil? I like/prefer mine to be blue.
What’s that? Why blue? Well… I like blue. It’s a lovely colour don’t you think? Bees like blue. Oh, did I tell you about my bees? They are such lovely creatures. Very observant. As are garden gnomes.
Did I say that?
<Aunt Enid stares into her teacup and whispers to herself.> I wonder what Max has put into the coffee…
<Lightning flashes outside the window. Thunder rumbles over the roof tiles. Aunt Enid grasps her cane and glares out the window. Loud drops of water tap on the roof. Her hand relaxes and she rests her walking stick on her lap.>
Everything’s fine. It’s just a rain storm.
Oh, silly me. You mustn’t mind an old woman. One must be expected to get flustered at my age.
<She smiles, pulls a folded piece of paper from her pocket and places it on the table in front of you.>
Do you like the lemon butter? I promised Max and Collin I’d share my recipe with you.
<The front door slams shut. Footsteps hurry down the hall. Max and Collin enter the Parlour, dripping water all over the carpet.>
Well, it’s about time you two got back. You forgot to leave me some questions to answer.
Yes, Collin, I’ll leave the scones for your afternoon tea.
<Aunt Enid turns back to you, and smiles.>
Thank you for keeping an old lady company. I need to get back to Adelaide and get lunch ready. My Sally’s on afternoon shift at the hospital today. Just make sure Max and Collin don’t hog the scones.
Goodbye Aunt Enid! See you again soon we hope! … Hog the scones indeed! Who does she think we are, a pair of cake crazed tea guzzling lunatics without an ounce of self control when it comes to…. Max! Stop stuffing your face with scones, that is no way to behave in front of our guests… mind you they do look exceedingly tasty… and is that lemon butter? ….
You can read about Aunt Enid’s adventures in the first book of Karen J Carlisle’s new cosy paranormal mystery series, The Other Worlds Chronicles
“Daemons, fairies, magic: it’s all real!
The Otherworld is bleeding through cracks into our world. And Adelaide is ground zero. Something is coming. Something dark – trading souls for passage. And only one person stands between The Dark and the fate of the world.
Aunt Enid is just your average seventy-something year old. She loves to cook, is a regular at bingo and spends hours in her garden, talking to her army of garden gnomes and fussing over the colour of her hydrangeas…
When people start disappearing, her great niece, Sally, is drawn into a secret world and soon discovers her great aunt is a Protector Extraordinaire.”
Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mystery and fantasy.
She graduated in 1986, from Queensland Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Optometry and lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
Karen first fell in love with science fiction when she saw Doctor Who as a four-year old (she can’t remember if she hid behind the couch). This was reinforced when, at the age of twelve, she saw her first Star Destroyer. She started various other long-term affairs with fantasy fiction, (tabletop) role-playing, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk – in that order.
She has had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine and Cockatrice (Arts and Sciences magazine). Her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Karen’s short story, Hunted, featured in the ‘A Trail of Tales’ exhibition in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe.
She writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures.
Karen has always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.
She is not keen on the South Australian summers.
Where to find Karen:
Twitter: @kjcarlisle – https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle
For information on where to buy Karen’s books: http://www.karenjcarlisle.com/shop
You can also follow Aunt Enid’s progress on the book’s FB page.
In the interests of Transparency, a note from Penny : I have the potential to earn a small amount of income through the Amazon Associates program should visitors to this site choose to purchase Aunt Enid – Protector Extraordinaire via the featured links in this article – Penny 🙂
Steampunk: The Second Decade
Greetings to fans of Steampunk old and new! This is the third installment of a series exploring the history of the Steampunk genre in honor of its “31st birthday” on April 27. As part of the 30th birthday festivities in 2017, I coordinated and contributed to a collaborative Steampunk novel called Army of Brass. You can pre-order now at a mere $.99 as our “gift” on this most hallowed of days and it will be delivered on Friday.
In the first post in this series, I talked about adaptations of Victorian works as examples of Steampunk before the word “Steampunk” came into being. If you want to know more about that momentous occasion and the first ten years of amazing books, check out part 2. Now, we embark on the decade spanning the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s in which Steampunk branched out from literature and found a home in fashion and graphic novels. Plus we see the birth of the first online forums for connecting Steampunk fans.
Steampunk jumped from the pages of books into the realm of wearable art sometime in the mid- to late-1990s. Fashion student and member of the fashionable set, Kit Stolen, is one well-known example. He wore distressed Victorian style clothes paired with his own unique hair creations (called “falls”) and caused quite a sensation. Large-scale events wouldn’t show up in earnest for a few years yet, but daring creators like Stolen paved the way for the rest of us to enjoy our corsets and top hats later on.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
In 1999, writer Alan Moore (The Watchmen) and illustrator Kevin O’Neill paired up to create the first LoEG graphic novels. The story is set in 1898 in the aftermath of the events of Dracula. Mina Harker is recruited by Campion Bond (a predecessor of James Bond) to lead a unique group of “extraordinary” literary figures. She recruits the likes of Allan Quatermain, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, and Captain Nemo to join her to fight Fu Manchu in the first collection. Volume II centers on the events of War of the Worlds.
This two-volume collection of comics is brimming with literary characters and settings from the 19th century. And much in the same vein as the first Steampunk books, this series definitely has a dark side. The 2003 film by the same name, however, was pitched as more of a family affair. Sean Connery plays Quatermain and as the one with the star power, he ended up totally usurping Mina as the leader of the group. They also added a big role for Tom Sawyer as a CIA agent. Many fans of comics hated the movie because it shed all of its darkness, and film critics didn’t love it either. Still, it’s a fun homage to the literature of the steam era.
Wild Wild West Movie (1999)
This is another movie that checks several Steampunk boxes but ran into problems with fans. This reimagining of the 1960s Western-spy crossover as an adventure comedy rubbed many the wrong way. The franchise centers on James West, a sheriff who works for Ulysses S. Grant. At the time, Will Smith, who played West, was one of the hottest actors in Hollywood, and Kevin Kline was on a similar hot streak when he played West’s sidekick. It culminates in a mad scientist on a rampage in his giant mechanical spider. I personally loved this movie when I first saw it. Then again, I’d never seen the original so I wasn’t suffering from any dashed expectations. The movie is definitely a comedy, so I can see why someone looking for James Bond in the Wild West could be disappointed. (But still, giant mechanical spider = awesome. Am I right?)
Girl Genius (2001-Present)
The husband and wife team of Phil and Kaja Foglio created this series in 2001. It straddles the line between Steampunk and gaslamp fantasy, a term that Kaja Foglio created to describe the series as it straddles the line between sci-fi and fantasy. It’s about Agatha Clay, a harried science student in a semi-Victorian setting and carries the tagline “Adventure, Romance, MAD SCIENCE!” It started off as a black and white print book, added color in issue 3, and jumped to the web in 2005. You can read the entire series from the beginning and it is still updated every week.
Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidoqc (2001)
In the original French, this film is called simply Vidoqc because this name is famous in their history. Eugene Francois Vidoqc was a real police investigator in the first half of the 19th century and is largely recognized as the “father of forensic science.” His methods were so advanced, in fact, that people thought he dabbled in the occult. This association is the inspiration behind the film, which is both gritty and beautiful. The structure is unusual and non-linear, and among my favorite films of all time.
The Amazing Screw-on Head (2002)
Dark Horse comics later released this dark comedy by Mike Mignola (Hellboy) about a secret agent working in Abraham Lincoln’s service in 2002. True to his name, Screw-on Head has a removable head that can be installed in a number of bodies with different capabilities. A few years later, the SyFy channel released the pilot for an animated series. Unfortunately, despite the voice talent of Paul Giamatti, David Hyde Pierce, and Patton Oswalt, it never made it past the first episode.
The Five Fists of Science (2006)
Dark Horse published another Steampunk gem with Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla in the starring roles. This is a tight little book that doesn’t waste any words, which means that all of the front-pages are more than just prologue. If you pick this one up (and I recommend you do), make sure you check out the short biographies of the real people involved, as well as the letter shared between Twain and Tesla that inspired this story full of giant robots and Lovecraftian beasties.
Steampunk Hits the Web
In 2006, the first dedicated Steampunk forum was established. Though the creator no longer plays an active role or updates it regularly, you can still visit “Brass Goggles.” This was an important step in the evolution of Steampunk as a community rather than a string of independent people. People could swap tips about making props and costumes, recommend books, and plan get-togethers in a streamlined way.
And Then Came the Music
And don’t forget, Army of Brass comes out tomorrow! 21 international writers came together to create this tale of giant automatons, fearless airship captains, and deadly conspiracies.
Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers, participate in giveaways, and more!
Not sure if it’s for you? Read a review, take a sneak peek at the full Chapter 1 or read another exclusive excerpt. You can also get to know the character Captain Jack Davenport a little bit better with his interview on Blake & Wight. If you want to find out more about collaborative writing, Army of Brass contributors and Collaborative Writing Challenge veterans Crystal MM Burton and Kathrin Hutson shared articles for the tour about the pros, cons, and rewards.
Speaking of giveaways, you can enter to win ebooks from the CWC writers.
and if you want to read the other posts in this series you can find them here:
Note from Penny: Thankyou so much to Phoebe for this awesome guest post which forms part of the Army of Brass blog tour. Regular readers may have noticed the Abney Park album featured on the panel in the music section and recall that this blog is temporarily boycotting Abney Park because of Robert Brown’s antiziganistic remarks and behaviour (until such a time as we can speak to him personally and see what he has to say for himself) However we have allowed this one exception so as not to ruin Phoebe’s wonderful guest post (Coz we iz nice like that innit?) and not at all used it exploitatively to draw attention to this issue we’re passionate about… a-hem… 😉